Morning Ed: Society {2016.02.24.W}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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58 Responses

  1. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    6. I’m not convinced that marital or non-marital status is that important of a public issue unless kids are involved and there is a separation. The article also seems a bit foreign in its assumptions. In America the higher the household income quintile, the more likely the inhabitants are married. Worrying about tax breaks and asset-sharing among co-habitants is not the highest priority. I worry more about couples who cannot afford to be separated and at the same time be financially responsible for their child(ren).Report

  2. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    Marriage: I am reminded of the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, where the Hugh Grant character wants all the appurtenances of marriage with the Andie McDowell character, but not the word “marriage.” feh.

    Marriage is a set of legal mutual rights and obligations. The problem arises when people expect and desire these without the formality of getting married. “What do you mean I don’t get marital inheritance rights? We shacked up for twenty years!” Or, in some ways even more on point, “What do you mean I can’t be involved in medical decisions about my comatose partner? We shacked up for twenty years!”

    It is all well and good to penalize people for their own stupidity. Less acceptable, as the linked article points out, is to penalize kids for their parents’ stupidity.

    And as for the status quo, what this is depends on where you live. About a fifth of the US states still recognize common law marriage.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      AFAIK, a common-law marriage still requires that the couple hold themselves out as a married couple, so there is some form of consent given.

      Illinois permits any couple (straight or gay) to enter into a civil union, the main distinguishing feature appears to be it is not called marriage and it permits a couple to gain the benefits of marriage without losing any pension benefits that would otherwise have ended upon re-marriage.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to PD Shaw says:

        I’m not sure what it means nowadays to “hold themselves out as a married couple.” Back in the day, a couple with any aspiration to respectability would naturally use the language of marriage, even absent the formalities of clergy or marriage license. Nowadays you can easily live for years next to your neighbors Bob Smith and Susan Jones and their kids, with the topic never arising.

        I mean is quite literally when I say that I’m not sure what it means. I imagine that this has been litigated in the various jurisdictions. I suppose I could look it up.Report

        • You refer to yourself as married, check “married” on forms, put “spouse” as “relationship” on emergency contact form.

          Gets tricky when only one partner does that and another doesn’t, but my understanding is that it wouldn’t count.

          I go back and forth on how I feel about common law marriages, leaning against most days but waffling.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

            It’s… like under $100 to get married. Common Law marriages were for when it was difficult to get married. (I’ll go to bat for anyone in a same sex marriage who is finding it hard to get married…)Report

          • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Will Truman says:

            Yabbut… I am thinking of a couple low on the socio-economic ladder, who don’t file income taxes and don’t fill out a lot of forms. I’m not sure if this mental image is realistic nowadays. Perhaps forms are unavoidably ubiquitous.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

            Knowing what box to check can be tricky. Zazzy and I were engaged for 20 months and lived together* for about 16 months prior to that. And yet, when filling out forms, I had to check “Single” even though I was anything but. At least in terms of how we use that term colloquially. At this point, we are legally married and our separation is unofficial. But we live separately and the extent to which we have regular contact is as co-parents (things are amicable but there is obviously lots to sort through individually and together as we transition into a new phase of our relationship). Yet, I am checking “Married” on forms. I feel like married… more single… now then I did during our engagement. But the boxes I check indicate the opposite.

            * She was deployed for seven of these months but we remained fully committed during this time and still shared a home.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          I think there are a few people that survive a horrible divorce that have an irrational desire not to solemnize a subsequent relationship, though are fully committed to the substance of a marital relationship. There is also the promise to marry after some event occurs (like finalization of a divorce) that goes on so long that they forgot to take that step, maybe with a mistaken understanding of the law in their state.

          The situation you describe where two people have decided not to get married, but hold themselves out as married to avoid the social stigma, is not a particularly attractive one for common-law marriage, it would give legal effect to a deception.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      It is all well and good to penalize people for their own stupidity.

      Why? Seriously, why? Why would that be something we want the state to do?

      Some people need to listen to what they’re saying, because this is a pretty screwed up idea of government they seem to have:

      Premise: We’ve invented this process for people to do to register as a couple with the state, the knowledge of has a lot of benefits for both the state and said couples.

