Anthony is my boss at The LaMantia Law Firm here in Charleston, South Carolina — so, be nice. When I first met Tony prior to moving to South Carolina, he was already beginning to get politically involved, launching an unsuccessful bid for State House of Representatives in early 2010. It is my hope that he’ll do some writing here, even if that writing comes from the convergence of political theory and Family Law issues, like you see here. Whatever his commitment may be at AR, I’m glad to have him around. Enjoy. — Jeff
It is well established that, in South Carolina, public policy favors the institution of marriage, as affirmed recently by our Supreme Court in the case of Theisen v. Theisen. It is also well established that the Family Court disfavors romantically involved adults who live in the same home without the benefit of being married when one or the other’s minor children reside in the same household. Numerous parents have even lost custody of their children because they are “living in sin” with their romantic companion.
Our state legislature has even gone so far as to make this a crime — see SC Code 16-15-60. This bar against romantically involved adults living with one another without the benefit of marriage and with their children applies equally to homosexual relationships and heterosexual relationships, leaving one to ponder – Are we blackmailing people into marriage?
Within the last month, I have married two couples and married another this week, solely to help a parent either gain or retain custody of their children and attempting to avoid the Family Court’s determination that the parent engaged in the romantic relationship is living in an immoral home environment and thus exposing the children to their parent’s legislatively determined “immorality.”
While it may be a funny thing for a divorce lawyer to say, I am a big proponent of marriage and have been married for over fourteen years. I believe that marriage can be a wonderful thing for adults and children alike. But what are we try to accomplish by forcing people to marry in order to maintain custody or overnight visitation with their children? Does a license really set the standard for an individual’s morality, and conversely, their ability to parent their children?
In general, we as a society want people to marry because they are ready to make a deep and longstanding legal and social commitment to one another and we ask Americans enjoy the freedom to choose our spouse. On the other hand, it is commonly claimed that over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. It would be interesting to know what the divorce rate is of people who married one another because they wished to remain living with their significant other while not losing custody or overnight visitation with their children. I suspect that the divorce rate of these marriages will be higher simply because the parties have been forced into marriage. By forcing people to marry, are we not also increasing the divorce rate and the resulting societal dysfunction which we were trying to avoid to begin with by encouraging the marriage? Ultimately, what can be the success rate of people forced to marry for the wrong reasons?
If our societal goal is to perpetuate the institution of marriage, our mission has been accomplished. If our societal goal is to support long lasting marriages and a healthy society, how can we do this if people are blackmailed to the altar or the justice of the peace? In other words, if our society compels people to marry for the wrong reasons, aren’t we doing society and our children a disservice by imposing a life plan on them that may not be what is in their best interests? Should morality be legislated by our government?