Selected and reviewed
by James Park,
existential philosopher and critic of traditional marriage.
Listed in order of quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the evaluations and opinions of this reviewer.
1. Dorian Solot &
Unmarried to Each Other:
The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Couple
(New York: Marlow &
Company, 2002) 287 pages
(ISBN: 1-56924-566-1; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ803.5.S66 2002)
possibly the best book about creating your own relationship
free of the rules and conditions of traditional marriage.
And it will benefit all people in loving relationships
—whether married or not, whether straight or gay.
founders of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, based in Boston,
interviewed several unmarried couples
and drew on their own experience and additional research
to create this comprehensive guide to dealing with
all aspects of having a committed loving relationship
that is not a legal marriage.
Over 100 people were interviewed in person,
plus several dozen more by other means of communication.
many couples, living together is a step toward marriage.
They want to experience the day-to-day relationship before tying the knot.
Other couples see their relationship as temporary
—while it continues to be happy and meaningful for both of them.
And still other couples decide to have
permanent relationships without legal marriage.
2. Lenore J. Weitzman
The Marriage Contract:
Spouses, Lovers, and the Law
(New York: Free Press/Macmillian, 1981) 536 pages
most complete and comprehensive book
on the subject of relationship contracts
—both within a legal marriage and in lieu of legal marriage.
The following major issues are discussed and illustrated:
history and traditions of marriage;
benefits of relationship contracts;
power structures and negotiations;
household responsibilities; sex;
child-care responsibilities—during and after marriage;
property ownership and property division;
income and expenses; debts;
financial support during and after marriage;
retirement, disability, & death;
revising and amending a relationship contract;
resolving disputes; dissolution.
After you have read some shorter books,
this one will provide more detailed discussion of every issue.
A must-read for everyone interested in relationship contracts.
3. Nihara Choudhri
What to Do Before "I Do":
The Modern Couple's Guide to Marriage, Money and Prenups
(Naperville, IL: Sphinx Publishing:
www.SphinxLegal.com, 2004) 222 pages
(ISBN: 1-57248-451-9; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: KF524.Z9.C47 2004)
Another error occurs
when the marrying couple has no written agreement:
If one spouse does not report all of his or her income,
the IRS can come after the other spouse for unpaid taxes.
Without a prenuptial agreement to the contrary,
even 'your own' savings account will probably be counted as marital property.
Even if you have a will leaving your assets to your children,
about 1/3 could nevertheless go to your spouse when you die.
A joint mortgage debt might last longer than the marriage
if the ex-spouse who gets the house cannot qualify for a new mortgage alone.
Separate and marital
property rules vary from state to state.
If you divorce, the laws of the state where you live apply,
not the laws of the state where you married.
A premarital agreement will allow you to specify in advance of marriage
what will count as separate property
(which you will keep individually if the marriage ends)
and what will be marital property
(which will be divided by the divorce judge).
And you can also specify how marital property will be divided.
A good premarital
agreement will also cover estate planning:
What happens to all income and assets when one partner dies?
This book should enable
you to write a good prenuptial agreement,
covering all of the financial details of your proposed new relationship.
One complete prenuptial agreement is included, with marginal explanations.
To create a valid agreement, each of you must be represented by a lawyer.
(New York: Random House/Villard:
2001) 244 pages
(ISBN: 0-375-75535-7; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: KF529.Z9D83 2001)
The author is a
family-law attorney in New York City.
When her first marriage ended, the divorce proceedings lasted 7 years.
For her second marriage, she insisted on a prenuptial agreement,
parts of which are included in this volume.
provides more encouragement than detailed advice,
since two lawyers are required to create a valid prenuptial agreement.
The lawyers will put in the exact legal words and phrases
needed to achieve whatever the partners want.
Prenups for Lovers is
simple language that anyone can understand.
It helps people who are planning to marry
to think about all of the financial details before they merge their lives.
It asks all of the same financial Questions
as covered in Designer Marriage
(the last book in this bibliography),
but these questions come in clumps
without giving much attention to how they might be answered.
And the issues are not well separated and organized.