      Problem: More and more couples are refusing to do it.

      Their Solution: Hahahaha, those idiots! Now when they separate or die or have kids, everything is total chaos! Hahaha! Well, except for the kids, that sucks, but we’re fine with total chaos WRT everything else, because not having any sort of existing process for all that is just *great*.

      Again, I ask: Seriously? This is how the government should work? If car owners were required to register their cars, but half of them failed at that, causing total chaos on the street and people unable to get their cars back when towed, we’d just laugh and say ‘Hahaha, those idiots.’? Or should we, in fact, acknowledge reality and set up some sort of *other* system?

      If couples are not getting married, there are two possible reasons: 1) They do not want the baggage of the word ‘marriage’ hanging over them, or 2) They do not want to deal with the government at all.

      #1 has an easy solution…give them something that isn’t called marriage, but has all the rights of it.

      #2 is slightly more complicated…but this article is full of ideas. Co-habitation + time seems an easy trigger to set up.

      The government allowing couples to register their marriage solves problems. Marriage has existed so long that it solves problems *we’ve forgotten they existed*…until marriages got complicated and un-doable and we had to re-solve some of the marriage problems.

      Now there are *more* of those problems being exposed due to societal changes, and we have to re-solve *those* problems. (And note I have no problem trying to solve it with ‘restarting marriage as a institution’, but that ship probably sailed for this generation when conservatives spent two decades destroying it with their refusal to let gay people in, normalizing couples without any plans at all to get married.)Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to DavidTC says:

        #1 has an easy solution…give them something that isn’t called marriage, but has all the rights of it.

        Gee, wasn’t that tried with the gays? Domestic partnership? Civil Unions? They didn’t want that either but agitated for full on marriage. So……Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Damon says:

          Gee, wasn’t that tried with the gays?

          And isn’t it racist how we still have *backs of buses* that we let people sit in, despite that concept being ‘tried for blacks’? Seriously, if it was unacceptable to require black people to sit there, how is it acceptable to let people wander back there and sit there if they choose?!?!

          Oh, wait, because that’s not the same thing at all.Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to DavidTC says:

        I think you completely missed Richard’s point, it’s one thing to be unconcerned with what two consenting adults agree to do as to their personal relationship, but another when they have kids.

        “Problem: More and more couples are refusing to do it.”

        I think its worth considering the reason the marriage rate has declined:

        The decline in marriage was particularly steep for young women and for those with lower educational attainment. From 2008 to 2015, the report says, the marriage rate dropped more than 13 percent for young women with high school diplomas or less. At the same time, women who are college-educated have created a different trend. The number of women with college degrees who wed grew from 30 percent to 36 percent.

        Women with degrees are more likely to follow what has been called a “success sequence” of college, then marriage, then children, said Sturgeon.

        He said he believes most women still want marriage at some point, but young or less-educated women are holding out for economic improvements or better marriage-partner prospects. They have not necessarily been putting off having babies, though.

        There are hints that marriage may recover somewhat, or at least decline a bit less. Sturgeon said the decline in the marriage rate has slowed and been less steep recently. “That would suggest that we are nearing the bottom,” Sturgeon said.

        Marriage is declining among those that lack assets, and increasing among those who do. There is an economic problem here at the core.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to PD Shaw says:

          …that’s not really me missing the point. As I said, there were two possibilities…either couples didn’t want to call what they had a marriage, or they didn’t want to bother with registering anything with the government. Or some combination.

          What you just cited doesn’t really show things either way.

          It just shows they may not be expecting their relationships to be permanent, which…could be used to argue either way, or both.

          Now, there is a possibility that women are especially choosing *not* to get entangled in the lives of men (While still having children.), so the problems that marriage is intended to solve are less important. I.e., perhaps they are treating their cohabitation more like a standard roommate agreement, where there is very little joint property and clear ownership of everything.

          I’m just finding this hard to connect with ‘still having children’.

          Maybe we’re looking at two entirely different patterns, perhaps.

