A census report released in 2007 indicates that more and more unmarried couples are living together in America. Federal data indicate that over 6.4 million couples, which were living together as husband and wife, were unmarried. Many couples in such relationships are oblivious of the consequences, especially in regard to the sharing of property, debts, or even responsibilities. Such marriages are challenging because the law makes no provision for whether or how such couples will share their debts, responsibilities, or property once the relationship is terminated or one of the couple dies. In this case, financial planning is more critical for such couples than for those who have actually tied the knot.
Articles from FindLaw and by Tobriner not only shed more light on this issue, but also provide some guidelines on how unmarried couples can still live together and get their share of property once the non-marital relationship ends, either through separation or death. In the article “Non-marital Agreement & Living Together Contracts”, unmarried couples are called upon to create living together contracts or non-marital agreements. Similar to marriage, which is a legal contract that defines the rights and obligations of the concerned parties, living together contracts also define the rights and obligation that one partner owes the other in a non-marital relationship. While it may seem unromantic for partners to make such contracts, FindLaw (2011) argues that the contract tells you more about the maturity of your relationship, your spouse, and yourself.
A good contract is only feasible for relationships that are likely to last long. Living together contracts are also good for older couples and couples who do not believe in the institution of marriage (Findlaw, 2011). A good contract should also be simple to understand by making it in a simple language. Only the important items should be highlighted and they include: property that has been acquired during the relationship, property that has been acquired as inheritance or gift, property that had been accumulated prior to the relationship, separation or death, and dispute resolution.
Citing Marvin v. Marvin, in his article “Marvin v. Marvin,” Tobriner faults the criminal justice system, especially the courts and the manner in which they handle cases that involve non-marital partners. Tobriner holds that the court was wrong in granting the defendant a judgment on the pleadings. He is of the opinion that courts should uphold non-marital contracts except when such contracts have been founded on meretricious sexual services. While some may call this prostitution, Tobriner contends that the fact that a man and woman live together without formally getting married and engage in sexual activities does not in itself annul their agreements in regard to their expenses, earnings, and property. Therefore, adults, who voluntarily live together, have the right as everyone else to have their contract regarding earnings and properties respected. To achieve this, Tobriner asserts that judicial obstacles that might prevent the fulfillment of a reasonable expectation based on non-marital marriages should be removed.
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On the same note, the issues of gay marriages and rights have been subjects of heated discussions for many years. The issue becomes more complicated when it comes to securing similar matrimonial benefits as their straight counterparts do. The article from the Encyclopedia of Everyday Law “Gay Couples” and another one by Jennifer Wriggins “Marriage Law and Family Law: Autonomy, Interdependence, and Couples of the Same Gender” shed more light on this controversial issue.
While some people support the idea of giving same sex couples who are married equal rights and rewards that accrue to straight couples who are married, others see this as an abomination or a pervasion of the law. Based on gay history, facts, court cases, and statistics, “Gay Marriages” has established that gay couples have gained some significant ground in regard to the legalization of same sex marriages. For many years, same sex marriages existed, although they were kept in secret revealing it only to family members and friends.
The situation remained unchanged until 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme Court reached a surprising decision in Baehr v. Lewin that allowed the proponents of same sex marriage see some progress in their course. As a result of this decision, gay couples were given a life line for the first time in the history of America. “Gay Marriages” contends that the decision dampened the spirits of the opponents but heartened the spirits of the proponents. The proponents were encouraged by the assertion that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution will ensure that same sex marriages are approved in other states. Unfortunately, this never happened; in fact, proponents were dealt another blow by the enactment of the Defense Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996 (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law, 2011). This act was aimed at preventing the Full Faith and Credit Clause from being enforced in other states. Moreover, 31 sates went ahead and adopted other laws that clearly refuted same sex marriages. Nonetheless, in Barker v. State, the Vermont Supreme Court granted same sex couples same protection and benefits as their straight counterparts.
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In her article, Jennifer Wriggins highlights some ideas regarding different aspects of family laws that have been put forward by various scholars in the family law area (Wriggins, nd). Thereafter she discusses some critical observations that have been put forward by these scholars concerning changes in marriage and family laws in the 21st century. Moreover, she discusses the implications of the laws that prohibit lesbians and gays from marrying. Finally, she gives her opinions as to why same sex marriages should not be allowed.
Similar to Marvin, same sex marriages are not legally recognized by law. Therefore, they are both challenged when it comes to matters pertaining sharing property, debts, or even responsibilities. Going to courts and fighting for their course is the only viable alternative for both Marvin and same sex marriages. Until non-marital marriages and same sex marriages are recognized by the law, such issues are prone to occur (Pawelski et al., 2006). The only solution is fighting for the legalization of non-marital and same sex marriages.
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The effects of marriage on gay couples are in many ways similar to the effects of marriage on heterosexual partners. For example, gay couples who are married are likely to be much happier if their institution of marriage is legalized. Moreover, gay couples will experience greater levels of sexual satisfaction than their straight counterparts, because legally married people have twice as much sex as other groups of people (Anosike, 2001). The chances of being engaged in unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse will be significantly reduced in gay couples, similar to heterosexual couples. Finally, gay couples would be able to enjoy the benefits that come with being married legally such as medical decision-making capability and joint property ownership. The prohibition of gay marriages means that the courts will have to contend with many cases that are associated with such relationships. Rather than attending to important cases, courts will have to spend most of their precious time attending to cases that involve same sex couples.
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