Arizona divorce: “til death do us part,” or a 20-year contract?

The traditional marriage vow of “til death do us part” seems to be in need of an upgrade. The Arizona marriage that many believed would be a lifetime union has often turned out to last no much beyond lunchtime. The simple fact of the matter is that about half of all marriages result in a divorce. Many of those end within the first seven years. The question that some are asking across the country is what, if anything, should we do about it?

Prenuptial agreements have filled the void for many. These contracts, which are negotiated and signed before the wedding takes place, can cover everything from expectations during the marriage to property division and other financial commitments if a divorce subsequently appears on the horizon. Still other people have belatedly recognized the benefits of a prenup, causing them to accomplish pretty much the same thing by executing a postnuptial agreement. This contract is signed after the wedding, sometimes even in contemplation of an impending divorce.

A new idea has been making the rounds lately. The concept, loosely based on a legislative proposal made in Mexico, involves a marriage contract for a specific number of years. Instead of agreeing “til death do you part,” those with a marriage contract would commit to a specific number of years. Part of the impetus is that, with so many marriages failing, why not recognize divorce as a possibility up front and execute an agreement beforehand? The advantage, of course, is that when the contract ends, there is no need for a divorce because the validity of the marriage expires with the contract.

The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers points out the cost of divorce in our society currently is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. While a marriage contract would still require negotiation and agreement, the benefit may be that once the contract has run its course there would be no need to get a court’s legal certification to dissolve the marriage. Whether it is an idea whose time has come remains to be seen, but those Arizona residents contemplating marriage may want to follow the debate.

Source: The New York Times, “Till Death, or 20 Years, Do Us Part,” Matt Richtel, Sept. 28, 2012

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