New form of divorce: Are fixed-terms the future of Canadian marriages?

University of Ottawa student proposes renewable marriage contracts

When most people get married, they usually vow to stay together until "death do us part," but the reality is that many marriages today are just as likely to end in divorce. A University of Ottawa law student has a proposal to deal with that new reality in a way that is gaining both traction and controversy. Her thesis proposes creating fixed-term marriages that couples could either renew or dissolve after an agreed period of time. While the proposal may sound bizarre, family law experts say it may be a better way to deal with evolving attitudes towards marriage.

The five-year renewable marriage

The student's proposal is that when a couple gets married they can write into their marriage contract an option to renew or dissolve the marriage after a fixed period of time. Couples could choose their own fixed terms, be they a year, five years, or ten years, but the clause would allow couples to more easily divorce at the end of the term if they choose not to renew the contract.

While the proposal may sound unusual, lawmakers in other countries have tried, although with little success, to pass similar measures. A bill in Mexico proposed a two-year trial period for marriages after which the marriage could be dissolved or renewed. That bill failed to pass. Similarly, a German politician unsuccessfully ran for election promising seven-year marriage contracts.

Marriage changing

While the proposal may sound unromantic, family law experts point out that changing social realities are putting a strain on traditional views of marriage. While couples in the past may have more easily been able to stay together until death, nowadays longer lifespans and decreasing stigmatization of divorce are leading many couples to reassess their marriage in midlife.

According to the Ottawa Sun, the average marriage that ends in divorce lasts for just 13 years in Canada. Additionally, many people who divorce are choosing common law unions afterwards instead of remarriage. The proposal for fixed-term marriages could make many of those people more inclined towards marriage if they knew that a marriage could be more easily dissolved after a certain period of time.

Divorce law

For now, however, fixed-term marriages are nothing more than an idea in Canada and cannot be used as an avenue to divorce. The many people who are currently considering divorce should be aware that divorce brings with it plenty of financial and legal issues.

Anybody considering or currently in the process of a divorce should contact a family lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can provide helpful advice with how to go about finalizing a divorce so that the client's interests and rights are best protected.