In the Volokh conspiracy blog, the question about marriage being a contract is asked.
He responded “I thought I’d respond to this on-blog because it illustrates a considerably broader point: In law, as in life, concepts like “contract” aren’t unitary things, so that either something is a contract and has all the properties of a contract or something isn’t a contract. There are different kinds of contract, with different qualities, and different possible definitions for the term “contract.”
To begin with, “contract” is a quite broad concept. I don’t want to try to give a thorough definition here, but suffice it to say that an exchange of promises might well be a contract even if the promises don’t involve money, goods, or even services. Thus, for instance, “Each of us promises not to be anyone else’s bridge partner” can be a contract; it’s an exchange of promises not to engage in certain conduct. (Note that the contract doesn’t promise that I’ll be your bridge partner, just that I won’t be anyone else’s.) Substitute something else for “bridge,” and you’ll have one aspect of a marriage contract. (more…)