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What Is a Marriage Contract?

Nicole Madison
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A marriage contract is a legal agreement between two people who are planning to get married. Often, a marriage contract is used in determining which spouse will retain property and other assets in the event that the marriage ends. This is not always the case, however. Some marriage contracts also include the commitment the spouses in a marriage make to each other and conditions of the marriage. Sometimes these contracts also cover the details of how children who were born before the marriage will be cared for in the event that the marriage ends.

A prenuptial agreement is one type of marriage contract a person may sign. This contract is intended to determine how a couple will handle finances and property in the event of a divorce. For example, this type of contract may dictate that one spouse will retain the marital home and the other will maintain ownership of vacation property. It may also dictate such things as the amount of a money a person will receive when leaving the marriage.

Sometimes marriage contracts don’t set the terms for how financial matters will be handled in a divorce. Religious marriage contracts often detail a couple's commitment to each other. For example, in a Jewish marriage contract, referred to as a ketubah, a husband usually promises to work and provide for his wife. This contract often dictates that he will honor her as well. Unlike a prenuptial agreement, this type of marriage contract typically reveals the moral and religious commitment a man makes to his wife in addition to the financial commitment.

A covenant marriage statement is another type of agreement that is not focused on financial matters. This type of agreement stipulates that a marriage under God is a relationship that lasts for a lifetime. Via this type of agreement, spouses usually vow that they will love each other unconditionally and remain faithful to each other. This type of agreement is Christian based.

An Islamic marriage contract is used to indicate a couple’s consent to the marriage as well as the legal and social responsibility the spouses will have to each other. The contract usually spells out the details of a gift the bride will receive from the groom, which will become her sole property. The contract may also include terms that govern where the couple will live and whether the wife may work or seek additional education. Some may even contain stipulations for such things as visitation with either spouse’s parents or other family members.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1007373 — On Jun 27, 2022

Many churches, such as the UCC since 2004, now recognize same-sex marriage as valid. Their clergy willingly, even joyfully, perform a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples. Marriage now can be more than a legal contract for these couples but also a religious one. The federal constitution guarantees that the government will not establish any religion or prefer one faith to another. This implies that American citizens have a right to same-sex marriage that neither state nor federal law may infringe. Further, the full faith and credit clause in the Constitution requires that each state honor contracts made in any other state. Suppose one state again bans same-sex marriage? Suppose further that SCOTUS permits that law to stand as Justice Thomas evidently wishes. Then the banning state will have to treat same-sex marriage contracted where legal as legal also in the banning state.

I am not a lawyer and do not offer legal advice. I'd welcome comment on my assertions from someone who does have legal training. Meanwhile, I rejoice every day in my same-sex legal marriage. Our joy harms no one.

By pleonasm — On Apr 04, 2013

@Mor - Marriage is already such a flexible term. The way they mean it in a Christian marriage and the way they mean it in a secular marriage might be completely different.

Personally, I think people should just be left alone to do what it is they want to do, with minimal interference from the government, telling them who they can and can't marry. As long as everyone in the contract can consent, then I don't see what the problem is.

By Mor — On Apr 03, 2013

@croydon - Well, if that's all that you want, then campaign for a different kind of contract. Why do you need to use the term marriage, which is supposed to be a state where two people are in love with each other and procreating together? The trouble is, if you allow anyone to sign contracts where they give custody of their children away, you'll end up with kids in bad situations.

By croydon — On Apr 03, 2013

The thing is, to me, marriage is basically just a legal contract, when you get down to the bare bones of it. It's a decision to make a particular person into part of your family, giving them all the rights that close, blood kin have under the law, like being able to share custody of children and being able to visit in hospital rooms and so forth.

That's why the whole gay marriage thing annoys me. Because I'm not gay, but maybe one day I'll want to marry my best friend. Maybe I'll be in a position where I need a legal guardian I can trust, or maybe we'll both be single and want another person to raise kids with.

Why shouldn't I be able to do that? I just don't see why people can't understand that it is just a legal contact, not a religious one.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a MyLawQuestions writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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