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What can we do?

Abandon the institution of marriage entirely. Nuke it from orbit, as it were. It's the only way to be sure.

The legal end of it is a mere wealth-redistribution mechanism. The social end of it is made of community who loves to witness people getting into marriages, but they scatter during the demise. So what function does it perform? From my perspective, it only serves to weaken commitment by trying to offload the responsibility of staying together to a legal framework.

Can anybody make a good case for continuing the charade?

Actually, yes.

Many marriages are entered into by two parties with the agreement that one party will be the primary caretaker of the children (home-maker), which is a profession that is unpaid. The other party will work outside the home and provide money for the family. In that case, the years of work that the home-maker has put in should be recognized as valid work, and in the event of a break-up of the marriage, the home-maker should continue to receive monetary support from the other party, as they (often) have no viable other professional skills. This needs to be enforceable in court in the interest of people whose profession is home-maker.

This is also why gay marriage (and gay divorce) should be legally codified like straight marriage is. People need legal recourse to persist their own standards of living.

If someone entering into a marriage does not want to take on the lifetime of responsibility of providing for the person who is promising to take on the role of home-maker in their household, perhaps they shouldn't enter into a marriage.


This is an argument for marriages as contracts, but no more. I don't read an argument in what you say in favour of a government involvement in defining what a marriage is. Contract law should be sufficient.


I agree. Good point. There is a strong argument to be made for defining a prenup for all marriages, just as a contract would have a dissolution agreement. That way, the negotiation takes place when the people are on good terms and not trying to screw each other over out of spite.


commanda, you're correct but you answered the wrong question, the poster wanted to know why have marriages at all and not why alimony exists :)


Agree completely.

The question (probably similar to patents,) is: How can we protect the spirit of why this law is in place (to recognize the contribution of those who may not be directly compensated and give them their appropriate share), without letting people completely exploit and abuse it.

Looked at it that way, its an extremely hard problem with a myriad of economic and social issues along with a bunch of vested interests. Sigh...


> In that case, the years of work that the home-maker has put in should be recognized as valid work, and in the event of a break-up of the marriage, the home-maker should continue to receive monetary support from the other party, as they (often) have no viable other professional skills.

That's a valid point, but do we need a one-size-fits-all approach, i.e. all marriages are the same contract? Arguably, we do not, so why not just let the parties directly involved decide what terms to have for their own marriage contracts (which might include inter alia some provision for cheap arbitration rather than expensive predatory lawyers if things break down).


I'm not convinced that abolishing marriage would end the wealth-redistribution system.

I'm not worried about the external social part of it, but the personal part of it is that many people (including myself) enjoyed both getting and being married. Obviously, YMMV.

I guess that marriage has some "legal framework" but I've never even thought of it in that way. To me it is a personal declaration of two-way commitment, made in front of friends and family, and it's worth as much, and as little, as how you live by it. Same as any commitment, I guess.

I like being married. It's not a charade to me. If you don't like me being married, because you don't like divorce lawyers, so be it.


If you live with someone in a committed relationship for more than two years, your automatically entered into a common law marriage, even if you don't realize it. It's hard to avoid it if you want a relationship! How do common-law divorces work?


I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that entering into a common law marriage typically only happens if you "intend" to be married. For example, cohabitation alone is, generally, not enough to create a common law marriage.


I don't know about other countries, but most states in the US do not recognize common law marriage.


It's a British law thing so most commonwealth countries have this.


Direct from the UK government's website:

Most people think that, after they've been living with their partner for a couple of years, they become 'common law husband and wife' with the same rights as married couples. This is not the case. In fact, couples who live together have hardly any of the same rights as married couples or civil partners.

There is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’.



British law != UK current law but those laws that in the distant past were direct descendents of UK law at the time.

British law vs say Roman law.

Because of the widespread nature of the British empire remnants of these laws (and remnants of the Empire, such as the Queen being formally the supreme being in Canada) are still found all over the world, even if a lot of those laws have been abolished in the UK itself.


> British law vs say Roman law

I think you mean English common law. There's not such thing as "British law" as such, because Scotland has its own legal system (which incidently is partly based on Roman law).


Ah ok, I read that as "Those crazy Brits still have this" and waded in to correct ;)


Those crazy Brits abolished it in 1753 according to WP:


So maybe they're not that crazy :)


The law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but here in Ontario, common law status has very real consequences. Not all of them are bad and in fact if you read this FAQ on property division, it sounds like what people would expect when two people break up (e.g., joint assets are divided in half, each person keeps what belonged to them solely, etc.). Common law partners are also eligible for spousal support upon separation. People think I'm weird for not wanting to live with a girlfriend, but common law status creeps up fast and often before people have had the time to realize if the person is right for them in the long run.




According to wikipedia, 13 states do. I wonder whether these marriages qualify for federal benefits?


Marriage is a way to call a guys' bluffs. Plenty of guys will say they are in love and committed forever to keep a relationship going. But the reality is they would move on to a younger girlfriend every 5-10 years if they could. Marriage makes men put their money where their mouth is.


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