Singletary Weighs in on Postnups Debate

Yesterday's postnup debate prompted some people to ask what Michelle Singletary would say about them. So, we asked Michelle to weigh in. Here's her response:

Prenup and Postnup Debate

By Michelle Singletary

I found the blog discussion and comments very interesting yesterday. The question of the day was whether it makes sense to have a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement.

A few folks suggested I should weigh in on the topic, and so I shall.

In my latest book, "Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich," I tell it like it should be.

A prenuptial agreement is a plan to fail. A postnuptial agreement (a prenup done after the fact) is an exit strategy. Both are battle plans.

Many will disagree with me, thinking this woman clearly hasn't got a grip on the high divorce rate in this country.

I know a high percentage of marriages end in divorce. But have we really forgotten what a marriage is truly about? It's not about you anymore. If you have so much stuff that you can't stand the idea that you may actually have to share it while you are in the marriage or, God forbid, after it's over --- stay single.

And if more folks did some due diligence before they got married -- pulled each other's credit reports, had lengthy conversations about how they plan on handling their finances, went through good premarital counseling, had shared values -- then you wouldn't need a prenup or a postnup.

Actually according to a survey by the Conde Nast Bridal Group, which publishes Brides, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, only 3 percent of couples getting married sign a prenuptial agreement.

As I wrote in "Your Money and Your Man," in a battle there are never any winners. A prenuptial agreement doesn't save marriages. It doesn't save marriages from the nasty disagreements that come when the union dissolves. It often doesn't even prevent a court battle over assets. It says, "Honey I don't really trust you, so let's lay out our exit strategy so I can take all my marbles (i.e. my money and stuff) when I leave this marriage."

With that attitude, it's no wonder we have such a high divorce rate in this country.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 15, 2006; 8:45 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts , Guest Blogs
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Comments

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Thank you, thank you, thank you!! For making so much sense and articulating it so simply and honestly!

Posted by: Lou | June 15, 2006 8:53 AM

Just want to echo my thanks as well! Huzzah and Hooray for staning up for what marriage really is about. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Posted by: nat | June 15, 2006 9:01 AM

For the most part I agree but there are some exceptions. I signed a prenup that applied only to a large amount of land owned jointly by my husband and his family. This had been in the family for over 300 years and he and his brothers had agreed to protect it before any of them ever planned a marriage. Sometimes when famuly assets are involved there are business needs and people to think about beyond the married couple. By the way, we have been married for over 20 years.

Posted by: Gaithersburg Mom | June 15, 2006 9:02 AM

I disagree with Michelle's last line implying that prenups/postnups somehow lead to a high divorce rate. There's no evidence of that causal connection -- the reasons people divorce are far more varied and complex. And "trust" is very complex too. Trusting someone else with your financial future (whether it's your spouse, a judge or our legal system) is risky business indeed.

I've heard many stories from stay-at-home moms in longterm marriages that were good for a long time but ultimately dissolved for good reason. I would never want to be in their shoes. Very often the women and their children suffered greater financial and other hardships following the divorce than the men, who had greater leverage and negotiating abilities due to their salaries and sometimes hidden assets. The women were no match for their ex-husbands, lawyers and judges, and given their age, they had little opportunity to regroup financially because of age and gender bias in the workplace.

So I think anything women can do to protect themselves and their children in the event of a divorce is a good thing. Going into divorce court with a signed contract is a far better situation than standing in front of a judge and saying "but I thought he meant he would take care of me." As Michelle points out, a prenup or postnup may not prevent a court battle, but it's a good start to standing up for yourself and your kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 9:20 AM

Thank you for a real and frank answer. I totally agree that too many people enter marriage and long-term relationships without really thinking about the big picture. My husband and I thought long and hard and had some really serious discussions before tying the knot. Neither of us ever brought up the concept of a pre-nup except as a joke. I find a post-nup even more ridiculous. I trust my husband and he trusts me and regardless of what tomorrow might bring. We were both horrified by the discussion yesterday.

Posted by: mommy works | June 15, 2006 9:27 AM

Michelle's last line does not imply that prenups/postnups somehow lead to a high divorce rate. She says the attitude of "me and mine first", regardless of an actual signed document, is the underlying problem in society with regards to marriage.

It is too easy to marry. Counseling should be mandatory - both premarital and financial. Remember the old adage - "marry in haste, repent in leisure".

Posted by: CFA | June 15, 2006 9:28 AM

So let me get this straight:

"... only 3 percent of couples getting married sign a prenuptial agreement."

and subsequently (about a paragraph later) then:

"With that attitude, it's no wonder we have such a high divorce rate in this country."

Did somebody read this before it was posted?