          Also, the trend of 30%-36% of educated women increasing is, uh, not particularly important in my mind. I believe what has happened there is that more women are choosing to go to college (More women than men, at this point.), and very few of them are choosing to get married before or during that…so there’s an increase in those who marry after. I don’t think this is as much ‘more of them are getting marriage’ as it is ‘waiting until after graduation to get married’ catching up.Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to DavidTC says:

            No, there are not just two options here. People also do not get married for good reasons, and they make the choice willingly and in their own self-interest. I know some, and they are not fools, and certainly understand the long-term impact of the marriage penalty in the income tax code on couples making above-average incomes.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to PD Shaw says:

              Erm, I don’t know why you decided that I was somehow attacking people who didn’t get married. If I was doing that, I would hardly be suggesting two solutions that involved…people still not getting married.

              My point is that marriage actually solves a few, specific, legal problems having mostly to do with property (We’ve pretty much already been forced to solve the ‘children’ part of that.), and if people aren’t doing marriage anymore, we need to set up *something else* to solve those problems. Either some sort of lesser form of registration (If it’s the name they have issues with), or some sort of common-law co-habitation system (If it’s registering at all) that triggers after a certain amount of time, and basically turns our ‘divorce’ courts to ‘non-co-habitation’ courts.

              I am, in no way, asserting that people ‘should’ get married, or that their lack of marriage is for bad reasons. I’m actually a little baffled by someone thinking that, considering below that I just *took issue* with @richard-hershberger , who seems to think people shouldn’t have specific legal protections because they don’t want to use the word ‘married’ to describe themselves.

              And my two listed possibilities are the two I can see for the *decrease* in marriage. As far as I am aware, the ‘marriage penalty’ has not changed in quite some time. Perhaps you intended to argue that people are now more aware of it…but I don’t see any evidence of this. If anything, the recession would have made the marriage penalty *less* relevant over the past decade.

              This is not to say there aren’t *other* possibly explanations, but the marriage penalty doesn’t seem to work as one.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to PD Shaw says:

          it’s one thing to be unconcerned with what two consenting adults agree to do as to their personal relationship, but another when they have kids.

          Oh, and this isn’t true either. The government *should* be concerned if intestate inheritance is going to a non-ideal person, considering it is the entity that picked that person! Likewise, the government *should* be concerned if separated couples are being forced to use small claims court to settle joint ownership disputes instead of the *court it literally created to settle those*, the divorce court.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to DavidTC says:

        If couples are not getting married, there are two possible reasons: 1) They do not want the baggage of the word ‘marriage’ hanging over them, or 2) They do not want to deal with the government at all.

        3) They don’t want to think about it, and procrastinate. Most, though not all, of the appurtenances of marriage can be replicated on a case by case basis. The most obvious example is that you can leave a will bequeathing your stuff to whomever you want. The problem is that lots of people don’t leave a will, whether because they don’t want to think about their deaths or because they simply never get around to it.

        So what then? Not dealing with the government is not an option, unless the answer to “what then?” is that whoever can back a truck up to the front door first gets the stuff. This solution is sometimes what happens, but is generally considered non-ideal. Fortunately, the various states in their wisdom have enacted intestate succession laws that act as a default system. Furthermore, they are pretty sensible for a 1950s family. If you are survived by a spouse, there is your answer. If not, then your kids divvy it up. No kids? Then things get more complicated, but they generally start with parents or siblings and work their way down to your fifth cousin thrice removed.

        But what if you don’t have a 1950s family? What if you really want your adult son to get half, and the woman you are living with but never married to get half, and the mother of your adult son whom you haven’t seen in twenty years, but never quite got around to divorcing, should get nothing? Those intestate succession laws aren’t going to work for you.

        You essentially are positing that the default should be reset to accommodate this: not a bad idea in principle, but unworkable in practice. Say what you will about the 1950s family, but at least it was simple enough that the defaults were also simple and usually sensible. Modern, gloriously messy familial arrangements don’t lend themselves to working out ex post facto what the deceased would have wanted.

        My point stands: This is one thing if only adults are affected. Let the chips fall where they may. It is quite another if there are kids involved.

        On a related note, for the “do not want to deal with the government at all” crowd: oh, grow up.Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          Richard Hershberger: My point stands: This is one thing if only adults are affected. Let the chips fall where they may. It is quite another if there are kids involved.

