Those rules of family law that formalize and shape the institution of marriage embody the concepts of conjugality, privacy, and contract. Conjugality is a legal status – marriage, but it is also a powerful normative concept.
The rules that both reflect and actualize the concept of conjugality include those that permit only opposite – sex couples to marry – limit to two the number of people who may enter into a marriage, require that marriages be presumptively enduring and dissoluble only by the state, impose on married couples – viewed in important respects as a single unit – mutual obligations of support and declare marriage to be the spot for legitimate sex and procreation.
Long before the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly named it a constitutionally protected individual right, states implicitly recognized and respected the concept of marital and family privacy. Historically, states afforded marital couples privacy and viewed the marital family as an indivisible unit, under male authority. State noninterference permitted husbands to exercise authority over their wives, children, and other household members. The concept of marital privacy has evolved, becoming officially gender – neutral.
Contemporary law continues in many respects to view the marital couple as a single unit, but states have repealed noninterference policies that explicitly enabled husbands to dominate their wives. In addition, states now recognize both parents authority over children.
Once married, however, laws convert a couple’s private relationship to a state – regulated legal status. That status is much more alterable than it was before, but even today, those of its terms considered essential to that status are unalterable. Couples usually may not alter by contract the rules that govern their ongoing marriages. Courts refuse to enforce, for instance, agreements providing that one spouse will compensate the other for domestic services. Their reasoning is that mutual entitlement to support and domestic services is an essential aspect of the conjugal status.
Couples cannot pre-establish the duration of their marriages – once entered, a marriage presumptively continues until the death of either spouse. Nor may couples unilaterally dissolve their legal marriages, only the state, by divorce decree, may do so. For further info navigate to this web-site.