Posted by: Jon | June 15, 2006 9:29 AM

Fantastic response. I could not agree with her more.

And, Jon I think "... only 3 percent of couples getting married sign a prenuptial agreement." refers to the document and "With that attitude, it's no wonder we have such a high divorce rate in this country." refers to the me-first-attitude that makes you feel you need an exit strategy. Those sentences in no way conflict.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 15, 2006 9:34 AM

Given that only 3% of couples have prenuptial agreements, such agreements could not possibly affect the divorce rate in this country.

Prenuptial agreements are particularly suitable for people who enter into second marriages and who already have children. The purpose of the agreement in that case is family harmony between the step-children and step-spouse. That way, the assets accumulated during the first marriage (let's say the house that went up from $100,000 to $500,000) ultimately go to the children of the first marriage, rather than the step-spouse or the step-spouse's children. As long as the step-spouse has sufficient funds to provide for her/himself in the future, a prenuptial agreement can be very useful in the stepfamily situation.

For most people entering a first marriage, a prenuptial agreement is completely unnecessary. But for people who are rich or have family businesses, a prenuptial agreement can make sense. For the wealthier partner, it is in a way a test of love: do you love me or my money?

Posted by: es | June 15, 2006 9:41 AM

From yesterday: "Putting an agreement like a postnup in writing is a great opportunity to have serious conversations that people too often don't have"

Wouldn't it be much easier to just have the conversation without the pre/postnup? Do you really have to create some complex legal document to have a conversation? If you need your conversations to be facilitated by a lawyer, why did you get married in the first place?

Posted by: MC | June 15, 2006 9:43 AM

I respect much of Michelle Singletary's common sense advice, but she is wrong about this one. Saying that prenups or postnups are plans to fail or exit strategies, and that they mean you do not trust your spouse is ludicrous. The same reason is that there should not be life vests on boats because having them will make them more likely to sink, or as someone posted yesterday, women should not be vaccinated against HPV because protecting them will make them more likely to be promiscuous.
I like Suze Orman's advice on the topic. She says:
"I know what you're thinking: Prenups are so unromantic--a sign of distrust, not love. Time for a reality check, my friends. First, drawing up a prenuptial agreement together is a sign of incredible trust and financial openness--you're fooling yourself if you think you can achieve complete intimacy without it. And at the risk of being a complete wet blanket, I just want to mention that north of 40 percent of marriages end up in divorce.

A prenup is doubly important for anyone entering a second marriage, as there may be sizable assets from the previous marriage that you want to retain sole ownership of (you can pass them along to any children from that first marriage). And those of you who are living with a partner should get a cohabitation agreement; it's the prenup for couples who aren't officially married."
http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/200508/omag_200508_suze.jhtml

Posted by: Rockville | June 15, 2006 9:47 AM

Excellent point by ES in this day of blended families. Marriage is a legal arrangement between two people. Historically, it has always been a way to protect children. In some cultures, marriages are arranged for the sole purpose of transferring assets to the next geneeration. I know this is not romantic but if couple were not seeking to legalize the relationship and gain the benefits of that(health inusrance, lifeinsurance, tax benefits, jointownership of property etc.) then they would live to gether with no legal protections.

Posted by: gaithersburg mom | June 15, 2006 9:48 AM

I know my husband's credit, spending habits, $ values. He knows mine. We have no problem sharing as a married couple. However, I surmise that when two people become so fundamentally incompatible w/ another person that they want to break their vows and divorce, such people may forget their willingness to share, their mutual values, etc. Divorces are often not pretty, after all.

I don't have a prenup, or a postnup. But it is something that I would very seriously consider if my husband and I made the choice for me to be a stay at home mother (or him a SAH father). To account for the fact that the SAH spouse should share some of the working spouse's retirement contributions from those years being unable to make as much of their own (IRA contributions being capped at 4k/year, and 401k contributions being capped at 15k/year). I would also suspect that it would make sense to have provisions regarding the time and effort it would take the SAH parent to be reintegrated into the work force if suddenly we divorce and the SAH parent has to start from scratch working outside the home, especially if a long period of time has passed.

Is that us planning for failure? I guess technically speaking, yes - it is an exit strategy. But having an exit strategy is not the same as wishing to use it. We have seat cushions for floatation on planes *just in case*. But no one *wants* to use them. So I don't think a prenup, or postnup, is a couple *hoping* for failure - it is indicative of a couple wisely acknowledging that sometimes bad things happen, and that it is important to figure out - with cooler heads - how to handle the ultimate bad time in the event that it, g-d forbid, happens. Knowing fully well no one WANTS their marriage to end ungracefully. So my contemplation of having a postnup, if I (or my husband) decide to be a SAHparent. Is that me not wanting to share w/ my spouse or vice versa? No. It is an acknowledgment that the simplest "sharing" skills may disappear in the heat of the moment. And that we love and respect each other too much to let either person be treated poorly because of that. And far from this suggesting that we DON'T have shared values, I think it is us expressing EXACTLY what those shared values are in a neutral environment.

