Short-term marriage contracts — yea or nay?

What if marriage were more like leasing a new car for a few years than signing on the dotted line for the rest of your life? Some economic and legal experts are weighing in on the concept of short-term marriage contracts, dubbed “wedleases,” as an option for those couples contemplating connubial bliss.

An economist from France has authored papers about the economics of wedleases, considering these marital contracts of limited duration an opportunity for the parties to “get a fresh start again.” The Université de Cergy-Pontoise assistant economics professor views this option as a way to combat the high cost of divorce.

According to data from Statistics Canada, each year approximately 70,000 individuals get divorced. But the high divorce rate is hardly unique to Canada, as one Palm Beach, Florida, lawyer notes that he has a client who just tied the knot with his eighth spouse. It was he who coined the term “wedlease” in a provocative 2013 Washington Post editorial. He described the end of a marriage under these terms to be “as simple as vacating a rental unit.”

At least one Canadian woman agrees with him. In a publication as part of a Master’s law degree, a Gatineau, Que., notary specified three options a couple could entertain when a short-term marriage contract approaches its expiration date.

Couples could sign on for a traditional marriage-for-life, renew their contract for another five or so years or opt out entirely based on the original contract.

A families and couples therapist from Toronto weighed in, saying there are no real advantages to these type of contracts. Many couples already move in together, have kids and acquire property and real estate together outside of wedlock or wedlease.

While it’s not likely to become a growing trend in Ontario any time soon, this concept underscores the role of prenup and postnup agreements to head off the vagaries of a future divorce settlement.

Source: OurWindsor.ca, “Wedlock or a wedlease? Experts talk short-term marriage,” Lauren Pelley, Dec. 22, 2015

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