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Old 7th November 2012, 11:00 AM   #1
Jomante
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Family contract idea

I come up with this ideas that I think are fantastic and can't see past my own personal bias to see what's wrong with it. So I'm just throwing out this idea to get come critical thinking feedback on it.

My idea in a nutshell: Government will not recognize marriages as they have previously, but will instead recognize "family units" which are a contract between two or more people who are organized in a family.

Details: Each group of people that want to be recognized as a family enter into a contract. The contract defines who is in the family, who will automatically be added to the family (children born to women of the family for instance), who is responsible for the minors should the contract be broken, and what the asset / liability responsibilities are within the family and what to do if any of the family members die. Individuals could only ever belong to one family unit. That's a start, probably be more to it than that.

Benefits:
  • Assets / Liabilities are indicated up front just as they would be in the case of a prenuptial. Responsibility for minors would be indicated right up front. Simplifies the process for amicable 'divorces' should the family contract be ended.
  • Automatic transfer of wealth from one family member to the others in the case of a death.
  • Government is no longer recognizing "marriages" and therefore the churches can choose to define "marriage" how they want, whether it be between hetrosexual, gays, polygamist, etc. The term Marriage becomes more of a symbolic "fidelity" gesture instead, meaning it is as important as the couple wants to make it. If the couple wants to make the symbolic gesture before clergy, such is the couple's choice. No church would be forced to recognize a marriage it didn't want to. People could be married and not be in a family unit contract if they so chose.
  • Families would not require a marriage in order to provide the security and financial benefits of a family. For instance, two older siblings that are taking care of younger siblings when the parents were killed. Obviously the two siblings would not be allowed to marry and benefit from marriage laws, yet their partnership is in the best interest of the government to keep it going. They would get the same benefits as any other couple providing for the family.
  • HIPAA privacy becomes simpler: Those in the family unit would have access to others in the family unit in the hospital.

Issues:
  • Insurances would need to adjust. Instead of offering plans for individual, individual+spouse, individual+children, and individual+family the insurances would need to base the rate on the number of individuals in the family unit being covered.
  • Government forms would have to be adjusted to remove recognition of marital status. Or possibly recognize "Family Unit" vs "Individual".
  • All income from the family members is combined, and all deductible expenses. That makes really big families more prohibitive due to progressive taxation.
  • I recognize that this idea would be opposed by churches as being just another way to legitimize gay or polygamist marriages. And then there's people just opposed to changing the status quo.

Ok, I'm sure there's more, this is just to get it started. What am I missing in terms of Benefits and Issues, and how can this idea be improved?
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Old 7th November 2012, 11:27 AM   #2
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Robert Heinlein raised the idea years ago in one of his novels. You "bought in" to a family on a contractural basis. Those fond of raising kids could specialize in that without needing to go to work, those who wanted careers could work full-time and still have the support unit of a family....
I don't recall the notion getting much traction back then, or even which novel it was in.
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Old 7th November 2012, 12:21 PM   #3
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How do you deal with inheritance tax, immigration, and things like survivors benefits?

Can someone be in more than one family? So do children stop being in their parents family when they form their own? This is aside from polygamy but that plays a role in here as well.

Can I give someone legal status to sue for wrongful death in any contract or just this family contract?
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Old 7th November 2012, 12:41 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Robert Heinlein raised the idea years ago in one of his novels. You "bought in" to a family on a contractural basis. Those fond of raising kids could specialize in that without needing to go to work, those who wanted careers could work full-time and still have the support unit of a family....
I don't recall the notion getting much traction back then, or even which novel it was in.
More than one, but Friday is the one you are likely thinking of. Others have done similar.......
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Old 7th November 2012, 12:46 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
How do you deal with inheritance tax, immigration, and things like survivors benefits?

Can someone be in more than one family? So do children stop being in their parents family when they form their own? This is aside from polygamy but that plays a role in here as well.

Can I give someone legal status to sue for wrongful death in any contract or just this family contract?
Depends on structure/rules of family/government. As do more than one family membership and other facets.
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Old 7th November 2012, 12:51 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jomante View Post
What am I missing in terms of Benefits and Issues, ?
That attempting to create more work for lawyers is a bad idea?
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Old 7th November 2012, 01:09 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
How do you deal with inheritance tax, immigration, and things like survivors benefits?

Can someone be in more than one family? So do children stop being in their parents family when they form their own? This is aside from polygamy but that plays a role in here as well.

