Question 17
Who will support the household?

Default answer:  Many marriage laws require a husband to support his wife.
But tradition does not require a wife to support her husband.
The marriage laws of the various jurisdictions on Earth
do not define exactly how much financial support
a husband is required to provide for his wife,
but the traditions of each culture or sub-culture expect reasonable support.

     Courts which have been called upon to rule on questions of support
have usually agreed with the tradition that the husband is the 'breadwinner'.
Some courts have even ruled that a husband's responsibility
to support his wife is an obligation of law
that cannot be changed even by a written agreement between spouses.
Thus, if a man marries a wealthy woman planning to live on 'her' wealth,
he can still be sued for non-support.
Wives cannot be sued for non-support, because wives have no such duties.

     The doctrine of 'necessities' extends this tradition.
Several courts have held that a husband is responsible
for supplying the 'necessities' for his wife.
These include food, shelter, clothes, medicine, etc.
While they are married, the wife can buy these necessities
without the husband's explicit permission or signature—charging them to him.
A wife is not required to provide such necessities to a husband.
This implication of law emerged when few wives worked outside the home.
The courts decided that wives needed this economic protection.
And some courts have even applied it to unmarried couples
—especially if they lived like married people.
If a grocer, for example, believed they were married,
the putative wife could charge necessities to the putative husband.

     This 'necessities' doctrine is slowly changing in some states.
And it is likely to be widely ignored,
now that most women can earn money to support themselves.

     In the past, child-support cases have usually been settled the same way:
A father had an obligation to support his offspring after divorce.
But a mother did not have a similar obligation.
Few mothers were ever ordered to pay child-support,
even when physical custody was given to the father.
However, many revised divorce laws now impose
equal obligations for child-support on both parents.

Question 17:          WHO WILL SUPPORT THE HOUSEHOLD?          by James Park          91

Creative answers:  However, if you wish to avoid any obligations
based on laws and doctrines you regard as obsolete,
you should create your own relationship contract
explicitly stating just what your obligations toward each other are
—and that there are no additional obligations either implied or express.

     If you are planning to live with someone (married or not),
both of you probably expect to work for pay
at least some time during your relationship.
So you should define as well as you can in writing,
just how much each is expected to work
and how much each will support the other.
If you will have children to support, the time and money needed
will also become part of your plan for your life together.

     Will you take turns working?
Perhaps one will work while the other completes education
or pursues some other projects that do not yield immediate income.
Perhaps one will devote full-time to child-care responsibilities
—during which period the other partner
will be expected to earn all the household income.

     If you never expect to have equal earning power,
will you contribute an equal percentage of your pay for common expenses?

     How will you settle disputes about one partner not contributing enough?
Perhaps the support section of your contract
will have to be renegotiated and adjusted as other factors change.

     Disagreements about money is a major cause of marital discord:
Each of you might feel the other is not contributing enough.
Each of you might think the other is spending too much on trivial things.
If you have had such problems with money (or if they seem likely),
it might be better to keep your economic lives as separate as possible.

     But sometimes arguments 'about money'
are really emotional conflicts that are not as easy to articulate.
So you might find yourselves arguing 'about money' in irrational ways
that observers could not understand.
If the real issues are emotional conflicts between you,
then you will never be able to solve those problems
by creating a better cash-flow system for your household.


Above you have the first two page of Question 17 from Designer Marriage.
The next 3 pages explore just how much each is agreeing to support the other.

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Designer Marriage: Write Your Own Relationship Contract

Created April 5, 2009; Revised

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