Posted by: Kpossible | June 15, 2006 9:49 AM

So my contemplation of having a postnup, if I (or my husband) decide to be a SAHparent. Is that me not wanting to share w/ my spouse or vice versa? No. It is an acknowledgment that the simplest "sharing" skills may disappear in the heat of the moment. And that we love and respect each other too much to let either person be treated poorly because of that. And far from this suggesting that we DON'T have shared values, I think it is us expressing EXACTLY what those shared values are in a neutral environment.


Kpossible,
I think that this way of thinking is much more compelling and convincing (not to mention reasonable) than the trite advice that prenups are a sign of mistrust. I like your insight on this.

Posted by: Rockville | June 15, 2006 9:55 AM

Thanks!I learned a lot from the original comments and from Michelle Singletary's comments. I know that my son and his wife did a pre-nup before their wedding and I was somewhat dismayed. I think my son was, too, to be honest. His wife-to-be had more assests than him, so maybe that seemed a good reason to do one.

How about this: Engaged couple sits down and discusses all their individual and joint financial plans, hopes, dreams, spending habits, etc. They put it all in writing, sort of like a pre-nup. It can go beyond finances to include kids, decorating styles, housework, whatever they each feel stongly about. They both read it and sign it "with love". No lawyer, notary, witnesses, etc. Just the two of them understanding what each wants most in life. Each alone, and together.

Posted by: granny | June 15, 2006 9:55 AM

Michelle disagrees . . . I'll alert the media. Anyone who reads her column would know her opinion on this matter. I respect her advice but disagree with her on this one.
For all of the reasons I stated yesterday and will not state again today (for time reasons.)

Posted by: JS | June 15, 2006 9:55 AM

Okay, Suze Orman is on crack if she really says "you're fooling yourself if you think you can achieve complete intimacy without [a PreNup]."

That sentence is spoke like someone who stands to benefit financially from the PreNup process. What is she, the Ann Coulter of financial planning?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 9:56 AM

The point Ms. Singletary is making about pre/post nups is, by having one, there is the temptation to "take the easy way out" instead of trying to fix whatever has gotten them to that point in the first place. If, say, the SAHM knows she will be compensated well for her time she did not work if she leaves, where's the incentive to try and repair the marriage?

Not saying there are situations where they are useful (the post about keeping family property in the family comes to mind), but otherwise ISTM that they are making it to easy to just say "let's split when the times get too bad".

Posted by: John | June 15, 2006 9:56 AM

I think this is yet another example of why Ms. Singletary should not be considered a financial columnist. Her advice often contradicts proven financial wisdom, and instead promotes a select set of values that not all share, e.g., extreme religous overtones and a belief that marriage means losing one's individuality. The readers who follow her advice are then put at risk.

Posted by: EVG | June 15, 2006 10:04 AM

By Ms Singletary's reasoning, I should not have fire insurance for my house, as I am much more likely to be less careful with fire.
Maybe labelling dealing with less than ideal outcomes with 'cooler heads', as all mature adults should do, as 'battle plans' aren't really helpful to the discussion.

Posted by: G | June 15, 2006 10:08 AM

That sentence is spoke like someone who stands to benefit financially from the PreNup process. What is she, the Ann Coulter of financial planning?

Actually, your post shows how ignorant you are on what Suze Orman is all about. First, she is not a lawyer, and she makes her money from her products (books, mostly). Your having a prenup or not will have no impact on her financially (although it will impact you). Suze Orman is nothing like Anne Coulter. She is kind and respectful to everyone who asks her questions. Her advice is sharp and right on target. Her audience is not the wealthy, but rather people who are trying to make ends meet. Obviously, you have never read or listed to this obviously talented and compassionate advisor.

Posted by: rockville | June 15, 2006 10:18 AM

Reasons why the "insurance" comparisons don't work-

Insurance in the sense of fire, auto, life, etc, are all used to help in cases of things you CAN'T control. Marriage-by it's definition is something that both people work at to make it a success.

Makes me wonder how things would be different if we got rid of the "no-fault divorce" laws or at least made them more reasonable. Then you wouldn't see the breadwinner run off and have an affair if he/she knew they could lose 1/2 of their everything in court, because the reason for divorce was their fault.

Posted by: Lou | June 15, 2006 10:21 AM

"And, Jon I think "... only 3 percent of couples getting married sign a prenuptial agreement." refers to the document and "With that attitude, it's no wonder we have such a high divorce rate in this country." refers to the me-first-attitude that makes you feel you need an exit strategy. Those sentences in no way conflict."