          Okay, but… what they hell does this mean in practice? In 21st century America, are their actually practical differences for a child stemming from the legal status of their parents’ relationship?

          I suppose the real issue is when, specifically, other people’s kids are involved. That is, circumstances where a de-facto custodial step-parent is a legal stranger to the child they help raise, or similar. But even then, I was under the impression that our court system already allows a fuzzy, spirit-of-the-law approach to custody and related issues.Report

  3. Avatar notme says:

    The thing I found most odd about this article on Ramon Castro was it kept talking about how he worked on and kept up the family farm. I guess being the brother of the communist dictator means that you get to keep your property unlike the other peons.

  4. Avatar North says:

    Man Tebow is cute as a button. Seems like a nice guy too.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to North says:

      I find his brand of ostentatious piety very off-putting. The urge is to hold up a sign reading “Matthew 6:5.” (You can look it up.) Then there are his fanboys. Yes, it’s not entirely fair to blame him for his fanboys, but his public persona very much plays to them.

      I have no idea what he is like in his personal life.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        Well I can grant you that his ostentatious piety can grate but there’s no rule against being ostentatiously grating. But there’re plenty of aggressively pious public figures who aren’t even a tenth as nice to look at.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        It took me a little while to realize that most of the animosity I felt towards Tebow was really the result of the cult of Tebow than it was Tebow himself. He seems like a decent dude whose piousness is at least genuine.

        This isn’t to say I agree with him on every or anything… just that I don’t think he is the asshole the counter-cult largely made him out to be.Report

  5. Avatar Damon says:


    “offering couples a wider choice of legal contracts—makes more sense.” Various options? Agreements that can be tailored by the participants? OMG. This sounds crazily like something I mentioned back during the SSM referendums. Now, if you can’t get off your ass to do any of this, well, you reap what you sow and so does any progeny.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Damon says:

      Couples already have a wider choice of legal contracts. The standard marriage contract is the default, but can be modified, e.g. with a prenuptial agreement. There similarly are ample ways that two people way can own real property together.

      There are certain situations that do not benefit from such flexibility. It is two o’clock on a Sunday morning. Your partner is in the emergency room, and there is a hard decision that needs to be taken now. Your partner, however, is in a coma. Who makes that decision? If the two of your a legally married, then this question is easy. Making that decision is one of the appurtenances thereto. But what if the two of you have some exotic or vaguely defined relationship?

      This is why I don’t have a lot of sympathy when I see couples who have been together for many years, have kids, own a house together, have long since passed keeping track of who owns which CDs, but who refuse to schlep down to the courthouse and get a marriage license for whatever damnfool reason. If they decide to part ways, it will be scarcely any easier to disentangle their lives without that license. And not having it can make a very bad situation even worse.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    So I’m guessing county music is increasingly becoming how Hank Hill characterized Christian Rock?

    We cuss on them Mondays / And pray on them Sundays

    Isn’t this the rally cry of the Trumpentariat?Report

  7. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    In a piece dated yesterday, The Atlantic reports that federal law enforcement has demanded Apple unlock another dozen phones under the All Writs Act. The Manhattan District Attorney has 175 phones he wants unlocked, and says that if the federal government prevails in the San Bernardino case, he’ll go after Apple also.Report

    • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Well, that didn’t take long.

      Give the feds an inch and they’ll take a mile, then send out a survey crew to check out the next hundred, just in case.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Autolukos says:

        The other lesson tech companies need to learn from this issue is that when the police come to your door with or without a warrant, they need to fight it as hard as they can. Apple agreed to unlock phones when investigators came with warrants in the past and the fact that they didn’t fight then was used against them this time around.

        Lesson learned. If you *ever* comply with any warrant without objection, that fact will come back to bite you if you ever do object to something that seems unreasonable. If you want to avoid that, your only option is to treat every warrant as unreasonable and be willing to die on every hill.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

          I don’t think that’s the lesson to take from this at all. If the law is not on Apple’s side it doesn’t benefit them not to comply. I think Apple’s only option is to remove itself completely from the ability to assist the government, either by completely closing off any potential backdoor or leaving the encryption to third-party vendors.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

          I guess the other option would be to lobby for expanded electronic privacy laws. But Apple better hope there is not a terrorist conspiracy in the news any time during that effort.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to PD Shaw says:

            I guess the other option would be to lobby for expanded electronic privacy laws.

