Thank you to Minch Minchin, University of Florida, Levin College of Law up in Gainesville Florida.  While not a winner, still a very well documented essay.  Feel free to enter in our next Scholarship.

We would like to emphasize, that the following is a work by a student, in pursuit of a legal scholarship.  This work is not a work product of an attorney, or anyone that works for Brandon Legal Group, and should not be treated as legal advice.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Why Marriage Matters

Minch Minchin

 

“Just as the family is the foundation of society, the marital relationship is the foundation of the family. Consequently, strengthening marriages can only lead to stronger families, children, and communities, as well as a stronger economy.”

 

If we take at face value Thomas Jefferson’s proposition that the purpose of government is to foster life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then government should be exceptionally concerned with health of its citizens’ marriages—because marriage promotes all three. This article briefly discusses each of these benefits in turn and demonstrates that marriage yields benefits to parents, children, and society as a whole.

  1. Life

Excepting marriage, the only child-rearing alternative is a program in which children are wards of the state. Plato, in his Republic, declared that this arrangement was ideal. Yet Plato’s student, Aristotle, rebuffed his master, stating that “what is common to many is taken least care of.”  Contemporary social science evidence strongly suggests that Aristotle got it right, as children raised in non-married households are statistically more likely to die young, and generally live five years less than their counterparts raised in married households.

2. Liberty

Perhaps the most obvious liberty-related interest the state has in marriage is that children who grow up in married homes are significantly less likely to go to prison. But even more fundamentally, the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the government interest in marriage and child-rearing by enshrining them among substantive due process liberties. As the high court wrote 100 years ago, “[t]he child is not the mere creature of the state.” Marriage and family matters, the Court opined, are not only “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” but also are foundational to the function of any free society.  

 

3. Pursuit of Happiness

Children who grow up in married households are better off by every meaningful proxy for happiness: they are less likely to abuse drugs, drop out of school, possess mental health problems or have feelings of loneliness. They are also more trusting, have superior personal skills, and are less likely to contemplate or commit suicide.

But even more than the children, married couples are on average also happier than they otherwise would be. Statistics illustrate that married men are happier, healthier and wealthier. They also work harder and earn significantly more than their single or divorced counterparts. Married women, furthermore, often report greater happiness and satisfaction—and jointly, married couples are much less likely to experience domestic abuse than are co-habitators.

Conclusion

Exceptions to the marriage-is-better rule exist, of course, such as in marital domestic abuse cases. As family lawyers know all too well, the practice of law often concerns itself with the second best, rather than the ideal. Yet the general principle remains inviolate: children raised in married households are happier and healthier, and their parents are wealthier and more satisfied with life.

As both the Federal Government and the State of Florida have learned, the aggregate effect of strong marriages is a reduction of crime, taxpayer burden, mental health problems, depression and a host of other social ills. The state interest in marriage, therefore, is a compelling one: healthy marriages lead to a healthy society.

 

[1] See, e.g., Florida Family Law Handbook, 2017, http://www.alachuacounty.us/Depts/Clerk/FamLaw/Pages/FamilyLawHandBook.aspx; Fla. Stat. § 741.0306 (authorizing the creation of a family law handbook).

[2] Plato, The Republic (Paul Shorey trans.,1930).

[3] Aristotle, A Treatise on Government (William Ellis trans., 2009).

[4] Children at Higher Risk in Non-Traditional Homes, Nov. 18, 2007 Assoc. Press, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21838575/ns/health-childrens_health/t/children-higher-risk-nontraditional-homes#.WahbmsreSLg.

[5] Howard S. Friedman & Leslie S. Martin, The Longevity Project 2011. When discussing these data, it bears noting that correlation does not equal causation. Yet one cannot ignore the striking disparity.

[6] Alan Hawkins & Tamara Fackrell, Should I Keep Trying to Work It Out? 50 BYU Stud. Quart. (2011).

[7] Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325 (1937).

[8] Pierce v. Soc’y of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925).

[9] Palko, supra note 7 at 325.

[10] The liberty interest is also reflected in provisions such as spousal privilege—the primary public policy goal being the interest in strong marital relationships. Fed. R. Evid. 501.

[11] Lauren Hanson, Nine Negative Effects Divorce Reportedly has on Children, The Week, March 28, 2013, http://theweek.com/articles/466107/9-negative-effects-divorce-reportedly-children

[12] John Helliwell &Shawn Grover, New Evidence on Marriage and the Set Point for Happiness, National Bureau of Economic Research (2014) http://www.nber.org/papers/w20794.

[13] Mariko Lin Chang, Women and Wealth in the United States (2010) http://www.socwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/fact_2-2010-wealth.pdf.

[14] Linda Waite, The Negative Effects of Cohabitation, 10 Communitarian (2000).

[15] T. O. Afifi et al, Mental Health Correlates of Intimate Partner Violence in Marital Relationships in a Nationally Representative Sample of Males and Females, 24 J. of Interpersonal Violence 1398–417 (2009).

[16] See, e.g, Fla. Stat. § 741.0305 (permitting couples who attend pre-marital counseling to forego the cost of a license).

 

 

 

 

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