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Does society have any interest in the stability of marriage per se - that is, apart from any concerns about the impact of divorce on children or financially dependent spouses? Should law try in any way to reinforce an ethic of commitment in marriage as a good in and of itself? . . . Two social trends make this a timely issue. First is the steady erosion of the link between marriage and procreation over the last generation. More married couples do not have children; more children are born outside of marriage. A second trend is the rise of unmarried cohabitation over the same period. This second development requires careful thought about whether law should continue to favor married over unmarried couples in the provision of many state benefits. Together, these two trends will soon force us to confront whether marital stability in itself warrants social and legal attention. Put differently, is marital disruption a concern only insofar as it might disadvantage children or financially vulnerable spouses? Does marital stability carry importance for its own sake, or does it just serve as a proxy for other more fundamental values?

Publication Citation

9 Va. J. Soc. Pol’y & L. 116-152 (2001)

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Family Law Commons