            I would be much less surprised if Congress took strong encryption away from consumers instead. Which I find… depressing? disturbing?Report

            • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Michael Cain says:

              It’s a risk, but the FBI and a number of other three-letter agencies have been lobbying to kill off consumer encryption for as long as it has existed. Waving the bloody iPhone is probably a tactical victory for them, but I doubt it is enough to get what they want.Report

  8. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    RE: Fixing Twitter

    I dunno, so many of those suggestions make Twitter seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

    Like maybe the best solution is “have a LiveJournal, use Twitter to post links to it, ignore everything else about Twitter”.

    Like the one about “Allow me to see only the tweets that have been filtered…for actionable tweets to report to Twitter or the police…”

    uhhhhh if being on Twitter is causing you to receive messages that constitute true threats then maybe Twitter is not the place for you to be.Report

    • …wait, your solution for people receiving threats of violence through Twitter is for the threatened people to leave? Rather than banning the people who are making threats?

      That seems backwards to how things work everywhere else. If someone is threatening and harassing you in real life, you get a restraining order against them; the system doesn’t (or isn’t supposed to) rely on you having to get out of their way. Rules shouldn’t suddenly switch directions just because they involve the Internet.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to KatherineMW says:

        You try getting a restraining order against Japan, kiddo.
        Or the Chinese government.

        In the real world, when people are making serious threats against you, you run to another country and hide. Or you hire mercenaries to protect you.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Oh hey, a restraining order. That’ll work great on someone who states that they are going to assault me right now and has the ability to do it (which is the requirement for a threat to be a “true threat” not subject to free-speech protections–one of those “rules shouldn’t suddenly switch directions just because they involve the Internet” things.)

        Like, if you are actually in imminent threat of injury due to being active in a particular forum then you need to get the fuck out of there. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is.Report

        • …Wait a sec, so if someone says to you (in person), “I’m going to come to your house and kill you tomorrow,” that isn’t against the law in the US? Or if someone calls you on the phone and threatens your life, that isn’t illegal? It’s only illegal if they are in your physical presence and say that they’re going to kill you immediately?

          That seems unlikely, but if it’s the case I have never been so glad that Canada doesn’t have a First Amendment as such (the Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression”).

          Here’s a description of the Canadian law, which would seem able to cover online threats:

          “To secure a conviction at trial, the Crown must prove that the person making the threat did so knowingly. That is, the prosecution must show that he was aware of the words used and the meaning they would convey. It must show that he intended the threat to be taken seriously or to intimidate.

          It is not necessary for the Crown to prove that the person uttering the threat did so with the intent that it be conveyed to its intended recipient. Nor is it necessary to prove that the person making the threat intended to carry it out or was capable of doing so. The motive for making the threat is equally irrelevant.

          In assessing whether the words constitute a threat, they must be considered objectively. The court must ask: In the context and circumstances in which the words were spoken or written, the manner in which they were used, and the person to whom they were directed would they convey a threat to a reasonable person? How the words were perceived by those hearing them can factor into this assessment.”Report

  9. Avatar DavidTC says:

    @will-truman , I don’t understand your disapproval of what Australia does.

    Couples who have lived together for years really *should* have some of the ‘rights and duties’ of marriage, although I’m a bit baffled as to that phrasing. (duties?) But couples who have lived together for a certain amount of time probably need to, for example, go through what is essentially a divorce if they split.

    Likewise, if a couple has lived together for a decade, and one of them dies without a will, I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable for the state to have the other person inherit…dying without a will *already* results in the state making assumptions. ‘They’d rather the person they were living with instead of their elderly parents inherit their property’ seems like a *reasonable* assumption. Especially if, as is often the case, there might be children from previous relationships.

    Same with medical decisions and whatnot.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to DavidTC says:

      “(duties?)” – any long and loving relationship is still going to have some taxing moments.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to DavidTC says:

      What? If there are children from previous relationships, why shouldn’t they inherit over an unmarried partner? Look. If an unmarried but cohabiting person dies with no immediate family, it might make sense to treat their partner as their heir. But if they have living children?

