08 November 2011

Proposed legislation in Mexico may fundamentally alter the institution of marriage

By Emily Shaffer, Juris Blogger
“Fifty percent of all marriages in America end in divorce.” Okay, so Americans aren’t that bad. The divorce rate is actually going down, meaning this statement is no longer true (by a 9% difference). In proportion to this drop in the divorce rate however, it's evident that the marriage rate in America is also going down because more American couples are living together without getting married. Though this isn't the traditional way of doing things, considering the even higher divorce rate in Mexico City and their proposed legislation, it might be the smarter way.

For those of you who haven’t heard, lawmakers in Mexico City are proposing a two-year marriage contract in lieu of a normal marriage license so residents would be able to marry for a two-year trial term before committing to each other for life. Mexican lawmakers expect a vote on this by the end of the year, and expect the new legislation to reduce Mexico City’s current divorce rate of eight out of ten marriages. This new legislation would require the two-year signees to attend discussions on conflict resolution and division of assets in the event that they go their separate ways after the two-year period. If the couples decide to remain together, they may sign an official marriage license or renew the contract. The Catholic Church and Catholic Community in Mexico City are obviously opposed to this liberal proposal, calling it “irresponsible and immoral.”

Without intending to sound super conservative, this proposed two-year contract seems to be lacking logic. Okay, so on the surface this legislation appears to help divorce statistics and may seemingly create a trial period for people unsure about marriage, but maybe those people just shouldn’t be getting married in the first place. Is being married for a period of two years any different from living together unmarried for two years? Both would inevitably result in one of two options: uncomfortable separation or marriage. All this legislation really does is give couples an easy way to walk away from their marital responsibilities, including their significant other and any children they may have had during the two-year marriage period. Further, without the label of “divorce,” ending a marriage after two years is basically a divorce without the negative connotation of the word.

The real problem inherent in this legislation is the fact that people who are signing a two-year marriage contract in order to be able to opt out probably aren’t sure about getting married in the first place. Why not suggest marriage counseling before marriage, rather than during the marriage? And why counsel the couples on how to split custody of children after the two-year period? This is unfair to the potential children of couples who aren’t even sure they love each other enough to stay together. This proposed legislation would predictably lead to more separations, problems, and litigation regarding division of assets and custody. Though the Catholic Church still wouldn’t agree with the modern American couples living together unmarried, this method dissolves the divorce rate and serves as a hassle-free alternative to marriages resulting in divorce or separation.

Emily Shaffer is a second year student at Duquesne University School of Law. She is a student ambassador for the law school and an intern for Judge McCormick in the Westmoreland Court of Common Pleas. Emily earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Communications and a minor in Spanish. She will graduate from Duquesne University School of Law in 2013, and can be reached at shaffere@duq.edu.