Contemplating the wisdom of 'wedleases'

The nature of marriage has been changing in America over the past several decades. In addition to the Supreme Court insisting that federal marriage recognition be extended to all same-sex couples married in states that permit their unions, perceptions of what it means to divorce have changed as well. Fewer stigmas are attached to divorce and to cohabitating outside of marriage than there once were. As a result, an increasing number of older Americans are choosing to divorce and an increasing number of young Americans are failing to marry their significant others.

Some have suggested that these trends should inspire changes to the structure of marriage contracts. If cohabitating couples are failing to marry partially because the divorce rate is so high, why not construct marriage contracts set up like leases? “Wedleases” could afford couples marriage rights and protections while allowing them to split if they choose to with far less red tape than divorces tend to be subject to.

Marriage represents different things to different couples. At its legal core, marriage is a contract entered into by two consenting adults. If those adults wish to reasonably alter the terms of their contract or wish to end it without a great deal of consequence, perhaps they should be afforded that option. Considering the creation of wedleases may allow adults more flexibility to grow as individuals and spare couples divorce-related headaches. If couples choose not to remain together at the end of the lease term, they could simply opt not to renew their commitment to each other.

Wedleases may not be a good legal or emotional choice for all couples. But those couples who would like the option of this structure could potentially benefit from it. As the nature of marriage changes in America, perhaps structural options for marriage contracts should evolve as well.

Source: Washington Post, “A high divorce rate means it’s time to try ‘wedleases,’” Paul Rampell, Aug. 4, 2013

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