Should Marriage Matter?
32 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2012 Last revised: 5 Mar 2012
Date Written: December 9, 2011
This chapter from a forthcoming book brings together data from a series of empirical studies that ask a sample of American citizens about the legal obligations intimate partners should have to one another, when their relationship ends. (Ellman, Braver, & MacCoun 2009; Ellman, Braver, & MacCoun 2012; Ellman & Braver 2011; Ellman & Braver 2012). In particular, it draws together findings on the impact that a couple's marital status has on our respondents' views. In addition, this chapter reports for the first time on findings from another study in this same series that examined respondent views about the impact a couple's marital status should have on the allocation of their property at the termination of their relationship.
These data reveal that while Americans certainly give marriage weight in thinking about obligations between adult partners, they do not give it the overarching weight it often receives in American law. They do care about marital status, but they care more about financial inequality and about children. They view marriage as a relevant factor but not as a qualifying condition, and believe intimate partners can acquire legal obligations to one another without marriage as well as from marriage.
Keywords: marital status, cohabitation, alimony, child support, property division
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