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Once you are in a relationship with someone, do not rush to bring up that other difficult subject, marriage. Half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Laws that relate to the division of property among married people and the financial responsibilities for the children of a marriage are different in each of the fifty states, sometimes considerably different. What this means is that divorce and child-care laws are all different, depending on state. Wise people enter into what are call pre-nuptual agreements, designed to avoid legal difficulties later on if things go sour. Outside of the very rich, few people bother to take this sensible step.

Marriage in America is made even more complicated by the high pressure lives many Americans lead and the changing roles of men and women. Most people in successful marriages agree that the institution takes work on the part of both parties. Many other cultures exert strong cultural pressure for marriages to stay together and also provide important support systems for married couples. This is not the case in the United States, where the couple itself must establish the marriage with few guidelines to follow. As a result, the marriage counseling industry in the United States is a strong one, and provides a valuable public service.

Marriage and Immigration Laws. If you are thinking of marrying an American citizen or resident because the marriage will give you legal, permanent resident, “green card” status, be aware that the technique only works if the marriage is a real one. If the immigration authorities discover that the couple are not really living together, they will challenge the validity of the marriage. Be sure that they have seen every possible bogus marriage technique.

International marriages can have special difficulties, and the impulse to marry sooner rather than later just to improve the immigrant’s legal status should be avoided.

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