Monday, October 29, 2007

Compulsory Pre-nups

http://parisparfait.typepad.com/paris_parfait/images/2007/04/22/contract.jpg

I took what I thought would be a rather unpopular and controversial position in a debate on Helium. I find myself at number one in the ratings.

Regardless, I thought I would post it here, and the title is also an active link. What do you think of my idea to lower the divorce rate? Blogger is still taking a long time to type, anyone else having this problem?


The Case for Compulsory Prenuptial Agreements

Yes, it ought to be compulsory for couples to sign a prenuptial agreement before marriage in today's society. A prenuptial agreement is defined as a contract made before two people marry. Generally it is about the division of property should the union end in a divorce. It seems as if these documents are dooming the relationship before it begins. I would propose that a prenuptial agreement be required and filed prior to obtaining a marriage license and the contents of said agreement would have very little to do with finances.

First it should be discussed why is such a measure is necessary. Marriage rates have dropped 50% since 1970, which means that only half of the people who would have married in 1970 actually would go ahead and do it today. Of that 50% who would get married, 38% end up divorcing*. These statistics are pretty grim. Working on the issue of why people would choose to cohabit rather than marry is another topic, but if you would desire marriage, it is only logical that you go into it with the attitude that you will stay with your spouse forever. It is part of the vows, Until death do us part.' If you are willing to head for the altar, a compulsory prenup shouldn't deter anyone.

Second, if a prenuptial agreement were to be mandated, what should it contain since it has been proposed that finances would only be a small part of this document? It should contain agreements between spouses on issues most likely to cause divorce, or stress between spouses. A short list of those issues are religion of the spouses, religion of the future children, position on birth control and openness to life, living will statement, expectations you have of each other about your roles in the marriage, who will pay the bills and how money management will be handled, who will be expected to work and how that expectation may change with children, etc. The prenuptial agreement packet' should contain a questionnaire for each person to answer. The questionnaire should be used to start conversations about important topics. In fact, such a questionnaire is already in use. It is called FOCCUS*. Then a prenup should be a written document based upon the answers given. There should be resource information in the packet about web sites and books to read for further information. The document should be notarized.

Lest you think big brother is getting too involved in this proposal, I would submit to you that the packet and resulting prenup be mandatory, but not micro-managed. Engaged couples should get the packet, and file the form with no interference from the state. No one from the state should review the document and discuss it with the couple. Every couple should want to do it because it will force them to discuss hot issues candidly and could prevent a marriage mistake. But, if the couple chooses to take the easy way out' by just writing anything to turn in, it is an opportunity missed. And there will be no protection, or grounds in the case of a divorce in the future. Having this document on file, would actually assist in proving some grounds for divorce. Those who choose not to take the time to do the work honestly will lose out either way, they will not know how their spouse feels about certain issues, and they will be surprised when irreconcilable differences occur.

Will this eliminate divorces? Of course not. May it possibly decrease the rate of divorce? It could because some couples may discover issues which cannot be resolved and may decide not to marry after all. Will it improve marriage? Certainly, the more you know about your future spouse, and the more you agree upon in advance, the better and stronger your marriage will be. Bring on the compulsory prenuptial agreements, there will likely be less resistance than anticipated.

*http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-07-18-c ohabit-divorce_x.htm

*http://www.foccusinc.com/

5 comments:

Anna S said...

Lily,

I honestly can't believe how many people get married without discussing these crucial issues. Example: a friend's friend is getting divorced because her husband wants her to be home with the children and she wants a PhD. Did they discuss it before getting married? Oh, but they were so in love! Who cares about petty details!

Legally binding contract or not, someone ought to drag engaged couples by the ears to talk about those things. To do that, we must encourage young people to use their heads when choosing a spouse and not to rely on "chemistry".

Athanasius said...

Believe it or not, pre-Vatican II, priests used to conduct an investigation of the spouses through family members and references to turn up details and create discussion between them of all these things. Then he would publish them in a parish directory. This was called "The publication of the marriage ban". In this fashion adjudicating disputes such as the validity of marriages are made simpler because a priest could head off the various problems before anything starts. Thus, I think returning to that situation where the priest knows you, he pursues an investigation of the spouses (and I'm not talking background checks), and publishes the marriage ban would accomplish many of these things without a system so prone to abuse as mandatory pre-nubs.

Lily said...

I would agree, Athanasius. When my husband and I were married (nearly twenty years ago) we were interviewed, signed an awesome book where we recorded answers to questions the priest asked us. I guess this is similar to the investigation you mentioned. We also had to have the banns published in the bulletin for three weeks running prior to nuptials. I don't think I ever see banns published anymore!

Thanks for stopping in :-)
~Lily

Lily said...

I would agree, Athanasius. When my husband and I were married (nearly twenty years ago) we were interviewed, signed an awesome book where we recorded answers to questions the priest asked us. I guess this is similar to the investigation you mentioned. We also had to have the banns published in the bulletin for three weeks running prior to nuptials. I don't think I ever see banns published anymore!

Thanks for stopping in :-)
~Lily

Anonymous said...

Very nicce!