‘Tis the season for engagements, and soon, the wedding bells. So it prompts me to ask are pre-nuptial agreements a good thing? Some would say that by writing a pre-nup, you’re anticipating that the relationship will fail. To that I say, poppycock! When you buy fire insurance, home insurance or car insurance, do you expect or even will a fire to occur, destruction to your home or a car accident? That’s what a pre-nup is – an outlined insurance in case, God forbid, something goes wrong. You can’t predict the future. We all want our happily ever after. We work at our relationships, but there are never any guarantees in life. Some may say that I’m a sceptic, but I tend to look at myself more as a practical romantic.
With all the messy divorces these days, maybe a pre-nup should have been considered. It’s not reserved for celebrities with a large income. Instead of letting the courts decide your fate, decide it amongst yourselves while you are still amicable. In my situation, we didn’t have a pre-nup, but we did have a verbal agreement. Luckily for both of us, we were cordial and stuck to that agreement.
Let’s look at a few possible scenarios, none of which had pre-nuptial agreements:
Couple A: Mary and Joe Smith are both lawyers. Mary takes a sabbatical from her practice in order to raise a family. In the process, she loses her seniority at the firm. Over the years, Joe has become very successful and opens his own law firm. Seven years later, the children are now in school and Joe and Mary want a divorce. Is Mary entitled to half of the business’ earnings? If she were to go back to the law firm, she would have to start as a junior lawyer given the number of years that have passed. Is she entitled to regain some of what she lost had she stayed in the firm? This could be a messy battle. In the end, the courts would decide, and the lawyers would fill their pockets. Or maybe Joe will as he has the connections.
Couple B: Steve and Janice Roberts. Steve is a very successful businessman. He has his own company and just opened a second franchise. The mortgage on his home is almost paid off and he can afford to take a trip abroad every year. He started to work at 17 and by 22 years old was making a good profit on his business. When Steve met Janice, she was an administrative assistant with an average income living in a one-bedroom apartment. She was living comfortably, but just making ends meet. After six years of marriage, Janice has become used to living in the lap of luxury. She quit her job and has never gone back to work. She’s become a want-to-be socialite. Is she now entitled to half of Steve’s business, house, furnishings, savings, plus support? I’m sure the courts would say yes. Is that scary?
Couple C: Elaine and Michael are both writers. They both have nothing of value to their name when they get married. They both work hard at their crafts. As their genre of writing is different, they have different contacts, promotional avenues and audience. Elaine becomes successful, receiving book contracts and speaking engagements. Michael is still struggling. Five years later they divorce. Michael claims that he should receive half of Elaine’s book royalties as he helped her with material research, motivation and business advice. Elaine claims that the work was all hers. They kept the writing business separate and that encouragement is part of the marriage, not the business. Who is right in this case?
When the heart is ruling, everything is roses and sunshine. It’s “what’s mine is yours.” But when the shoe drops, it suddenly becomes “what’s yours is mine.” A pre-nuptial agreement is not meant to put stress on a relationship. It’s meant to ease the mind from unforeseen situations, much like fire, home and car insurance. And like these insurances, we hope that we never have to use them, but we’re prepared… “just in case.”