      I guess things are different when you consider property that is life infrastructure: house, car furnishings. But for the little stuff, do people really care? The big question is always going to be “what happens to the house?” But at that point, of course, someone owns a house. That, I think is a level of financial stability at which one ought to be encouraged to go through the various and sundry paperwork to make their intentions clear.

      Hmm. My sister is getting married this summer. They met three years ago and the date is determined by the relatively typical pace of their relationship. On the other hand they bought a house together a year and a half ago, on a date determined by the quite atypical California real estate market. At that time, they weren’t even engaged yet. I wonder if they took any special steps regarding their co-ownership of a home at an unusually early stage in their relationship.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Alan Scott says:

        If there are children from previous relationships, why shouldn’t they inherit over an unmarried partner?

        I wasn’t saying the child shouldn’t inherit. I was saying children just add problems.

        Hypothetical situation: A woman has a two-year old son from a previous relationship. She moves in with a man, and lives with him for a decade, unmarried. No one has a will.

        Then he dies and he owned the house.

        That man *probably* wants the son he’s been raising for a decade to be cared for using his stuff, and probably would like to them to keep living in his house. Nope! Not how that works. (Well, the person who actually inherited could hand it over…incurring, on top of the tax liability for that person, tax liability for the woman! Doh!)

        Or, different hypothetical situation, same as before, but the woman dies. And she owned the house.

        The situation that the woman *probably* wanted was for that man to keep caring for the son, living in that house. Well, that might sorta work out, but that’s because there is a hypothetical way of the father getting custody.(1) Which also *sorta* brings along the house from the mother, except not really. The son legally owns it, which would cause all sorts of problems in things like credit scores and mortgages and stuff, and means the son can do anything with all that money when he turns 18.

        And I’m not actually sure that 18 is relevant there. I’m pretty sure he can’t sell *the house* before then, (Because people cannot enforce contracts against him(2), so only an idiot would buy a house from him when he can just call ‘backsies’ and not hand over the keys.) but I believe he’d have access to the bank accounts. This is why people set up trusts, so that doesn’t happen…but no trust from intestate.

        So,. yes, in that case, the son *shouldn’t* inherit…because what should actually happen is that his *guardian* inherits. So the ‘widowed’ single parent has the money and the house, instead of the kids oddly owning all that. Like it normally works.

        Frankly, I’m almost at the point where I think people should be *required by law* to state their wishes after their death. Some boxes you have to fill out every year, with your taxes, unless you already have a will.

        1) This is because family courts actually exist, unlike ‘Wait a second, that inheritance should have gone to me’ courts. Well, those do exist, but ‘I lived with that person for a long time’ are not grounds for anything.

        2) For some reason, people think people under 18 cannot ‘enter’ contracts. Yes, they can…and they can exit them just as easily, with no penalty. People who are not legally adults (Aka, people under 18 unless emancipated) don’t get contracts *enforced against them*, but, if they do keep up their side, can enforce it against you, so it’s really stupid to enter a contract with such a person…but you *can*, if you want to.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

          Children under 18 can often not enter into contracts.I’m thinking full-time employment, among other things.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Kim says:

            Someday, doctors will diagnose the thing that makes people respond to a post that says ‘contrary to [common misconception]’ with ‘[restating common misconception]’. I have no idea what sort of weird medical condition that is, but it seem all-too-common. When someone tells me something *I* think is wrong, I at least attempt to come up with some *reason* my original belief was correct and what I was just told was incorrect, instead of just…repeating it.

            To repeat: People under 18 can, indeed, enter contracts. Any contract. They do it *all the time*. All actors on TV under 18? They’re all under contract.

            Those contracts are just *unenforcable* against them. If, at any point, those young actors want to walk away from their contract, they can. Adults actors would get hit with penalties and whatnot, children would not. Children can just…stop playing along with a contract, and the other party is completely screwed.

            But employment contracts usually work semi-okay with people under 18, because people tend to get paid *after* the work, so if they quit mid-job on a contract, and it was a contract that penalized quitting the job (Like acting contracts), the employer can just take that penalty out of the next paycheck. (And if it’s like 99% of the jobs out there, where people can just quit at any time, it doesn’t actually matter.)

