Margaret A.M. Heine

is the principal counsel at Heine Law Group in Fullerton, California. She is licensed in California and Washington and has authority to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Court of International Trade.

Her practice includes estate planning, wills, trusts, and probate as well as business, real estate, and civil litigation. Email: or visit company website



Hearts, roses, and candy fill the stores, and sweethearts everywhere are readying themselves for Valentine’s Day!  Cupid is busy working on his FAA flight plan and checking out the changes to the Air Traveler’s Bill of Rights.  Young sweethearts are wondering if they can elope the magical day.  While others just wonder if their marriage is valid at all.  Yes, it’s February.


Statistically, February 14th is a very busy wedding date, with more weddings on a single day than any other individual date.  However, the statistics are not kind with regard to how long those marriages last, as they have the highest rate of divorce based on date of marriage.


All states recognized formal, legalized marriages for persons 18 and older, except Nebraska where the age is 19, Mississippi where the age is 21, and District of Columbia where the age is 16.  Each state has its own requirements as to what makes a marriage legal, but generally consists of obtaining a marriage license and having the marriage solemnized by an authorized person.  Usually this would be a government or church official.  The restrictions are designed to protect persons from being forced into marriage or being subject to child abuse, inappropriate relationships with minor children.


Under the minimum age for a legal marriage?  Don’t worry; almost all states have procedures for underaged persons to get married, legally.  Three states, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania will only approve underage marriages in “exceptional” circumstances.  Those exceptional circumstances are normally decided by a judge, and may include a consideration if a child was born in the relationship, the ages of the persons, ability to care for the family unit.


Twenty-three states allow marriages for persons aged 16 – 18 with parental consent.  Sometimes both parents need to consent; in other cases only one parent for each party must consent.  Some states also limit the age difference between the marrying under-aged parties to less than 4 years difference.  10 states permit marriages for persons 17-18 with parental consent.  There are 11 states which have no minimum age to marry with parental consent.  That means, in theory, that children 4 and 5 could be wed under those states legal framework.  Not saying they would permit it, just that it is possible.  Those states would be California, Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Virgina.  Of course New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania would also fall into this category except for the prohibition of underage marriage unless there are exceptional circumstances.


Many people assert that they are husband and wife even if they have not gone through a formal marriage.  They believe that if they have lived together for some period of time, then by operation of law they are married.  Normally, this is referred to as “Common Law Marriage”.

Common Law Marriage is in fact recognized in 7 states: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, and the District of Columbia.  Utah and New Hampshire under certain circumstances will accept of common law marriage.  In New Hampshire this is true only for probate purposes when one of the parties passes away and to determine inheritance rights.  In Utah, it is more complicated, and there are several pending law cases trying to define when it would be accepted.


What makes it common law?  Every state has its own requirements and definitions, but typically, the same factors are considered.  Have the persons lived together, cohabitated, continuously over a period of time (described by law)?  Have they referred to each other and held each other out as husband and wife?  Are they generally accepted as “husband and wife” by the community at large?  Is there an intention to be a family unit?  If you live in a state that recognizes common law marriage, and meet the criteria they have set forth, you have the same rights as formally married couples.  This also extends to you if you move out of state to a state which does not recognize common law marriage.  Typically, if you can prove to have a common law marriage in your “home” state, your new residence state will accept your marriage as legal.  Be sure to check state law!


Well then, what happens when a common law marriage ends?  Same way as it does for every legally married couple—you have to get divorced.  The legal procedure of divorce is the only method to formally end a common law marriage.  Again, state law would be applied as it applies to any other legally married couple.


So, what about Cupid?  The Department of Transportation has updated their regulations and has proposed new legislation to assist air travelers with problems encountered with flight.  Love may be in the air in February, but not always in the friendly skies of air travel!


The Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) oversees the Department of Transportation Airline Customer Service Dashboard at


The dashboard spells out what airlines are obligated to do in the event of flight cancellations, flight delays, disabled accessibility, lost baggage, and refunds.  It also lets you know what airlines have free family seating plans, where children under 13 sit next to their accompanying adult for no extra fee.  It tells you if an airline is required to refund your ticket in the event of a delay, and what they have to offer to bump you from a flight due to overbooking.  The regulations that the Department of Transportation enforces are found in Code of Federal Regulations Title 14, Aeronautics and Space.  The Dashboard makes it very easy to find out what you are entitled to when an airline doesn’t fulfill its commitments.

Now, love is in the air.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.