Can I give someone legal status to sue for wrongful death in any contract or just this family contract?
In my opinion, Inheritance tax would fall under the same umbrella that it currently does within a marriage -- the assets belong to the adults in the contract and pass from one to the other tax free, and then if no more adults exist in the contract then to the estate of the children to take care of the children. It's the "family unit" that owns the assets. Just as a business would not be taxed for moving assets from one store to another after closing one. Only children that reached the age where they could legally sign a contract would be allowed to claim their portion of the estate, in which case they would be outside of the original family contract by then since the original adults entering into the contract could not amend it to add them (the adults being dead).

Immigration, yeah there's certainly potential for abuse, and the government may have to look at why it gives a greencard for marriage and under what situations it makes sense to give a greencard for other mutually beneficial arrangements, such as the family contract.

Survivor's benefits could be limited the same as if it were a single spouse. So one adult dies and there's three more in the contract, there's still only one survivor's benefit being paid and three that have to share it. And if a second one died, still only one survivor benefit being paid to the family. If the contract is modified to add new adults, that's a new family unit and the survivor benefits cease immediately.

No, someone cannot be in more than one family contract. I covered that in the original post. If a child leaves a family to start a new one, that would be a new family contract. Thus the one person's deduction/exemption in tax would only be claimable under one contract and it gives a traditional time for when adults would do a new contract for adjusting the "family".

I have no idea on suing for wrongful death / loss of consortium. I would guess that it would need to apply specifically to the family contract and then you'd need to legally define the elements required for a contract to be a family contract. I'm not really familiar with the legal basis as to why this is a valid lawsuit to begin with though so I don't see how it fits into the overall picture.
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Old 7th November 2012, 01:15 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
That attempting to create more work for lawyers is a bad idea?
I don't think we necessarily need the lawyers to create the contracts any more than we need the lawyers to create marriage licenses. There could be a template people use and file with the government and only if you want extraneous stuff in the contract do you involve the lawyers. Challenges to the contract are simply handled under different terminology today: Probate, Divorce/Separation, Custody battles... There would probably be some additional lawyer work with this concept, so ... you could look at this as a stimulus idea providing more people with jobs
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Old 7th November 2012, 01:29 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jomante View Post
I don't think we necessarily need the lawyers to create the contracts any more than we need the lawyers to create marriage licenses. There could be a template people use and file with the government and only if you want extraneous stuff in the contract do you involve the lawyers. Challenges to the contract are simply handled under different terminology today: Probate, Divorce/Separation, Custody battles... There would probably be some additional lawyer work with this concept, so ... you could look at this as a stimulus idea providing more people with jobs
There would be a lot more work for lawyers. The larger the group involved in such a contract the more possibility for breakup and the more messy the breakups would be.
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Old 7th November 2012, 01:48 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
There would be a lot more work for lawyers. The larger the group involved in such a contract the more possibility for breakup and the more messy the breakups would be.
Ok, not that I'm agreeing with that, but so what? That's what lawyers do -- sort out contracts. Same thing the lawyers would be doing if there's a divorce, or a contested will. And I'm sure there's a few lawyers who would say "how is more work for me a bad thing?" LOL
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Old 7th November 2012, 02:04 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jomante View Post
Ok, not that I'm agreeing with that, but so what? That's what lawyers do -- sort out contracts. Same thing the lawyers would be doing if there's a divorce, or a contested will. And I'm sure there's a few lawyers who would say "how is more work for me a bad thing?"
The question is not what is good for lawyers but what is good for society. Divorces are already incredibly dissruptive to people's finances. No need to make them worse.

Quote:
LOL
Hmm
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Old 7th November 2012, 02:11 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
The question is not what is good for lawyers but what is good for society. Divorces are already incredibly dissruptive to people's finances. No need to make them worse.



Hmm
Agreed, divorces are incredibly disruptive to people's finances. Having a contract beforehand would be a good thing then, wouldn't it? That's what the family contract would be doing. And that's what prenups do.
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Old 7th November 2012, 02:15 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jomante View Post
Agreed, divorces are incredibly disruptive to people's finances. Having a contract beforehand would be a good thing then, wouldn't it? That's what the family contract would be doing. And that's what prenups do.
Except such things tend to end up involving lawyers anyway.
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Old 7th November 2012, 02:36 PM   #14
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I believe the parties should agree, before having children, whether or not it would be acceptable to throw them to wild dogs to be eaten. I had assumed the answer would be a universal "no", but apparently I was looking through the lens of my cultural bias against hurling children to wild beasts.
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Old 7th November 2012, 02:47 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Except such things tend to end up involving lawyers anyway.
The intent of contracts is not to reduce the number or work of lawyers, but to show the agreements, set expectations, and identify what happens if something goes wrong. That's not a bad thing.
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Old 7th November 2012, 02:53 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
Robert Heinlein raised the idea years ago in one of his novels. You "bought in" to a family on a contractural basis. Those fond of raising kids could specialize in that without needing to go to work, those who wanted careers could work full-time and still have the support unit of a family....
I don't recall the notion getting much traction back then, or even which novel it was in.
Originally Posted by fuelair View Post
More than one, but Friday is the one you are likely thinking of. Others have done similar.......