            The sort of contracts you shouldn’t enter into with children are things like, well, like I said, buying a house. You buy a house from an adult, they refuse to move out, you sue them for breach of contract and get all your money back and collect various penalties from the court for their bullshit. You buy a house from a child, they refuse to move out, you…? Start an eviction against them, like they’re tenants?

            Technically, you could *really* be up the creek if you handed them the check and then expected them to sign the house over to you…and they failed to do so at that point. Obviously it’s breach of contract (They just signed a paper saying they would do that!) but, they’re a minor, so no such thing. (I don’t think this is actually how it works, though. In reality, houses tend to be signed over to banks, and then another bank hands some money over.)

            Additionally, while people under 18 often have employment restrictions place on them, those restrictions have nothing at all do with their inability to have contracts enforced against them. And the rule is not ‘People under 18 cannot work full time’ anyway!

            Anyone 16 or over can *usually* work full time, the only restriction they generally have that adults do not is that they can’t do *hazardous* work, and often need some papers from the government. Sometimes various states have a few more restrictions, usually to do with school, but I’m pretty sure in every state that 16-17 year olds can work full-time in the summer.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

              You’d get in TONS of trouble employing a 12 year old full time. It may be legal for him to sign the contract, but i fucking doubt it, unless he properly discloses that he is 12 years old at the time. If not, you have him on false representation (I’m assuming this runs similar to giving someone a fake ssn, which it ought to).Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Kim says:

                Kim, please stop making things up.

                As I said, various states have different laws about how much children can work. Employment of 12 year-olds is subject to a lot of restrictions. A lot a lot.


                Obviously, employment is often done *via* contracts, but there is no point of employment law, for minors, that has anything specific about employment contracts. Likewise, there is no point of contract law, with the loophole for minors, that particularly applies to employment contracts.

                If it is legal to hire a 12 year-old for a specific job, it is legal to hire them with or without a contract. If it is legal to hire them to mow my yard, it is legal to hire them to mow my yard with or without a contract. If it is legal to hire them to work in a coal mine, it is legal to hire them with or without a contact.

                Likewise, it is legal to write up and sign a contract with *anyone*, of any age (might have a problem getting an indication of ‘agreement’ below age three), or any sort, employment or otherwise. And anyone who is under 18 can later just say ‘Nope, I decided not to do that, suck it’ and you have no recourse, and this is equally true if it’s an employment contract or, well, any contract at all.

                A child’s legal inability to work has nothing to do with other people’s legal inability to have a contract enforced against children. As I have explain *several* times, children actually can sign contracts, and often *do*.

                And if the child *doesn’t* dispute the contract, everything goes off without a hitch. It’s just that children have a magical ‘get out of contract free’ card that can make the entire thing rather…dangerous for other parties. But if the child wants to go along with the contract, everything’s fine.

                Meanwhile, they are *barred by law* from certain types of employment. They can’t do it *even if they want to*.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

                Please note, before a lawyer shows up, I am vastly simplifying how contracts with minors work.

                If a minor enters a contract that can be *reversed* and wants out, the courts will usually do that. For example, I sell a TV to a minor for $100 now and $80 later, and later comes and they refuse to give me the $80, the courts would probably say ‘Either give David the $80 or we’re running this entire thing backwards and you give back the TV and he gives you back the $100.’

                But if the actions aren’t reversible, like if the contract was that I would paint his car, and he’d pay me, and I do and he doesn’t, nope. I’m SOL. With an adult, I could sue and get the money, with a minor, there’s probably nothing I can do.(1)

                Although be aware that there are *specific* laws stating that minors, or their guardians, do have to pay taxi drivers and restaurants and gas stations other such things where the normal procedure is you get something and then are expected to pay. (Well, that used to be how gas stations worked.)

                1) OTOH, if I do the standard ‘car service’ trick of just *not giving the car back* until he pays, now he’s screwed. He might not have to follow *his* side of the contract if he doesn’t want, but my side says I’ll give it back when he pays, and he hasn’t paid, so I don’t have to give it back. We’ll have lots of fun in court.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Has it come to this? Is having a long attention span now considered cultish?Report