‘Beta Marriage’ Approach To Nuptials Can Be Problematic In Tennessee

It’s no secret there are a myriad of new age approaches to marriage, most recently displayed in popular culture with Gwyneth Paltrow’s separation from Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin, that Mrs. Paltrow dubbed their “conscious uncoupling.”  No matter what these two call their separation, if they indeed find they can’t salvage the marriage, California family law court’s nomenclature for the divorce process will not deviate.

In like manner, millennials — a term used to refer to the generation born from 1980 onward, brought up using digital beta common law marriagetechnology and mass media reaching adulthood on or about 2000 — seemingly have a much different view of marriage than their parents. This was recently evidenced by a survey published in a July Time Magazine article. The survey found that just under half of millennials said they would support a marriage model that involved a two-year trial, after which the union could be either formalized or be dissolved with no divorce or paperwork required. This type of trial run is being referred to as “beta marriage.” The reasoning behind the concept is that the “beta period” allows the couple to give the relationship a pre-marriage test drive in an attempt to exhibit each other’s peccadillos, work out kinks, then if things are found to not work, simply sever ties without legal or other consequence.

The author of the study, Melissa Lavigne-Delville, explained “this is a generation that is used to this idea that everything is in beta, that life is a work in progress, so the idea of a beta marriage makes sense. It’s not that they’re entirely noncommittal, it’s just that they’re nimble and open to change.”

From a family law standpoint, the beta-marriage concept could be problematic in Tennessee since marriage is controlled by statute and not common law. As such, divorce laws do not specifically apply to living together or to “beta-marriage” arrangements. Issues such as child custody, co-parenting, property rights, assets accumulated and responsibility for debts are not subject to divorce laws if the beta-marriage originated in Tennessee.

If you are in a relationship but not sure what the law says as it relates to a “beta-marriage” arrangement or you’ve been in a common law relationship originating in Tennessee that is dissolving, it would be wise to seek the services of a competent family law professional and explore your legal options. Schedule an appointment today with our attorney, Donna Wagner.

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