If only 3% of couples get prenups, then where's the evidence that this "me-first-attitude" even exists in the first place? There is no obvious causal connection, and the statements beg for far more explanation because, on the surface, they are contradictory.

Posted by: Jon | June 15, 2006 10:26 AM

Marriage-by it's definition is something that both people work at to make it a success.

It takes two people to get married, and only one to get a divorce. If your spouse wants out, it's over, no matter how willing and committed you are to your marriage. The reality is, the only person in life you can control is yourself. If you think you can make your marriage work no matter what, and that you have control over what your spouse may or may not want years from now, you may be in for a very big and not so pleasant surprise. The insurance analogy does work, because you do not have absolute control over how your spouse may change, and how that may affect your life.

Posted by: Rockville | June 15, 2006 10:27 AM

Look at the comments on this blog. Far more than 3%!

Posted by: To Jon | June 15, 2006 10:28 AM

"The point Ms. Singletary is making about pre/post nups is, by having one, there is the temptation to "take the easy way out" instead of trying to fix whatever has gotten them to that point in the first place. If, say, the SAHM knows she will be compensated well for her time she did not work if she leaves, where's the incentive to try and repair the marriage?"


Is that really the easy way? Isn't the easy way having the SAHM maintain her status quo and stay at home and in the marriage because she would be worse financially?

Do you really want marriages to "endure" only because one partner is financially trapped?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 10:30 AM

Look at the comments on this blog. Far more than 3%!

I think that faith and optimism have a lot to do with that. And that's a good thing. Perhaps only 3% of married couples actually have prenups, but many of the rest of us who don't actually have them think it's a good idea. A lot of people don't actually have wills or living trusts, but they think they are good ideas also. When things are good, we just don't believe anything bad can or will happen. So we don't prepare. But we should.

Posted by: Rockville | June 15, 2006 10:33 AM

I have read the posts here today and come back to the same thought that I have about most "hot topics." There is never going to be a consensus on this issue, nor should there be. Each person has to identify the strengths and challenges of their situation and determine what is best for that person. No amount of arguing the point is really going to get people who do not agree with you to change their mind.

My personal view, and this is surprising since I am an attorney, is that no prenup will be needed with my fiance. At the current time, we are both pretty debt free other than our respective houses, we make about the same money and we have talked ad nauseum about financial issues for our future.

After we marry, I cannot imagine executing a postnup as we will continue to build our lives together and the decisions that we make will either benefit or harm both of us. Additionally, I plan on ALWAYS working (even with kids) because I recognize that divorce is always a possibility (hopefully, it will not be a reality) and I want to make sure that I am in the best position to take care of myself, and my children, if need be. In my case, the best protection is making sure that I keep my skills and my mind sharp so that I will be as marketable as possible if something tragic occurs in my marriage.

Posted by: Lawyer | June 15, 2006 10:34 AM

"If, say, the SAHM knows she will be compensated well for her time she did not work if she leaves, where's the incentive to try and repair the marriage?"

I would sincerely hope that the incentive to try and repair a faltering marriage comes from somewhere other than purely financial places or concerns about inconvenience. And if my husband was staying with me primarily because it was in his financial best interest to do so, I would prefer that we not be together anymore. What kind of marriage is that, "it's just too much trouble to leave, might as well hang in"? Doesn't sound very rewarding to me.

Posted by: Bethany | June 15, 2006 10:35 AM

I think people need to pull the vail off of their eyes about marriage. The roots of marriage was never about love, it was about property(money), and the fact that women were at one time property. Does the word dowry still mean anything to anyone?

I will at least agree with the writer that prenups and postnups are planning for faulure. I dont see how you could look at them any other way. Lots of "love" in a prenup.

All of this talk about prenups and postnups could all be avoided if people just didnt get married. Is that such a bad concept? I dont think so. Would two people who chose to "live together" for their lives be such a bad thing. That way, there are no agreements, no laws. And, if they decide at some point not to live wiht each other, then, to each their own.

Im sure this response is going to shatter some people's fragile world, but it has to be said.

Posted by: kme | June 15, 2006 10:41 AM

My grandfather and grandmother were married for over 50 years. They hardly spoke to each other for at least the last 25 years or so. My grandmother was a housewife who raised 5 children. Sometime deep into their marriage, something between them went very wrong. They did not divorce for many reasons. Their religion did not accept it. My grandmother did not feel she could survive on her own. Inertia. I remember Sundays when I was a child. My grandfather would come over for breakfast, and my grandmother would come over for dinner. My mother remembers that during her childhood, her mother would tell her, "Call your father for dinner" because she would not speak directly to her own husband. When my grandfather died, my grandmother went thru all the right motions publicly. But a few weeks after that, we went on vacation together, and for the first time in years, I saw her laugh with gusto.