For example, assets and income are not treated in separate chapters.
agreements focus almost entirely on the financial arrangements
that marrying partners are contracting to follow.
How will they own their property and handle their incomes?
What will happen if they dissolve their marriage?
What will happen when one of them dies?
All of the
issues are illustrated by stories of what some couples did.
this book, the reader will feel more comfortable
about beginning the discussions with the spouse-to-be and with lawyers
that will ultimately lead to creating a written prenuptial agreement.
8. Toni Ihara & Ralph
The Living Together Kit:
A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples
(Berkeley, CA: Nolo Press, 1997—8th Edition) about 250 pages
book is recommended for everyone who wants help
creating legal agreements for non-married relationships.
Get the most recent edition, which will include the latest changes
in state and federal laws applicable to unmarried couples.
Major chapters discuss: financial and practical sharing;
renting; buying a house; having children; prior families;
dividing property when separating; wills and estates.
The book is well organized, discussing the issues one by one.
authors are two lawyers who lived together for
and then decided to get married for the sake of their daughter.
Hayden Curry, Denis Clifford, & Robin Leonard
A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples
(Berkeley, CA: Nolo Press, 1994—8th edition) over 300 pages
excellent guide for gay and lesbian couples,
discussing all the special problems they might encounter
—and creative solutions to each.
Major themes discussed: domestic partnership; changing names;
renting together; buying a home together; sharing income and expenses;
insurance; several forms of co-parenting
(adoption, guardianship, foster parents);
durable power of attorney for health care and finances;
estate planning and wills; ending prior heterosexual marriages;
child custody; ending the relationship.
Includes several pages of forms that can be adapted
to formalize decisions about these and other matters.
the most recent edition, since the laws keep
When same-sex marriage can be legally recognized,
couples with a relationship contract
will have already defined how their relationship operates.
Stacy & Wynne Whitman
The Smart Girl's Guide to Living in Sin Without Getting Burned
(New York: Broadway
Books/Random House: www.broadwaybooks.com, 2003)
(ISBN: 0-7679-1040-0; paperback) 303 pages
(Library of Congress call number: HQ803.5.W55 2003)
is a breezy but helpful book for woman who are living with men
or thinking about living together without the bonds of marriage.
Stacy is a journalist; her sister Wynne is an attorney.
Stacy's style shapes the book,
but it does contain some wise words from the lawyer
about protecting your rights.
could be a good place to start reading
for woman who are thinking of 'shacking up'.
most important issues discussed:
problems with parents who disapprove;
pros and cons of living together;
how to set up a common household;
organizing your money; legal rights;
deciding to get married; & ending relationships.
of the matters discussed in detail
in the last book in this bibliography
are dealt with lightly here.
But for people who will never write down their relationship contract,
this enjoyable and easy-to-read book might be helpful.
Love between Equals:
How Peer Marriage Really Works
(New York: Free Press,
(original title: Peer Marriage)
(ISBN: 0-02-874061-0; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ536.S394 1995)
Sociologist Pepper Schwartz interviewed several couples
who were striving to overcome the inequality
normally present in traditional marriage:
One partner earns more than the other.
One does more of the housework and childcare.
One has more power in the relationship.
The pattern of sexual behavior reflects the power relationship.
actual experiences of these peer couples
—who strove for equality in all dimensions of their relationship—
forms the basic content of this book.
Their struggles to create and maintain balance in their relationships
should inspire others to reform their own relationships
to make the partners more equal.
Love between Equals
contains little discussion of contracts,
but these couples worked very hard to transform
the implicit contracts under which most couples operate.
seems likely that most relationships in the advanced
parts of the world
will move at least some steps away from traditional hierarchy
and toward the partners being peers.
This book begins to show the way.
Larry M. Elkins
Financial Self-Defense for Unmarried Couples:
How to Gain Financial Protection Denied by Law
Elizabeth S. Lewin, CFP
Financial Fitness for Living Together
Lester Wallman with Sharon McDonnell
Cupid, Couples, & Contracts:
A Guide to Living Together,
Prenuptial Agreements, and Divorce
(New York: Master Media,
(ISBN: 1-57101-000-9; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: KF510.Z9W35 1994)
An excellent, detailed treatment of all the
that will be considered in ending a marriage:
division of assets and income; child custody, support, & visitation;
temporary separation agreements that will mature into divorces.
