Everybody's Guide to the Law : All the Legal Information You Need in One Comprehensive Volume

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-01-01
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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What are your rights if the car you bought is useless? If your ex-boss refuses to let you take along your Rolodex? Who gets custody of the children after a divorce? Do you worry about laws governing your use of the Internet? What rights are accorded to the elderly, disabled, and other social minorities? How can you successfully sue in small claims court? Or write your own will? The law pervades every individual's life, yet few know just what their rights are, how to use them, and what to do when they're violated. With expert assistance from Everybody's Guide to the Law, all your legal questions and concerns will be answered in simple everyday language that demystifies the law and arms you with the right information to make the best decisions. While a host of Web sites and books claim to help you understand the law, this fully revised and updated edition of the essential home legal reference is your one-stop guide. Comprehensive, accurate, and with no hidden gimmicks or programs to sell you (unlike most online "resources"), this superbly readable, indispensable addition to any home library provides up-to-date and easy-to-understand practical legal information most people need to know. Praised by critics and embraced by the public, Everybody's Guide to the Law remains the standard by which all other home legal guides aspire to, but have never managed to meet.


Everybody's Guide to the Law- Fully Revised & Updated 2nd Edition
All The Legal Information You Need in One Comprehensive Volume

Chapter One

Marriage,Divorce,and the Family

Family law—sometimes called the law of domestic relations—deals with all aspectsof your legal rights and obligations as they apply to the family unit. It covers a vast field:marriages, annulments, divorces, separations, domestic violence, premarital agreements, childsupport and custody, visitation rights, property division and alimony, adoption, name changes, child discipline, establishing paternity, living together, responsibility for damages done byother members of he family, and more. Just by reading his list you begin to see how broad andcomplex this area really is.

Family disputes involve strong emotions—emotions that can get in he way of rationalthinking and reasonable settlements. When feelings of anger and revenge take over, we losesight of reality, so it is important to keep our emotions in check as much as possible. If you findyour emotions getting out of control, particularly where a divorce or children are concerned, do yourself a favor and see a family counselor or other professional immediately. The advice ofa good family law lawyer is also recommended for most domestic problems.

Getting Married

Age Limits

All states have limitations on how old you must be before you can marry. In most states, boththe man and the woman must be at least 18 years old to marry without parental consent. The exceptions: in Arkansas, the man must be at least 17, the woman 16; in Georgia, each must beat least 16; in Louisiana the man must be at least 18, the woman at least 16; in Mississippi, theman must be at least 17 and the woman at least 15; and in Nebraska, each must be at least 17. If you are under the prescribed age, you'll need the consent of your parents or court approvalto get married. Parental consent is not required if you can prove that you are emancipated;that is, hat you are living apart from your parents and are self-supporting. You may first haveto obtain a court order declaring you emancipated, however.

There is no upper age limitation on marriage. Persons over 90, even 100 years old haveentered into legally binding marriages, some to mates their own age, others to mates decadesyounger. Specific information concerning age and other requirements for a valid marriage, asdiscussed below, usually can be obtained simply by calling your local county clerk's office.

Whom You Can't Marry

You can't marry just anybody. First of all, except in Vermont (see chapter 14), your spouse-to-be must be a member of he opposite sex. Except for Vermont, "marriages" involving personsof the same sex are not legally valid, even if performed by a religious authority.

You can't marry certain close relatives. All states prohibit marriages between a parent and achild, grandparent and grandchild, great-grandparent and great-grandchild, brother and sister(including half-brothers and half-sisters), uncle and niece, and aunt and nephew. Many statesalso ban marriages between first cousins, and some bar marriages between a former stepparentand stepchild, a former father-in-law and daughter-in-law, and a former mother-in-law andson-in-law.

Suppose that first cousins wish to tie the knot, but the state they live in won't let them getmarried. So they go to a state that allows marriages between first cousins, get married there, and then come back to their home state to live. Will their home state recognize the marriage?Maybe not. Ordinarily, if a marriage is valid in the state in which it is made, all other statesmust recognize its legality. Some states, however, refuse to recognize a marriage if the couple'sonly reason for going to the other state was to get around the law. If you are thinking aboutgoing to another state to marry a first cousin (or other prohibited relative) and coming back toyour home state to live, first consult a family law lawyer in your home state to see whether yourhome state will likely recognize the marriage as valid.

A person who is insane at he time of the ceremony is legally incapable of entering into thestate of matrimony. The fact that a person is somewhat mentally retarded, however, does notnecessarily mean that he or she cannot marry, but such a person must understand the nature ofmarriage, its rights and responsibilities.

At one time many states had miscegenation laws prohibiting marriages between persons ofdifferent races. The United States Supreme Court long ago ruled those laws unconstitutional, and marriages between persons of different races cannot be banned.

Formal Procedures before Marrying

Before you can get married, you must comply with certain legal requirements. You must complete an application to marry (available at the county clerk's office or marriage bureau) andpay a fee. All but four states—Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, and South Carolina—require ablood test showing that you are free from venereal disease (usually only syphilis). Washingtonrequires an affidavit that the applicant is not afflicted with any sexually transmitted disease. Many states have a waiting period of two to seven days between the time the marriage licenseis applied for and issued. In most states, you can marry immediately after receiving your marriage license. The license is usually good for only a prescribed time period, such as thirty daysor six months. A marriage that takes place after the license expires is not legally valid.

The person who performs the ceremony must be authorized by law to do so —either a recognized religious authority, such as a minister, priest, or rabbi, or an authorized civil servant, such as a judge, justice of the peace, or authorized clerk. (Contrary to popular belief, the captain of a ship can't perform marriages.) The marriage ceremony normally must be witnessed by a set number of people (usually two).

Everybody's Guide to the Law- Fully Revised & Updated 2nd Edition
All The Legal Information You Need in One Comprehensive Volume
. Copyright © by Allen Wilkinson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Everybody's Guide to the Law: All the Legal Information You Need in One Comprehensive Volume by Allen P. Wilkinson, Melvin M. Belli
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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