Posted by: Exit Strategy | June 15, 2006 10:46 AM

While this post from Michelle Singletary is consistent with her usual advice, I found her advice in her student loan article to stray from her usual outlook.

"Finally, for spouses who wonder about consolidating their loans with those of their snuggle bunny: Don't do it."

That seems to go against her usual concept of shared money in a relationship.

Posted by: Confused | June 15, 2006 10:52 AM

Jon, Do we really need some direct evidence to understand that the 'me-first', protect-my-stuff, attitude really exists in this society? Really?

I don't believe we need direct evidence. How about the indirect, empirical stuff? What was the nature of the last tax cut proposed by this adminstration, and where were the counterbalancing funds proposed to come from?

At least some of the 51% put the guy in office based on his stance on that issue, my wife included. And tons of congress agrees, apparently.

"...the pursuit of happiness" has morphed into 'an entitlement to happiness' and 'a way to secure that happiness indefinitely'. Marriage is work, as well all know. It's also risk. As Singletary indicated, if you are not confident enough to risk your stuff (past, present and future stuff) then don't get married.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 15, 2006 10:56 AM

i'm still waiting for those who believe that a pre-nup is a plan to fail to explain to me how/why it is a plan to fail. exactly how does talking about a possibility make it a reality?
michelle, HOW is talking to my husband about the possibility that we might divorce make divorce more likely? does not talking an issue make it go away? can you articulate to me why a pre-nup is a plan to fail.
the whole "trust" issue is interesting. as somebody pointed out yesterday that weddings and marriage are a contract that you sign. if you truly "trusted" your spouse why get married at all? why do you need a ceremony to validate the "trust" that you have for the person you've just chosen to spend your life with? why not just shack up? don't you "trust" the person you've selected to stay with you "til death do you part?"

Posted by: quark | June 15, 2006 11:00 AM

you are not confident enough to risk your stuff (past, present and future stuff) then don't get married.

That is the worse advice I have ever heard. It is like saying, if you are not confident enough to get on the boat without life vests, then don't get on at all. If you are not confident enough to drive your car without insurance, then don't drive at all. That is pure baloney and financially, really really really bad advice.

Posted by: Rockville | June 15, 2006 11:04 AM

I think the problem I have with this advice is that Ms. Singleterry is a financial advisor, yet she is opining upon marital advice. Admittedly, the 2 can intersect, but her ideas boil down to: prenups/postnups are bad for marriages. I just don't think that what is bad for marriages is her expertise. Moreover, the 3% of couples who sign a prenup have nothing to do with the divorce rate. No one has posted data that tells whether these 3% are more or less likely to end up in divorce.

In the end, however, this just boils down to a communication and compatibility issue. You like pre/postnups? Fine. Make sure you convey that to your partner and as long as he is on the same page, all is good. You don't like them? That's fine, too. Just make sure you marry someone who feels the same way.

Posted by: Raia | June 15, 2006 11:06 AM

So Leslie,
What's your opinion on prenups and postnups?

Posted by: Rockville | June 15, 2006 11:09 AM

It just depends on the interpretation. A prenup does not have to say, "Honey, I don't trust you." It can say, instead, "Honey, I love you. I want to take care of you. I want to make sure that if something tragic ever happens to marriage, you will not be out in the cold. I realize that life changes and people change, and I want to make a life affirming and positive choice for you that will outlast any hotheaded moment that may occur in the future."

Posted by: What a prenup says | June 15, 2006 11:18 AM

Don't know if anyone listened to the segment on NPR that spurred this whole meshugas, but one of the people profiled who obtained a post-nup now feels that her marriage has been made stronger.

Pre/post-nups don't seem that new a development to me. They're called ketubahs with a different name.

Posted by: MikE | June 15, 2006 11:21 AM

to what a prenup says:

Isn't that what your vows say? Why would you need to affirm that twice?

Posted by: another child of divorce | June 15, 2006 11:22 AM

My marriage is also a contract with God. Or at least that is OUR intention. It's not just a vow I made to my spouse.

So I guess if you look at it like a legal contract that is how it will be treated. It's a whole lot more than that to me.

We became one and received graces on our wedding day through a Sacrament. I can no longer think of myself first. Therefore, any sort of nup would be putting ME before US and that is not what I signed on for.

Also, to kme--I assume you are not married since you don't believe in it. So who better to talk about marriage and what happens within it, me (married person) or you???

Posted by: Lou | June 15, 2006 11:22 AM

Forgive me - I'm a Libra.

