The official marriage thread

One trend I’m seeing in a lot of posts is the assumption that not married is perpetual. That need not be the case - marriage can happen at any time. That negates the inheritance, SS arguments, maybe legal too, but getting married is probably a one way street. Perhaps even have the forms filled out and stored in a safe deposit box.

Many work policies used to allow a spouse or “domestic partner”. Unfortunately one negative consequence of the supreme court ruling has been that “domestic partner” language has been removed. I had checked; for my policy the domestic partner’s sex isn’t specified. I imagine many is/was the same.

I wonder if it’s possible to get married in a foreign locality, but in a manner that your US locality doesn’t recognize said marriage. That could be interesting.

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Some things to keep in mind when living the unmarried life together:
Be careful with your paperwork. We found out after my MIL passed away unexpectedly that she and my FIL were not married. The deed to their house was written as if they were (no right of survivorship), and there was no will. Half of the house ended up going into their 3 daughters’ names. We’re going to be able to sign the house back over to the FIL, but it’s somewhat of a mess and costing a few $K in legal fees.
No death benefit from SS (This is $250 I think) I doubt this is swaying anyone.
Potential benefits: Keep all assets in one name, all unsecured liabilities in the other. My MIL & FIL were very close to having this work out in their benefit. If they had the deed correctly written for their house, they would have been able to walk away from ~$35k in CC debt.


We had this situation in reverse. We got married in US. But our countries of origin had no way of finding out whether we were married or not unless we produced our marriage certificate and had it registered there as well.

So if you got married abroad somehow, and never notified US authorities, you’d be married but more like domestic partners here for all intents and purposes. Aside from both spouses knowing they are effectively married, I’m not sure there’d be any benefits over simply remaining domestic partners until there was a financial advantage to get married.

Plus if both spouses have copies of the overseas marriage, either could produce it at any point to register the marriage in the US (and then divorce the other spouse to get half their stuff lol).

And let’s assume you did get benefits from not being officially married by filing single, what happens if you did make the marriage official later in life. You could not marry a second time officially (unless you like living dangerously I guess) and you’d have to produce the original marriage certificate from overseas. But I wonder if the IRS would then not find you having filed fraudulently all those years… overall sounds like a headache waiting to happen.


This is my new mantra in life. If there is a potential huge headache down the road, I typically leave that option in the dust.

ETA: including people.

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I guess we did this. We got married in a foreign country. We never registered the marriage in the US. The first year we were married and I filed married filing jointly, I had to get her an ITIN (like a SSN but for non-residents). No proof was required that we were married. I assume that would have been required if I was audited. Now that we have a history of married filing jointly, the IRS would probably look twice if we started filing as two single people without a divorce.

Later, I did have to provide a certified English translation of our marriage certificate when we applied for her green card. Had we both been US citizens, I can’t think of a time we would have needed to register our marriage in the US if we chose not to.

SO and I had a ceremony back in our home country more than 5 years ago. I never filed any paperwork there or when we got back to US due to the the “marriage penalty tax”. We both have similar incomes and live in a HCOL area (CA). Initially, the saving was about $2k, but now after 2 kids and decent raises (HHI $350k), it’s close to $12k. Here are some specific tax advantages

  1. Filing as HOH
  2. Maximizing 2 DC FSA accounts
  3. Federal tax bracket disparity + extra surcharges for >= 250k MFJ
  4. Being able to avoid wash sales when selling stock and rebuying with the other person’s account
  5. 6k worth of capital loss
  6. Able to deduct more than $1.1M worth of mortgage interest
  7. More flexibility to minimize AMT
  8. If CA Electric Vehicle Tax Credit gets funded again, I would qualify for a rebate. If married, I would be phased out.

For now, we are fortunate that I have a health care plan that covers 100% of self + dependents and my SO’s plan is very low cost (<$1k per year).

There were only 2 times where I potentially needed a marriage certificate. One when I was redeeming Korean Skypass miles (you can only redeem for spouse and family). Luckily, both our accounts had enough points. Other time was when we traveled to middle east and some hotels require you to show a marriage license to stay together in the same room.

We will both meet with an estate planning attorney to get things iron clad, but for now, the savings has been well worth it.


That seems to me that it touches on whether your marriage abroad would be recognized in the US or not, regardless of whether you did anything to make it official. If it would be recognized as valid in the US, then I think you could be in trouble if audited and IRS found out about it since even married to a NRA spouse living abroad, you’re expected to file as married, filing separately. The single and HOH filing status should not be available if marriage would be recognized in the US. It’s probably a low risk though.

But anyway, that’s a good list of financial reasons against marriage for high income earners with similar incomes.

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Over the life of the loan, I assume?

I think he means he has a 1.1MM mortgage, and he is able to deduct the mortgage interest on this loan.

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I thought similar, but if you read it, it says “$1.1M worth of mortgage interest” so I wasn’t sure how to take that.

Maybe he deducts 1.1m of interest monthly. It’s just a really big loan.


We had a local ceremony back home with friends and family and no legal paperwork was filed. There is no concept of “common law marriage” in CA and marriage is a legal status. This was the same issue same sex couples had. Plenty were married in ceremonies, but they could not obtain “legal status” in the eyes of the IRS.

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Single/MFJ can only deduct $1.1MM of mortgage interest. However, unmarried taxpayers who co-own a home are each entitled to deduct mortgage interest on $1.1 million of acquisition and home-equity indebtedness. See Ninth Circuit’s decision in Voss, 796 F.3d 1051 (9th Cir. 2015).

Obviously, this generally isn’t a big deal, but in HCOL areas such as CA, it is very conceivable that we could run into this issue and most likely will with out next house purchase.

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Ah, so you were citing a benefit that is afforded to you, via your situation, not that you actually pay that much in interest. I see.

100% correct. Consider that you had a decades-long nationwide movement by same-sex couples to obtain legal benefits of marriage. Were there symbolic reasons for this? Sure. But if there were not significant legal benefits granted to married couples, such benefits wouldn’t have been pursued so fiercely.

Everything is great until it isn’t. Should you get divorced, it will turn your life upside down and inside out. With the divorce rate around 52% for a first marriage, over 66% for a second marriage and over 72% for a third marriage.

Not trying to be Dwaynie Downer, but this is reality.

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Greatness, where are you getting these stats? Thanks.

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Some stats:

There are two old threads from FWF that are relevant here. These are the archived versions.

Benefits of Marriage - what are they?
For those who are married with separate bank accounts, how do you handle expenses?

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Made me laugh out loud… “More than half of all marriages end in divorce – not counting the ones that end in murder, suicide and psychiatric facilities.”

[YouTube - Men, Math and Marriage]