I was three sentences into the OP when I thought of TEfL. I don't recall which came first and Friday may have codified the idea more fully (not sure), but the entire loooog Time Enough centered around Lazarus' actions in and around the large "family unit". He used the idea a lot IIRC, big free love hippy that he wanted to be.

But beyond the obvious bonus for the adults (if you don't actually think it through ya horndog), the big advantage becomes a stable secure set-up for raising the kids to majority. Not bad.

The legal challenges of changing over would be a minefield though.
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Old 7th November 2012, 02:58 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Jomante View Post
What am I missing in terms of Benefits and Issues, and how can this idea be improved?
Surely some - maybe even most - of your ideas can be done through a combination of a trust and a limited company. Assuming I'm not wildly off the mark, it's worth pondering why it isn't done. Or if it is done, why it hasn't caught on.
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Old 7th November 2012, 03:13 PM   #18
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A couple points. Marriage already confounds some people, and it's not individualized to the extent these contracts seem to be. Making the liabilities and responsibilities 'upfront' doesn't make up for making those complexities more, well, complex. People would still get bamboozled. This isn't an insurmountable objection by any means.

Also while you seem to almost address it with your first bulletin, what about the issue of primacy? Who makes what decision and when? Is there a vote when to take mom off life support? Now that's not insurmountable either, but in cases of plural marriage it quickly leads to a situation where someone is 'first wife/husband' for some choices. Which of course kind of begs the question of why be 'married' legally to more than one?
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Old 7th November 2012, 04:38 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by megaresp View Post
Surely some - maybe even most - of your ideas can be done through a combination of a trust and a limited company. Assuming I'm not wildly off the mark, it's worth pondering why it isn't done. Or if it is done, why it hasn't caught on.
Here's a list of benefits to marriage. Of those, I agree that a few could be accomplished by trusts and/or ltd company, but I think most of the marital benefits listed would not.
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Old 7th November 2012, 04:44 PM   #20
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But Tyr, we have all that now, with first-second-third marriages.

I do like the idea of separating domestic partnerships from religious marriages. DPs would include contractual child rearing. No contract, no responsibilities, opening up for "male 'legal' abortions". Yup, it means a license to bear children- a contract with a mommy and another, to last until youngest child turns 18. Or a sperm donor contract, donor not liable for support. But the 'baby license' would be open to innumerable parties, and fully transferable.

Divorce would be like small claims court, a mere rubber stamp of the dissolution provisions laid out in the contract.

Hey, what's the legal status of pre-nups? Varies by state I think? But is a "marriage' needed at all or would a pre-nup alone do the task?
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Old 7th November 2012, 04:50 PM   #21
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And everybody involved would carry a card with a 'nuptial number', man woman or child. Same number, same family. A Divorce Ceremony would include a card burning.

The number would be supplied when the contract is registered with the county, like marriage licenses and deeds.
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Old 7th November 2012, 05:06 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
A couple points. Marriage already confounds some people, and it's not individualized to the extent these contracts seem to be. Making the liabilities and responsibilities 'upfront' doesn't make up for making those complexities more, well, complex. People would still get bamboozled. This isn't an insurmountable objection by any means.

Also while you seem to almost address it with your first bulletin, what about the issue of primacy? Who makes what decision and when? Is there a vote when to take mom off life support? Now that's not insurmountable either, but in cases of plural marriage it quickly leads to a situation where someone is 'first wife/husband' for some choices. Which of course kind of begs the question of why be 'married' legally to more than one?
Excellent points and questions. Agreed, contracts can be complex. A template that fits the majority of most families should be sufficient.

On the issue of primacy, I would think that the contract would give each adult entering into the contract equal say, and adjustments could be made for cultural attitudes/beliefs if necessary. When there are multiple, it will be up to the contract to identify what happens. If the contract specifies a paternal preference with first spouse getting final say, then at least it's specified right up front and those agreeing to the terms of the contract have acknowledged that.

There would definitely be pros and cons to having more than two adults in the contract. It's up to people to decide what is in their best interest. You say people could get bamboozled...to which I say "that's true even in a traditional marriage" without a contract.
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Old 7th November 2012, 06:58 PM   #23
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Heinlein went into alternative marriages in "Glory Road" too.

