Pre-nups a must-have for modern marriage

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey in happier times

Winston Churchill once said that there are two things in life that are guaranteed, death and taxes. A strong, healthy marriage unfortunately didn’t make the cut. And this is why I believe wholeheartedly in pre-nups.

Bad divorces can happen to good people and pre-nups act as a financial safety net. Kanye West may have forgotten his table manners at the MTV Video Music Awards but he’s right about one thing. People who refuse to sign pre-nups are gold diggers, pure and simple.

Pre-nups are a colloquial term for what is now legally known as a binding/financial agreement in Australia and contrary to popular belief; the agreement can be made before, during and after marriage.

There are similar contracts for de-facto couples and same sex couples. For argument’s sake, let’s just call them pre-nups.

While normally reserved for the rich and famous, pre-nups are on the rise in Australia and being drawn up for baby boomers, young professionals and people heading into their second marriage who have acquired a lot of assets and may need to support children from a previous marriage.

When it comes to protecting our emotional and physical well-being, we seemingly have no problem doing Google searches, stalking Facebook accounts and asking for STD tests but discussing pre-nups is a stigma and financial hurdle we can’t seem to get over.

Money is the number one reason why marriages end in divorce and yet more couples are likely to discuss their sexual history than their financial one.

Asking someone to sign a pre-nup is a good way to find out about their attitudes to money and to stop ignoring the white elephant in the room.

Marriage is a spiritual union but it’s also a financial one.

A pre-nup is simply insurance in case your marriage breaks down.

You don’t take out home insurance thinking your house will ever burn down or wanting it to burn down but in the likelihood it happens, you will be covered.

It’s also about protecting your partner’s assets and reassuring them you’re not just after them for their money and if you’re the more asset rich of the partnership, it’s about preparing for your partner’s future in a way that’s fair and equitable in the case of a break-up.

If you’re a starter wife or husband who supported your partner through business school or a stay at home parent who gave up their chance to earn money and acquire assets to look after a spouse and family, then you shouldn’t be left high and dry if your spouse wants to trade up (or trade down in my opinion).

You can’t put a price on love but you can certainly put a price on the cost of a mortgage, bringing up children and general living expenses.

It’s much better to hammer out the financials when everything is amicable than deciding who is going to have the family pet and wrestling over the heirlooms when bitterness and resentment has set in.

And call me new fashioned but I don’t believe all your financial security should ever lie in the hands of your partner.

They say you should never put all your eggs in one basket and I certainly don’t want to be left penniless or paying off someone’s debt if the chicken flies the coup. And on that financial note, I believe a husband and wife should have separate bank accounts.

However, this is the only time in a marriage where something on the side is encouraged unless you’re dining out.

Now I know what you’re going to say, that there is no ‘I’ in team but there is an ‘I’ in marriage, matrimony, alimony and divorce. I can rely on myself to be faithful, to act with integrity and honour my marriage vows but I can’t control what someone else will do.

Everyone starts out wanting the fairytale marriage but when one in three marriages end in divorce in Australia, statistics tell a different story.

And just remember too that the financial tables may turn and you might find yourself in the 4-inch shoes of Jessica Simpson who didn’t have a pre-nuptial agreement in place when she married Nick Lachey. At the time of their marriage, he was part of a successful boy band and the richer of the two.

However, Lachey’s solo career wasn’t as lucrative and at the time of their divorce, Simpson was the breadwinner and under California law, he was entitled to half of her assets.

With a good lawyer, she managed to get him down to less than half of her earnings, putting the dumb blonde theory to rest.

Jessica Simpson suffered the same fate as famous couples: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, Madonna and Guy Ritchie and Greg Norman and Laura Andrassy who did not have a pre-nup agreement in place.

Let’s just hope the Great White Shark now separated from his second wife Chris Everett was bitten and twice shy from his first marriage and learnt from his mistake. And as for Kate Gosselin … shudder!

A marriage is for better and for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health but in the worst case scenario and it’s ‘till debt do us apart and I’m left holding the baby, then I want all my paperwork in place.

And if your spouse is screwing you over, then at least let it only happen in the bedroom and not the boardroom.

Published on The Punch, Copyright Gillian Nalletamby 2009.

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1 comment:

  1. Bubbles, 15 December 2009, 9:22 am

    Marriage is a financial union – and married people make decisions based on their joint finances. If my husband and I decided that he would stop working so he could renovate our house then it would be completely unfair for me to dump him with nothing. What if I decided to take a semester of full time study and he supported me but got threatened by my new brainiac attitude halfway through and took off?

    For all these reasons pre-nups are extremely limited in Australia and can be invalidated by a judge for pretty much any reason. I think that if these concerns are really concerns then the partners are probably better off waiting to get married rather than going ahead with a marriage they don’t trust and relying on paperwork that means nothing.


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