I don't find Michelle's advise out of line with the concept of a pre/post-nup. She's saying that a couple needs to hash this stuff out - before ever saying 'I Do'.

If you don't know how your spouses feels about money before you wed then you don't know the person well enough to wed.


So while I think the idea of a post-nup is a good idea because it empowers the spouse who might be exiting the external workforce it seems like this agreement should be a living document, subject to continued revision and not something sealed and notarized forever.

Thanks for weighing in!

Posted by: RoseG | June 15, 2006 11:24 AM

Michelle's comments on pre/post nups was the most honest and frankly the best advice that can be offered to people contentplating marrige. To the folks who say the "you don't drive your car without insurance" I say this: If you think getting in your car to go to the store is simialr or can be likened in any way to a decision to get married something is wrong with you.

Posted by: Ken | June 15, 2006 11:26 AM

"Reasons why the "insurance" comparisons don't work-

Insurance in the sense of fire, auto, life, etc, are all used to help in cases of things you CAN'T control. Marriage-by it's definition is something that both people work at to make it a success."

And you think your marriage is something YOU can control?? How do you CONTROL the other person, their reaction to you, to the world as they find it after you marry. You can work at it, but you cannot CONTROL it -- because you cannot CONTROL your partner.

Posted by: BarryCrook | June 15, 2006 11:28 AM

Lou-
I couldn't agree more. I think people really do forget that once you're married, it's no longer about YOU or ME but US. Marriage is about serving EACH OTHER, not yourself.

Posted by: another child of divorce | June 15, 2006 11:29 AM

I think I'm beginning to sound like a Technical Writer.

The agreement isn't a living document, but a way of making decisions within a marriage - more of a process. Things change for people over the course of a marriage, so it's really more than just about money. It's about how you're going to handle change.

Posted by: RoseG | June 15, 2006 11:29 AM

I think it's interesting that the people who are opposed to these agreements have said severl times that they allow people to "take the easy way out" because their finances will be covered. This strikes me as much more deeply cynical about marriage than anything anyone has said in favor. Thinking that someone would or should only stay in a marriage because they are afraid of losing money is horribly crass - people should stay in marriage because they are emotionally committed to it, not because they are in fear of poverty. Divorce is never the easy way out emotionally, and I would think that anyone who sees marriage as an emotional, long-term commitment would see that. Addressing the financial concerns does nothing to alleviate the emotion and psychological issues that I think are the primary motivators for either leaving or staying in a marriage.

Second, I think it's also interesting that several people seem to object to the actual document, not to the discussion of finances etc. That seems odd to me to - if the document is planning to fail, so is the discussion. The document only serves to memorialize the discussion.

THird, someone wrote: "Wouldn't it be much easier to just have the conversation without the pre/postnup? Do you really have to create some complex legal document to have a conversation?" One thing I have found to be true over and over is that writing something down requires a more analysis, detail and thought than a simple conversation. It's easy for a couple to say to each other, "Lets divide our assets equally if we get divorced," and each walk away with an entirely different understanding of what that means. One may think that "our assets" means everything we own, whether one of us or both of us bought it or earned it. The other may think that "our assets" means the things that we pay for together, and the stuff I get on my own is mine. Working through that statement with someone who is experienced in these matters (like a counselor or lawyer) will draw out that detail and writing it down will make it clearer to all involved (that's why many courts require a listing of assets in the agreement to enforce a pre-nup).

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 11:31 AM

"Does the word dowry still mean anything to anyone?"

No, it doesn't. Not in this country anyway. It doesn't apply to anyone anymore. Stop trying to create some kind of contemporary meaning, because it doesn't exist.

Posted by: BarryCrook | June 15, 2006 11:32 AM

re: "And, if they decide at some point not to live wiht each other, then, to each their own"

unfortunately I've seen some ugly battles (including legal ones) over who owns what and who gets what even when the couple has not married.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 11:32 AM

Lou: "Makes me wonder how things would be different if we got rid of the "no-fault divorce" laws or at least made them more reasonable. Then you wouldn't see the breadwinner run off and have an affair if he/she knew they could lose 1/2 of their everything in court, because the reason for divorce was their fault."

Actually, several states (mostly in the south) have enacted laws creating "covenant marriages." The idea is to allow people to enter into a marriage that would not fall under the No-Fault laws. The covenant marriage statutes typically require waiting periods, counseling, or other steps before a couple may divorce, and some I think actually apply the older "fault" versions of divorce law. They have mostly been promoted by religious organizations with the idea that christians who believe in christian ideals of marriage would sign up. So far they have been completely unpopular, with very few people signing up, so I guess you can read into that whatever you want.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 11:38 AM

What does this have to do with work-life balance? I guess it says that you shouldn't be a stay-at-home parent unless you can 100% guarantee that your spouse won't leave you.

