Leasing-To-Own: Would You Rent a Marriage?

August 6, 2013  |  

We all know that marriage is supposed to be “until death do us part” but would you consider leasing a marriage on five, 10 or 15-year termed contract.

Yeah, it totally sounds like something out of the jaded deadbeat dude-“trying to get cow and milk for relatively cheap while skirting out of the responsibility”-handbook. But that’s exactly what Paul Rampell, estate planning attorney, is suggesting as a solution to the high rate of divorces in this country.

Rampell writes in the Washington Post:

Marriage is a legal partnership that lasts a lifetime — one lifetime to be exact, that of the first of the spouses to die. Generally speaking, that is a long time for any partnership. People, circumstances and all sorts of other things change. The compatibility of any two people over decades may decline with these changes to the point of extinction. In real estate, one may own a life estate in a piece of property. This is comparable to the term of a marriage — a lifetime. And in real estate, one may hold possession of property for shorter terms through a lease.”

Because nothing says “I Love You” like comparing your significant other to property but Rampell, continues on:

Here’s how a marital lease could work: Two people commit themselves to marriage for a period of years — one year, five years, 10 years, whatever term suits them. The marital lease could be renewed at the end of the term however many times a couple likes. It could end up lasting a lifetime if the relationship is good and worth continuing. But if the relationship is bad, the couple could go their separate ways at the end of the term. The messiness of divorce is avoided and the end can be as simple as vacating a rental unit.”

Spoken like a person who has never tried to get his security deposit back from a unscrupulous landlord. Also, how does this alleviate divorce? If at the end of the contract you don’t want to renew, it is pretty much a divorce. This kind of “technical…” double speak is where I imagine terms like Protective Styling come from.

But what if there are children in the mix? Custody hearings are some of the most disputed parts of a couple’s divorce…er…excuse me, end of term leasing. Well Rampell has a solution for that too:

If the couple has a child, there could be an option to have the lease automatically continue until the child reaches the age of majority. Of course, relationships change with family additions and an extended term may not be feasible. But considering the number of children born out of wedlock these days, would it not be better for parents to at least commit to a wedlease, even if it doesn’t last a lifetime?”

I think the concept of “wedleasing,” is how we have so many unwed mothers to begin with. I also think on the scale of half-baked and ill-advised theories I’ve seen printed in the Washington Post over the years, this is pretty far up there on the list of the most un-serious. First, it’s not like there aren’t existing legal products out in the world to deal with the separation of unions and property during – and after – marriage including pre-nuptial agreements, divorce decrees and custody agreements. Nothing he proposes actually runs counter to that. Matter of fact, JJ Redick and his ex-girlfriend were able to work out all the terms of their relationship including an abortion, without the assistance of term leasing.

And secondly, despite all those legal products currently available, marriages and divorces haven”t gotten any easier or any less messier. Family Courts stay busy. And that extra bit of bureaucracy (i.e. paperwork) isn’t going to fix that and the reason being is that no amount of legal binding and wrangling that will subvert human emotion. Sure, having all these pre-terms and conditions sounds all fine on the surface: if after five years, a person is working your nerves so bad you can tell him/her to kick rocks and be legally protected. But what if someone doesn’t agree to the ending of the lease and starts squatting. There are squatter’s rights, you know?

Listen, I’m glad Rampell thinks this highly of his profession. Everyone should have a certain level of pride and respect in the work that they do. However there is no way you can compare marriage/divorce, which is really about the complexities of relationships, to real estate transactions. Matter of fact, property leasing law isn’t even that fool proof in dealing with property leasing. People dishonor their leases and legally binding agreements all the time. And like Family Court, courts dealing with real estate stay busy too. Not to mention that all the real estate laws and agreements have yet to stop the steady and rising stream of real estate scammers from swindling first-and last-month’s rent and a security deposit from the unsuspecting pockets of potential renters. So how well will it work with the potential deadbeat in your life?

Not trying to disparage estate planning attorney, real estate laws or even landlords but I feel like people shouldn’t have to go through all of this just to feel comfortable in marriage. If the idea of marrying that person in your life feels this painful then just don’t do it.

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