Recently the Washington Post published an op-ed discussing the idea of a
“wedlease.” As suggested, the wedlease is a contract between
“spouses” for a marriage that comes with an expiration date. In a
wedlease, the parties would marry for a set period of time with set terms. An
attractive idea on its face, the concept is supposedly derived from real estate
principles. Its proponents suggest that such a lease is better suited to
today’s modern disposable society than traditional marriage.
No doubt someone will be able to monetize this clever gimmick. Yet we
believe that such a concept has limited merit in practice. The idea falls apart
simply because a marriage is not like a real estate transaction.
Suggesting that a wedlease solves all of a couple’s problems in advance,
like a conventional pre-nuptial agreement, is simply ridiculous. Just as with
prenups, parties to the wedlease could – and almost certainly would – fight
about what the specific terms of their lease means, the lease’s intended terms,
and the interpretation of the lease’s terms. If the parties have children other
problems will arise that could easily engender litigation once the term of the
marriage expires. And the child-related problems and potential for litigation
will run through the children’s minority. No contract will change that fact.
Also, when the above stated issues do end up in litigation will they be
resolved in specialized family law courts or in general civil courts? Might the
wedlease idea create more new problems than the ones it supposedly solves? Not
to mention the fact that marriage brings with it certain financial benefits
that non-married couples cannot access. Would wedleased couples be deemed
married for taxes, bankruptcies, inheritances, retirement benefits, etc., etc.,
etc.? Would they be deem non-married? A separate legal class? Given the
hesitation in the vast majority of states to adopt concepts like civil unions,
wedleased couples would really be nothing more than unmarried couple living
together under the terms of a contract. What is the benefit?
At the end of the day, marriage comes with its pluses and minuses. Upon
examination, a wedlease is to marriage what saccharin is to dieting. It is
sweet, but like dieting, making a marriage last, even for a set term, will take
hard work. And the sad fact is that not all will succeed. When relationships do
break down, problems are very often going to erupt. This is true regardless of
whether there is a “lease”, a marriage contract, or nothing more than
a mutual decision to live together.