"Covenant" Marriage Law
rduncan at UNLINFO.UNL.EDU
Fri Jun 20 14:53:39 PDT 1997
Mark: I agree that one's status as a "liberal" or a "conservative" does
not predict one's good or bad marriage record.
The reason I like the idea of a "covenant" marriage option is because
I believe many people would value the option of choosing to be legally
accountable with respect to their marriage promises. Those who wish to
be less accountable would continue to be free to opt for "no fault"
marriage. The "no fault" divorce system imposes one model of marriage
on everyone. True, if both parties choose to marry for life, the law
does not require them to divorce. But current law does not permit a
couple to mutually agree to be held accountable to a lifetime
marriage. If this is their choice, why should the state patronize them
by saying "we won't permit you to make an enforceable marriage
commitment because you may change your mind and then you will suffer."
Suppose the couple responds "we understand that one of us may change
his/her mind, and we want to covenant against that very possibility.
We are willing to take the risk of the suffering that might result,
because we wish to enter into a marriage that cannot be broken merely
because one of us decides he/she would be happier outside the
marriage. We understand marriage as being bigger than the preferences
of either of the parties, and we both wish to have the security of a
covenant marriage." What is wrong with this?
If this option were available to us, I'm sure my wife and I would be
eager to make such an enforceable covenant with one another, our
children, and the community. I am more afraid of the suffering caused
by quick and easy divorce than I am of the suffering caused when
divorce is more difficult to obtain. Other reasonable persons have the
opposite view. Having two models allows each couple to choose the
kind of marriage that best suits their deeply held beliefs about
marriage and divorce. And it allows each potential spouse to know what
level of commitment he/she is making and receiving.
I also suspect that the option would tend to benefit women. I may be
wrong about this, but my intuition is that women would be more likely
than men to prefer (and to insist upon) the covenant option.
Rick Duncan (rduncan at unlinfo.unl.edu)
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