Divorces are governed by the family or domestic relations laws of each state. As a result, different states may have family law procedures that differ from state to state. Although all states might share a fundamental notion of justice when it comes to divorce and other family law issues, how each state approaches a particular issue may be very different.
Historically, states had slight different laws when it came to what constituted a legally valid marriage. Some states used to require a marriage to be solemnized during a religious ceremony. Additionally, states had different laws regarding the minimum age for a person to get married. Today most states generally require the parties to be at least 18 years old to marry after the United States signed a United Nations treaty on the minimum age for marriage. However, some states recognize exceptions to this requirement based on judicial approval and parental consent.
The following states recognize exceptions to allow one party to mary at age 17:
- New York
These states allow persons to mary at age 16 under certain exceptions:
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
The following states recognize exceptions to allow people to marry between ages 14-15:
- Alaska - 14
- Hawaii - 15
- Indiana - 15
- Kansas - 15
- Maryland - 15
- North Carolina - 14
States also have various laws on the voidability of marriages between blood relatives. Until recently, states were divided as to whether same-sex couples could enter into a legally valid marriage. However, in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held that any federal or state law purporting to restrict the right of same-sex couples to marry was unconstitutional.
The United States recognizes two systems of property division for divorce: “equitable distribution” and “community property.” In equitable distribution jurisdictions, “equitable” does not necessarily mean “equal division. Most U.S. jurisdictions follow principles of equitable distribution, whereby the parties are entitled to a just and fair division of marital assets upon divorce.
In contrast, community property states consider any property or asset the parties acquire during the marriage as community property, and other property to be non-marital “separate property.” Under community property principles, the parties in a divorce have an individual ownership interest in community property upon divorce. For example, California presumes that all community property is subject to an equal 50/50 split.
The following states are jurisdictions that adhere to community property rules for property division at divorce:
- Alaska (optional)
- New Mexico
Uniform Laws and International Treaties
Interactions between states and the ability for individuals to relocate to other states increased substantially in modern times. As a result, the need for uniformity became very apparent. In response, states began adopting uniform laws that allowed for consistency in court judgments and legal enforcement of rights for a number of family law issues such as parental rights, child support, and child custody.
Here is a list of some of the more common uniform laws adopted by states:
- The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
- The Uniform Family Support Act
- The Uniform Parentage Act
- The Uniform Probate Code
Furthermore, states implement legislation under the provisions of an international treaty where they adopt its provisions. As a result, treaties can be seen as a source of uniform law.
The following are examples of international treaties that apply to the United States:
- The United Nations Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages
- The Hague Adoption Convention
- The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
- The Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support
Despite the name “uniform law,” not all states have ratified the provisions of many of the above laws. There is no overarching authority that generally requires a state to adopt uniform laws, whether federal or international in nature.
At Moshtael Family Law, we have the training and knowledge to know what laws apply to your case, whether it involves divorce, child custody, or child support. Call us at (714) 909-2561 or visit us online and complete our online request form for a consultation today.