Sidetrack: It seems to me that many more of us web nuts are literate in Heinlein than the general public is. Sci-Fi in general I suppose. Cause/effect?

I remember a bit in an EE Doc Smith, circa 1928, about the computers on their star ship. They had to wait before lift off for the tubes to warm up.

I do regret the blurring between sci-fi and fantasy now a days. No more invnetions, all magic and dragons. Dumbed down public methinks, in spitee of how common post secondary degrees have become.
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Old 7th November 2012, 07:41 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Jim_MDP View Post
I was three sentences into the OP when I thought of TEfL. I don't recall which came first and Friday may have codified the idea more fully (not sure), but the entire loooog Time Enough centered around Lazarus' actions in and around the large "family unit". He used the idea a lot IIRC, big free love hippy that he wanted to be.

But beyond the obvious bonus for the adults (if you don't actually think it through ya horndog), the big advantage becomes a stable secure set-up for raising the kids to majority. Not bad.

The legal challenges of changing over would be a minefield though.
Friday hit me specifically because the contractual nature was clear and explicit in it - and dwelt upon at least twice. TEfL, not so much - it was sort of just there..... .
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Old 7th November 2012, 07:44 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
Heinlein went into alternative marriages in "Glory Road" too.

Sidetrack: It seems to me that many more of us web nuts are literate in Heinlein than the general public is. Sci-Fi in general I suppose. Cause/effect?

I remember a bit in an EE Doc Smith, circa 1928, about the computers on their star ship. They had to wait before lift off for the tubes to warm up.

I do regret the blurring between sci-fi and fantasy now a days. No more invnetions, all magic and dragons. Dumbed down public methinks, in spitee of how common post secondary degrees have become.
Unless I have missed something (though I understand and generally agree with your point) there are still some authors out there doing hard SF - Just fewer and less.
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Last edited by fuelair; 7th November 2012 at 09:38 PM. Reason: fix minor stuff
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Old 8th November 2012, 02:36 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Jomante View Post
In my opinion, Inheritance tax would fall under the same umbrella that it currently does within a marriage -- the assets belong to the adults in the contract and pass from one to the other tax free, and then if no more adults exist in the contract then to the estate of the children to take care of the children. It's the "family unit" that owns the assets. Just as a business would not be taxed for moving assets from one store to another after closing one. Only children that reached the age where they could legally sign a contract would be allowed to claim their portion of the estate, in which case they would be outside of the original family contract by then since the original adults entering into the contract could not amend it to add them (the adults being dead).

Immigration, yeah there's certainly potential for abuse, and the government may have to look at why it gives a greencard for marriage and under what situations it makes sense to give a greencard for other mutually beneficial arrangements, such as the family contract.

Survivor's benefits could be limited the same as if it were a single spouse. So one adult dies and there's three more in the contract, there's still only one survivor's benefit being paid and three that have to share it. And if a second one died, still only one survivor benefit being paid to the family. If the contract is modified to add new adults, that's a new family unit and the survivor benefits cease immediately.

No, someone cannot be in more than one family contract. I covered that in the original post. If a child leaves a family to start a new one, that would be a new family contract. Thus the one person's deduction/exemption in tax would only be claimable under one contract and it gives a traditional time for when adults would do a new contract for adjusting the "family".

I have no idea on suing for wrongful death / loss of consortium. I would guess that it would need to apply specifically to the family contract and then you'd need to legally define the elements required for a contract to be a family contract. I'm not really familiar with the legal basis as to why this is a valid lawsuit to begin with though so I don't see how it fits into the overall picture.
So adult children are no longer legally related to their parents? Why not just include them in the contract, it is a great way around inheritance tax.

The problem with this free form structure is you create a more complex system. This means more people will get lost because they lack the savvy and money to get the most out of it. You also create more possibilities for what most would view as abusing the ideals to get loopholes.

