THE GOVERNMENT HAS ALWAYS HAD AN INTEREST IN MARRIAGE AND
FAMILIES. State legislatures have passed many laws regulating the requirements for getting
married and for obtaining a divorce. In addition, today’s laws also affect couples who live
together outside of marriage.
It is hard to give simple answers to many of the legal questions that a person may have
about marriage, parenthood, separation, or divorce, because the laws change and vary from
one state to another. In addition, judges in different states with identical laws may decide cases
with similar facts in different ways.
This chapter describes the laws and court rulings common to most states. If you have
other questions, contact a lawyer in your state. You may wish to contact a specialist. Many
lawyers (particularly in urban areas) work only on family law or make it a large part of their
general practice. Lawyers specializing in family law also may refer to themselves as specialists in
“domestic relations” or “matrimonial law.”