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Renewable Marriage Contracts

family law solicitor
Morally wrong or an indication of the future?

Good Morning Britain have turned heads this morning with an interesting debate on whether marriage should change to reflect a mobile phone contract that can be renewed or terminated after two years.

Comedian and activist Kate Smurthwaite commented; ‘if you’ve got a mobile phone and it’s costing you £80 a month, and you can get the same deal for £25 a month, I would say go for it!’

For many, this would be a ludicrous idea that undermines the entire purpose of marriage both from a moral and financial perspective. For others, this would be a step in the right direction to reflect the fluid nature of the 21st Century.

In 2016, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 42% of marriages in England and Wales would end in divorce. In 2017, they went on to state that the number of women petitioning for divorce against their husbands as a consequence of their spouses’ misconduct had decreased by 43 per cent since 1996, however the number of men divorcing their wives for the same reason had increased by approximately a third.

As the law stands, when two people get married, their financial assets essentially merge into one ‘matrimonial pot’. That means, if you accrue a large pension interest during the course of the marriage, your husband or wife may be able to make a claim against it if you get divorced. Equally, if you store away £50,000 in a ‘secret’ ISA that your spouse doesn’t know about, they may well ask for a share at that stage.

Whilst many believe that they are ‘entitled to half’ of the overall marital assets if they get divorced, this is not actually true. In fact, most divorcing couples do not end up with 50% each. There are numerous factors that have to be considered when calculating proposals for the division of finances including, but not limited to-

  1. the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources of each party;
  2. the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of each party;
  3. the standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
  4. the age of each party;
  5. any physical or mental disability of either of the parties;
  6. the contributions which each of the parties has made to make to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family;
  7. the conduct of each of the parties;
  8. the value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefit that the party will lose the chance of acquiring.

If the renewable marriage contract  were to be introduced, what impact would this have on divorce and financial matters? Would there be any need for a divorce or would you just stay married until the end of the term then ‘opt out?’

A likeness can be drawn to prenuptial agreements in this sense that, whilst they are currently not binding in England and Wales, the purpose is to create a ‘safety net’ to protect one’s assets in the event of a divorce. Would this be the same principle if renewable marriages are introduced? Would you each keep your respective bank accounts/pensions/properties?

Following on from that, what would happen if one of you passed away mid-term, but you only took out a 2 year contract with that person, as opposed to if you took out a 50 year contract with someone else? Would they still be your next of kin?

Clearly there are hundreds of thousands of questions that would be raised if this was a serious proposal! It is interesting, however, that despite 24% of 16-24 year olds thinking that this is a great proposal, American sociology professor Philip Cohen has recently hit the headlines for blaming millennials for the 18% decline in divorce between 2008 and 2016 across the pond.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: james.maguire@family-law.co.uk or telephone:

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