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Family law: Are marriage contracts on deck in Pennsylvania?

The old nursery rhyme "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage" has been turned on its ear in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. While love may still come first, what comes after that is up for grabs. For some, it is a prenuptial agreement. For others, it might be a postnuptial agreement. Another family law proposal currently making the media rounds is referred to as a marriage contract.

It used to be that many saw a prenuptial agreement as anathema to the concept of marriage. However, these contracts have gained in popularity to the point where many couples about to walk down the aisle discuss the need for one. Some say the proof is in the pudding. The truth is that about half of all marriages end in divorce, many of them within the first seven years

A law was proposed in Mexico to provide for marriage contracts of a specific length of time. These written agreements could be for as little as two years and could also be renewed at the discretion of the parties. The legislation, however, was met with skepticism and ultimately was not enacted into law. Nevertheless, the notion remains that a contract providing for a marriage to last a predetermined period of time could address many of the same issues currently covered by prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

There is no proposal on the horizon for this novel concept to be adopted in Pennsylvania, but perhaps we should stay tuned. The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers expressed the opinion that these types of family law agreements may make sense and could easily include the financial terms to be addressed once the contract was completed. After all, the financial costs of getting divorced have been estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and some say it may be time to simply acknowledge up front that many marriage are simply not built to last.

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

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