So if you want to keep the benefits of marriage out of the hands of the poor then it will do that.
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Old 8th November 2012, 02:44 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Jomante View Post
Excellent points and questions. Agreed, contracts can be complex. A template that fits the majority of most families should be sufficient.
The thing is that marriage is now a boolean state. You are replacing that with at the least hundreds of individual booleans states. This means that the contract would need to be examined when ever one of the current 1100 effects of marriage is called into use.
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Old 9th November 2012, 10:33 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
So adult children are no longer legally related to their parents? Why not just include them in the contract, it is a great way around inheritance tax.
Sure, include your adult children in the contract, but the flip side is that their income and your income is now combined and you'll be taxed at a higher rate. They now assume equal access to ALL of your assets, but also responsibility for all of your debts. And any children they have are now legally your responsibility to take care of if your children die. There are upsides and downsides to being in a family contract. It isn't something you take lightly just to "avoid" inheritance tax. I'd love to hear a good justification for inheritance tax in the first place, but that's for another thread. Nonetheless, this is not a huge issue. Inheritance tax could just be redefined to tax the portion of an individual's share. So, three brothers in a contract, one dies and the total asset value of the family contract is 6 million, that means 2 million would be taxable (with the first million exempt if they want to keep that clause of the inheritance tax).

Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
The problem with this free form structure is you create a more complex system. This means more people will get lost because they lack the savvy and money to get the most out of it. You also create more possibilities for what most would view as abusing the ideals to get loopholes.

So if you want to keep the benefits of marriage out of the hands of the poor then it will do that.
Except, surprise...the rich already have complex legal trusts, estate plannings, etc that they get to benefit from that the poor will never get. In what way would having a standard template family contract prevent the poor from having the benefits of marriage? The template contract would guarantee the same federal/state recognition benefits that marriage does now. It just ends up expanding it to be available to more than just the people who can get legally married now.

Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
The thing is that marriage is now a boolean state. You are replacing that with at the least hundreds of individual booleans states. This means that the contract would need to be examined when ever one of the current 1100 effects of marriage is called into use.
So instead of it being a boolean "marriage" state, it's a boolean "contract" state. Either you are in a family contract, or you are not. All family contracts get the same benefits/treatment from the government. Where the contract differs from standard treatment would be handled the same way "Power of Attorney" is now, where it has to be presented to prove treatment outside of the norm.

In simplest terms, the family contract just removes the "spouse" line and replaces it with the "contract number" (as someone suggested earlier). I'm not saying that there wouldn't need to be a rewrite of many laws to make them fit with the family contract. There would be. But that's part of the process to get something passed and is not a downside to actually having the contract concept in place.

Last edited by Jomante; 9th November 2012 at 10:34 AM.
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Old 9th November 2012, 08:59 PM   #29
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Could there be issues in which for instance a contract is formed and it is agreed that the man should receive custody of the child should they have one and end up leaving or disbanding the family unit.

Isn't it possible that 8 years down the line the circumstances may have changed and it may not be in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of the father? I dunno. That's just what came to mind.
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Old 10th November 2012, 08:10 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by The_Animus View Post
Could there be issues in which for instance a contract is formed and it is agreed that the man should receive custody of the child should they have one and end up leaving or disbanding the family unit.

Isn't it possible that 8 years down the line the circumstances may have changed and it may not be in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of the father? I dunno. That's just what came to mind.
If the contract states that separation gives the custody of the child to the man, then that is what would happen. If other member(s) of the contract feel that isn't in the best interest of the child then just like in current day they would challenge the custody and the custodian could either give up custody or battle the challenge (and the burden of proof that the person was unfit would then fall on the challengers) just like what happens in today's legal system.
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Old 10th November 2012, 03:33 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Jomante View Post
If the contract states that separation gives the custody of the child to the man, then that is what would happen. If other member(s) of the contract feel that isn't in the best interest of the child then just like in current day they would challenge the custody and the custodian could either give up custody or battle the challenge (and the burden of proof that the person was unfit would then fall on the challengers) just like what happens in today's legal system.
If this is the case it seems much of what you suggest is exactly how things already work. When a couple gets divorced, sometimes the parents figure out who will take the child among themselves, but often it ends up as a legal battle. Your explanation implies that basically the same thing would happen. Regardless of the initial contract, if people can ignore it and still fight over the child then the initial contract is utterly meaningless. Similarly if upon divorce they still agree to the original terms then they probably would have decided that anyway at the time of divorce regardless of the initial contract.
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Old 11th November 2012, 12:03 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by The_Animus View Post
If this is the case it seems much of what you suggest is exactly how things already work. When a couple gets divorced, sometimes the parents figure out who will take the child among themselves, but often it ends up as a legal battle. Your explanation implies that basically the same thing would happen. Regardless of the initial contract, if people can ignore it and still fight over the child then the initial contract is utterly meaningless. Similarly if upon divorce they still agree to the original terms then they probably would have decided that anyway at the time of divorce regardless of the initial contract.
Not exactly, the contract does tend to tip the scales a little bit but that wasn't the point of this idea to begin with. It was to extend the benefits to more than just those who can get married now, and it helps to completely separate the religious marriage from the sectarian family unit.
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