Prenuptial Agreements: Good, Bad or Just Plain Ugly?

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

“Sweetie, you mean everything to me, and I’d like to spend the rest of my life with you in wedded bliss.  Will you take my hand in marriage?”

“I’d love to, dear.  I’ll just need you to sign right here.  And initial here next to the alimony section.  That part’s really important.”Prenuptial Agreements: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Prenuptial agreements strike me as a bit of an oddity.  I have to be honest and tell you that I don’t actually know anyone personally who has entered into a pre-marriage contract.

Of course, I’ve heard of the wide array of celebrity prenups, which usually get dissected in the media when the couple splits.  But no one I know has admitted to signing any agreements for how things will shake down when their marriage goes down the tubes.

Are we Mid-westerners just naive and simple folk?

Marriage is Grand.  Divorce is Fifty Grand.

Well, I recently came across an article on USA Today’s site entitled Prenuptial Agreements: Unromantic, but Important that had 340 comments.  As the title may infer, it’s pretty much a prenuptial agreement love fest.

I learned a few new things from this article, but I mostly confirmed my own closed-minded, backwoods beliefs about the idea of pre-arranging your divorce (works for funerals, right?).  Here are a few of my favorite tidbits and quotes from the USA Today/Bar Association article followed by a bit of my own (very sarcastic) commentary:

LeAnna Kruckeberg, 24, of Iowa City, says that she has already told her boyfriend of about one year that she would like him to sign a prenup if they get married.

“Family money stays in the family and should be passed down from generation to generation,” she says. “Why should those businesses that my grandparents and my parents built on good old-fashioned hard work be given to someone who marries into a family?

“Any inheritance or trust funds should go to my kids and completely bypass my husband.”

Her boyfriend knows the stories of her relatives’ struggles as they built businesses, so “he understands and respects” her prenup thinking, she says.

Dustin’s Thoughts: This poor guy doesn’t stand a chance with his little lady and in-laws if he doesn’t grow some bigger…fortitude.  And I would have to ask LeAnna, “Why should those businesses be given to YOU, princess?”

Personal-finance expert Suze Orman encourages every engaged couple to get prenuptial agreements to protect their current and future assets as well as to shield themselves in case a mate secretly runs up massive credit card debt (which could damage both partners’ credit scores).

Dustin’s Thoughts: I haven’t had the occasion here to give my thoughts on Ms. Orman.  While she is certainly a bright and successful woman, I feel like her advice is usually divisive and centered primarily on her propensity for man-hate.  She also worships at the feet of FICO (credit score company) and clearly has no appreciation for traditional marriage.

And I’m not saying that because she happens to be a lesbian.  Her advice to couples seems to always hinge on the presumption that divorce is imminent and the man-beast will be leaving his little lady barefoot and pregnant…I find this kind of paradigm repulsive.

Prenups can even outline what is expected of a spouse’s behavior.

“I had a client who was willing to pay his wife a special amount each year provided she didn’t do cocaine,” says prenup guide author Nachshin. “The agreement was to pay her $25,000 a year. He had the right to drug test her, and if she was clean, she was able to get $25,000.”

The wife stayed off the drugs, and over the last 10 years she received $250,000.

Dustin’s Thoughts: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner in the contest for the couple best exhibiting the loving benefits of prenuptial agreements.  If you can’t closely monitor your spouse’s abuse of narcotics and reward her with large sums of money for passing annual drug tests, then why get married?

I think this is precisely what St. Paul was referring to when he said the two shall become one flesh.  Beautiful.

But Wait, There’s More!

I obviously chose some pretty ridiculous examples of situations where prenuptial agreements were deemed necessary.  The problem is the article is full of them, and I didn’t even have to exaggerate the stories or take them out of context.

These are the actual examples that USA Today chose to make their point.  It was these folks that they interviewed to demonstrate why we all need to draft a specific contract before our wedding day that will ease things when our divorce rolls around.

Seriously.

If you think you and your fiance have things covered, perhaps you haven’t considered the amount of weight he could gain or her eventual loss in interest of sexual intimacy with you.  I’m not sure how the blame gets assigned appropriately when several issues get mixed in.

I mean, who should get the bonus check if his beer belly is the reason she is sexually repulsed?  But maybe her loss of interest in him drove him to the brown bottle?

How can we decide?  Ah yes, we are blessed with the optimistic opinions of lawyers specializing in the field of divorce-before-marriage.  From the article:

Some prenups address issues such as adultery, frequency of intimacy, limitations of weight gain, the scheduling of housekeeping and provisions for pets, says attorney Eskind Moses.

Those clauses may seem unnecessary to some folks, but nailing down what is important to each individual — be it the ownership of a ski house, retaining the rights to an antique tea set or determining who keeps Fido — is vital to do before the marriage laws kick in, say pro-prenup lawyers and financial advisers.

Thank you, Moses.  Eskind Moses, that is.

Are Prenuptial Agreements Always Bad?

Since I’ve held back throughout this post, I really need to get my true feelings off my chest. 🙂

Personally, I am a big fan of being proactive, but I cannot imagine requiring or being required to sign a prenuptial agreement.

It seems like a very poor way to prepare for marriage, and it feels an awful lot like pre-planning your divorce to me.  I firmly believe that marriage is for life, and the premise of prenuptial agreements just does not jive with my own values.

That said, I do think there are several special circumstances where a prenup can make reasonable sense.  If those getting married have previous marriages and a complicated mix of blended families, I can see the value in clarifying up-front how the various estates are intertwined.

After all, just because a man and woman think that this is “the one” doesn’t mean that their adult children from three different marriages agree.  That’s a wicked web that probably should be worked out up-front.

Likewise, I can see the value of prenuptial agreements whenever a major imbalance in wealth exists.  The main reason I feel this way is that large sums of money just make people act a bit crazy.

When millions of dollars are on the line, a legal agreement may be needed to keep both families sane and ensure that intentions are true.  I still don’t believe this is a good thing from a spiritual perspective, but it may be an unfortunate necessity under those circumstances.

What Do YOU Think?

Do you have a prenuptial agreement?

Do you think they are a good idea, always bad or sometimes okay?

What if your daughter got engaged but her fiance required a prenup?  What would you say under that scenario? No foul language, please 😉

Photo by allyaubry
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About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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