Rights and responsibilities of marriages in the United States

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It has been proposed that this article or section be merged with List of benefits of marriage in the United States.

This request may be discussed on the article's talk page.


According to the United States' Government Accountability Office, there are slightly over one thousand federal laws that treat married people differently from single people.

These include:

Contents

Rights

  • right to many of ex- or late spouse's benefits, including
    • Social Security pension
    • veteran's pensions, indemnity compensation for service-connected deaths, medical care, and nursing home care, right to burial in veterans' cemeteries, educational assistance, and housing
    • survivor benefits for federal employees
    • survivor benefits for spouses of longshoremen, harbor workers, railroad workers
    • additional benefits to spouses of coal miners who die of black lung disease
    • $100,000 to spouse of any public safety officer killed in the line of duty
    • continuation of employer-sponsored health benefits
    • renewal and termination rights to spouse's copyrights on death of spouse
    • continued water rights of spouse in some circumstances
  • right to benefits while married
    • employment assistance and transitional services for spouses of members being separated from military service; continued commissary privileges
    • per diem payment to spouse for federal civil service employees when relocating
    • Indian Health Service care for spouses of Native Americans (in some circumstances)
  • larger benefits under some programs if married, including
  • preferential hiring for spouses of veterans in government jobs
  • tax free transfer of assets to spouse (including on death)
  • joint filing of bankruptcy permitted
  • special consideration to spouses of citizens and resident aliens
  • exemption from "due-on-sale" clauses when transferring property to a spouse
  • spouse's flower sales count towards meeting the eligibility for Fresh Cut Flowers and Fresh Cut Greens Promotion and Information Act
  • threats against spouses of various federal employees is a federal crime
  • right to continue living on land purchased from spouse by National Park Service when easement granted to spouse

Responsibilities

  • spousal income and assets are counted in determining need in many forms of government assistance, including
    • veteran's medical and home care benefits
    • housing assistance
    • housing loans for veterans
    • child's education loans
    • educational loan repayment schedule
    • agricultural price supports and loans
    • eligibility for federal matching campaign funds
  • ineligible for National Affordable Housing program if spouse ever purchased a home
  • subject to conflict-of-interest rules for many government and government-related jobs
  • ineligible to receive various survivor benefits upon remarriage


Ambiguous

There are some laws that either benefit or penalize married couples over single people, depending upon their own circumstances.

  • marriage penalty/bonus
  • someone working for their spouse cannot be defined as an "employee"
  • someone cannot change beneficiaries in a retirement plan or from waiving the joint and survivor annuity form of retirement benefit, without the written consent of his or her spouse
  • wages can be garnished at a maximum of 60% (instead of the normal 25% limit) if the garnishing is for alimony or child support

States

In addition, community-property states frequently have forms of ownership that allow a full basis step-up on one's own share of community property on the death of a spouse (in addition to the normal step-up on spouse's assets).


External resources

  • General Accounting Office's report (http://www.gao.gov/archive/1997/og97016.pdf)
  • Tax Administration: Income Tax Treatment of Married and Single Individuals. GAO/GGD-96-175, September 3, 1996.
  • [1] (http://politics.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=146877&threshold=5&mode=nested&commentsort=0&op=Change) " Lets just look at marriage rights, shall we? Here's just a handful.
    • Access to health insurance through the spouse's workplace
    • The right to custody of children after divorce
    • Visitation rights for non-biological children
    • Joint parenting rights, such as access to children's school records
    • Bereveament leave after death of a spouse
    • Burial determination after the death of a spouse
    • Domestic violence intervention
    • Sick leave to care for a spouse or non-biological child
    • Legal validation of a long term relationship
    • Ability to live in neighborhoods deemed "families only"
    • Access to life insurance in spouse's workplace
    • Access to survivor benefits in case of emergency
    • Access to spouse's crime victims' recovery benefits
    • Ability to file wrongful death claims
    • Right to shared property, child support, and alimony after divorce
    • Ability to file joint home and auto insurance policies
    • Joint rental leases with automatic renewal if spouse dies or leaves
    • Access to adopting children
    • Automatic inheritance of shared assets after spouse's death
    • Automatic inheritance of retirement savings tax-free after spouse's death
    • Automatic exemption of property tax increases on shared assets gained after spouse's death
    • Ability to file joint tax returns
    • Access to tax breaks for married couples
    • Assumption of spouse's pension after death
    • Ability to file joint bankruptcy
    • Ability to collect unemployment benefit after leaving a job to relocate because of spouse's job move
    • Ability to transfer property from one spouse to aother without transfer tax consequences
    • Access to fostering children
    • Automatic next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions and hospital visitation status
    • Immigration and residency priority for spouses from other countries
    • Ability to invoke spousal privilege in a court of law
    • Access to reduced rate memberships at health clubs, social clubs, organizations.
    • Prison visitation rights"
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