Marriage creates a lot of legal rights and responsibilities. For example, as a married person, you have a right to:
- share in benefits your spouse may earn (like health care insurance, retirement benefits, Social Security benefits, military and veterans’ benefits);
- inherit from your spouse;
- own property in a form (called tenancy by the entirety) that passes automatically to the surviving spouse if one spouse dies;
- make medical and other kinds of decisions for your spouse if he or she can’t do it for himself or herself;
- file joint tax
You also have responsibilities to your spouse and to any child born during the marriage. All money you earn or property you buy during the marriage belongs to both you and your spouse. This is called marital property. Marital property does not include property that you owned before the marriage, or that you inherit or receive as a gift during your marriage. This is called separate property. But separate property can become marital property, if you and your spouse mix it together and treat it like marital property.
If you have a child with your spouse, both of you are responsible for the child’s basic needs – food, shelter, clothing, medical care and education.
Alaska law allows marriage between one man and one woman or between to individuals of the same gender. To get married in Alaska, you must be 18 or older or on active duty in the United States Armed Forces. However, you can get married at 16 or 17 if your parent or guardian says it is ok. In very unusual circumstances, a court may allow a 14 or 15 year old to get married.
You cannot marry if you are already married. You also cannot marry someone who is closely related to you by blood. You must consent to be married.
At least three days before you plan to get married, either you or your fiancé must apply for a marriage license at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The Bureau of Vital Statistics has offices in Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. View the Bureau of Vital Statistics website for addresses. The license allows you to be married within three months after you get the license.
The marriage ceremony must be performed by a minister, a priest, a rabbi, the principal leader of a religious organization, or a marriage commissioner. A marriage commissioner can be a friend or relative you choose to perform your marriage ceremony. A marriage commissioner must be at least 18, and must fill out a form at the courthouse to be appointed. A marriage commissioner does not have to be an Alaska resident or be from the United States. Many state courts also have staff that can marry you if you cannot find a marriage commissioner.
Two other people must witness the marriage and sign the marriage certificate. Once the marriage ceremony has been performed, the marriage is valid.