The author is a matrimonial attorney practicing in the state of New York.
The relevant laws of all other states are also taken into account.
If the partners write a comprehensive prenuptial agreement
before getting married, they will have a separation plan
that will usually be better than a divorce decree imposed by a judge.
This book includes many cautionary stories
from couples who did not plan ahead.
Paul P. Ashley
Oh Promise Me, But Put it in Writing:
Living-Together Agreements without, before, and after Marriage
(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978) 140 pages
Ashley, a lawyer with some experience in domestic
has written a short, yet comprehensive, book on relationship contracts of all sorts.
Major themes: pre-nuptial agreements; marriage contracts;
contracts for non-married couples, including same-sex couples;
legal and business contracts between spouses;
estate planning; separation and post-relationship contracts.
book covers almost all the same themes as Designer
(the last book on this bibliography) but from a different point of view.
It should be helpful to those who want to explore the questions
for a relationship contract from a legal perspective.
Borrow a copy from your favorite public or college library.
Bernard E. Clair & Anthony R. Daniele
Love Pact: A Complete Layman's Guide
to Legal Living Together Agreements
(New York: Grove Press, 1980) 222 pages
book by two lawyers is aimed toward
creating legally-binding written agreements between two parties.
The authors have considered all the possible provisions
that might be included and have provided drafts
of all the mandatory and optional provisions for such agreements.
The book is necessarily technical, but it should be consulted
by all who want an agreement that will stand up in court.
Major issues covered: property ownership; income sharing;
taxes; debts; children; pensions & insurance; making it all legal.
Johnette Duff, JD & George G. Truitt, CPA, CFP
The Spousal Equivalent Handbook:
A Legal and Financial Guide to Living Together
(Houston, TX: Sunny Beach Publications, 1991) 220 pages
simple guide by a lawyer and financial planner
who live together,
raising the questions that should be answered
by any two people sharing a household.
Breaks no new ground, but presents the basics.
Could be a place to begin reading.
Complete Premarital Contracting:
Loving Communication for Today's Couples
(New York: Evans, 1991,
under the title Save Your
(New York: Evans, 1993, paperback edition) 225 pages
(ISBN: 0-87131-739-7; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ734.R536 1993)
A breezy book by a woman
who has a premarital contract with her second husband.
The focus of this book in on the process of creating a contract,
the basic content being left to lawyers for both parties.
And as with all legal premarital contracts,
the basic content deals with what happens in case of divorce.
Nevertheless, there are some common-sense ideas
that ought to be considered by all couples, married or not.
Extra-Marital Partnerships and Law Reform
(Aldershot, UK: Gower, 1985) 115 pages
Relationship contracts in the context of English
law and practice.
An argument (with recommendations) for reform toward greater flexibility
in legal relationships between unmarried partners.
Because the laws of England differ from the laws in the United States,
legal reform will be different,
but almost all the same issues must be faced.
[last]. James Park
Write Your Own Relationship Contract
www.existentialbooks.com, 2010) 192
(ISBN: 978-0-89231-571-0; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: KF529.P37 2010)
book is structured around 28 open-ended Questions, in six areas:
(1) living arrangements; (2) promises; (3)children;
(4) income & expenses; (5) assets & debts; (6) insurance, retirement, & death.
The discussion of each Question begins with the default Answer
—how this Question is answered by traditional marriage—
and then proceeds to suggest some more creative Answers.
If we want a relationship beyond conventional marriage,
we will create our own special ways of answering each Question.
And if we put our Answers into writing,
we will have our own relationship contract.
Every on-going relationship already has implicit Answers.
Might reviewing (and perhaps revising) our Answers
lead to a better relationship?
Please suggest additional books
for this bibliography on relationship contracts.
Send suggestions to: James Park, e-mail:
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