OR maybe it is saying that eventhough you are a SAHM, you need to remember to work on your marriage and not get too comfortable being "taken care of". All of those tasks that are done when the kids are still in the house don't seem so valuable when they are gone. Taking care of kids is temporary, a marriage lasts a lifetime.

Posted by: Me Again | June 15, 2006 11:39 AM

Re: the comment that Singletary recommended against spouses consolidating student loans together - I imagine the reason is that if you consolidate loans together and one dies, the surviving spouse is still on the hook for the full amount. If spouses consolidate separately, the deceased spouse's loans can be forgiven.

Likewise, if one spouse goes back to school, that spouse's loans can be put in deferment, whereas if loans are consolidated together, loans can't go into deferment unless both spouses qualify for the deferment.

Posted by: Singletary fan | June 15, 2006 11:48 AM

Making the leap from "deciding to have a specific contract together in case things go wrong" to "I don't really trust you or think this will last" is completely irrational.

Marriage and vows themselves are a contract. If making a contract is a sign of lack of trust- then no one should ever need or desire to actually get married at all.

The act of having a contract is nothing more than the act of having a contract. Assigning motivations and emotions to it is ridiculous as each couple will have their own reasons and motivations behind it. Some are useful and some are not.

Posted by: Liz | June 15, 2006 11:49 AM

Exit Strategy's story sound so much like my parents. i just don't see why those people whould have to live so unhappily for so long, it doesn't benefit anyone. divorce is not always the evil its made out to be, maybe the grandmother could have laughed for those years if she had gotten divorced.

ps sorry Megan that i postede under your name yesterday. i was going to respond to something you said and changed my mind but i guess i put you rname in the wrong place.

Posted by: child of an unhappy marriage | June 15, 2006 11:51 AM

On the occasion of her 53rd wedding anniversary, I had a conversation with my grandmother about marriage. She told me that, in her day, you couldn't 'go home to mother'. You had to stay and make the best of your marriage and work things out. "Believe me, I would have left several times if I could have. I'm glad I couldn't though. Looking back on it all, the good times were more than the bad, and I'm glad we're still together. Overall, it's been a good marriage".

She didn't have an exit plan or escape plan. If she had, she and my grandfather both may have turned into lonely old people and been less of an inspiration to children and grandchildren to respect, honor, and preserve their marriages.

When my grandfather died at 84, they had been married 62 years.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 11:51 AM

"I imagine the reason is that if you consolidate loans together and one dies, the surviving spouse is still on the hook for the full amount. If spouses consolidate separately, the deceased spouse's loans can be forgiven."

Right. Student debt was in each of our names individually, but we paid the loans from the joint bank account. In other words, we accepted the responsibility in practical terms but not in legal terms. When my spouse died, I had enough problems and was grateful to be spared $35,000 worth of debt from a prestigious MA. Credit card debt in one person's name must be paid from the estate, but school loans are cancelled.

Posted by: 2nd timer | June 15, 2006 12:08 PM

"She didn't have an exit plan or escape plan. If she had, she and my grandfather both may have turned into lonely old people and been less of an inspiration to children and grandchildren to respect, honor, and preserve their marriages."

and suffering, right?

Why would you assume that would turn lonely? Perhaps, they would have thrived and flourished.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 12:12 PM

"OR maybe it is saying that eventhough you are a SAHM, you need to remember to work on your marriage and not get too comfortable being "taken care of". "

OR, not get so worn out taking care of everyone else's needs that you don't have the time, love and energy to enjoy your marriage.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 12:21 PM

Lack of a pre-nup didn't save Paul McCartney's marriage...but it would have saved him potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

Marriage is a contract, folks. There are legal implications. Pre-nups and post-nups also protect children. Take a look at the poverty rates among children: most of these children live in single parent households headed by mothers. Paul's children stand to lose a sizable portion of their inheritance (though they won't be impoverished).

Marriage is more than romance; it's a legal obligation that takes a court order (or death) to dissolve. I prefer to save romance for the bedroom.

I did not have a pre-nup or a post-nup, but I separated my finances after getting burned financially by ex-husband during our first year of marriage (he was self-employed and we filed taxes jointly; I got hung with $7,000 of his taxes because he simply would not pay them).

In a perfect world, Michelle Singletary's vision is right on the money. But...you can only control your own behavior, not your spouse's. Does anyone think Laci Peterson knew her husband was capable of killing her and her unborn child? Even her parents defended him until Amber Frey came forward. We don't always know what the person we love is capable of; Scott Peterson appeared to be the ideal mate.

