Recently, the New York Times explored the idea of a self-terminating marriage contract. In 2011, lawmakers in Mexico City actually proposed this idea: short-term renewable marriage contracts. These contracts could range from two years to twenty years, and you and your spouse would have the option of renewing after that time period.
Is this a good idea? The rationale is that because of the high Western Pennsylvania divorce rate, it is better for society to have a self-initiating trigger that ends marriages without the need for divorce proceedings (although the article does not discuss custody arrangements or property division). One of the major schemes is for a twenty-year marriage, which theoretically covers the minority of children. This allows them to have children, have a partner for child-rearing, and then be able to terminate the marriage as soon as the children are out of the house.
Kenneth Altschuler, the President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, suggested that marriage contracts may be a solution to large amounts divorce litigation. He suggested that support tables (such as the support guidelines that we use in Pennsylvania) could be altered to adjust alimony and child support based on the length of the marriage. This would be set out in advance of the marriage, so that additional litigation would not have to occur after the expiration of the contract. In this case, you would probably still want to consult a family law lawyer to be sure that your interests are protected.
Does this sound like a good idea? People who have experienced the stresses of divorce might think so. However, the article demonstrates that those difficulties would probably not go away. Kids will still both parents as their parents, and they will still be confused and upset when the marriage ends, whether by plan or not. Additionally, the fact of the relationship ending will still be difficult for both parties, and the life and assets that they built together will still have to be divided.
Marriage for a lifetime, as our family lawyers know, is still the expectation in society. These temporary marriage contracts will probably not be adopted in Pennsylvania, and as of yet have not been implemented anywhere in the United States.
In the meantime, if you want to work out a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, or to discuss your marriage case, contact our office today!