I realize this is an extreme example, but there are so many women and children living in poverty because a husband walked out and left them. Taking such a chance with your children's future is unconscionable, at least IMHO.

Posted by: single western mom | June 15, 2006 12:26 PM

Rockville, maybe I'm nuts, but I believe in all those examples you listed. Every time I get in a car, some drunk driver could kill me. I take that risk. Yes, it would be the drunk driver's fault, but it's still my risk.

Quark, talking about a possibility doesn't make it a reality. But it seems to me that a side effect of planning for an event is to make you more comfortable with that event if it should happen. If I can't even conceive failure I'll fight with every breath to succeed. Maybe some would say they would always fight with every breath to succeed. That's possible too I suppose. And the marriage ceremony doesn't validate the trust. Sometimes people do it for religious validation and others for the legal benefits. I don't think that the paper that the marriage license is on validates the emotion in the relationship.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 15, 2006 12:34 PM

We're forgetting something here, namely that for centuries marriage was first a contract of combined assets, and not just among the nobility and landed gentry. Very often shared socio-economic status was the first ingredient, with the belief that love will follow. This has endured (and still exists in many cultures,) long after the romantic ideals fostered out of Medieval courtly love. So to imagine now that having lawyers, or negotiating some terms, whether formally or informally somehow spoils the sanctity of an otherwise perfect would-be union is just another illusion getting in the way of the rational thought necessary for the serious decision of marriage even amidst the irrational world of love.

Posted by: Gentle Reminder | June 15, 2006 12:47 PM

Lou said: "Then you wouldn't see the breadwinner run off and have an affair if he/she knew they could lose 1/2 of their everything in court, because the reason for divorce was their fault."

Actually, a lot of community property states automatically split assets 50-50, so a breadwinner who runs off and has an affair is guaranteed to lose half of the family assets. I have yet to see any data suggesting that those states have lower rates of affairs or divorces than other states. And if the only reason my husband stayed true to me was to protect his "share" of our financial assets, then I wouldn't WANT him to stay.

I don't have any problem with the idea of a prenup. I agree wholeheartedly with Michelle on the need to fully understand each other's financial obligations, styles, dreams, goals, etc. But I don't get how then translating those understandings into a binding commitment suddenly becomes bad or evil. Isn't that what getting married is supposed to do anyway? So what's wrong with explicitly defining things as you want them to be, instead of as state law would otherwise do it for you?

Is it "selfish," putting myself before the marriage? Personally, I never felt like I needed one. But if my husband decided to quit work to stay home with our children, and if he felt insecure with our new roles, a postnup might be a tremendous gift I could offer him to reaffirm my commitment to our family.

And providing an "easy way out"? Please. I'm a lawyer; I know what my state law tells me I'd "get" if I walked from my marriage -- just like if I had a prenup that spelled it all out. Did that knowledge somehow induce me to head for the hills at the first bump in the road? I repeat: please. It's been 10 years so far, and some of them have been very tough. I stay because I am committed to my marriage -- not because I don't think I can afford to leave.

Saying that having a prenup will somehow induce divorce really devalues the very concept of marriage itself. Isn't it tremendously cynical to imply that the only thing holding marriages together is one partner's fear of poverty, so that the minute that fear is removed, the marriage will disintegrate? Frankly, if the mere existence of a prenup would induce a split, that marriage has far, far bigger problems than the prenup -- issues of trust, fidelity, perhaps abuse, which go to the core of the marriage commitment, and none of which likely have anything to do with what each person will "get" in a divorce.

A prenup is just a tool. Like any other tool, it can be used for good or bad. Sometimes it can be a sign of distrust or lack of commitment; sometimes it can be a sign of love and caring and commitment (i.e., the writer above who signed one to reassure her husband's family that their ancestral land would not be at risk). You need to judge the marriage by the relationship, not by the documents they chose to sign (or not).

Posted by: Laura | June 15, 2006 12:48 PM

I find the idea that divorce is "easier" than inertia to be pretty far from reality.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 12:54 PM

Laura, as usual your comments are thoughtful and well written. Thanks for the insights.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 12:55 PM

Using the logic that a postnup "is a plan to fail" then isn't a life insurance policy a plan to die prematurely? Disability insurance a plan to be disabled? Long term care insurance a plan to go into a nursing home? No, all of these are things that help protect you financially in case something bad, which you are not planning on, and in fact are taking reasonable steps to avoid, happens anyway.

Posted by: Huh??? | June 15, 2006 12:56 PM

I READ MICHELLE'S COLUMN NOT FOR ANY REAL, MEANINGFUL INSIGHTS AND FINANCIAL ADVICE, BUT INSTEAD JUST AS ONE MORE SOURCE OF INFORMATION TO PERUSE.

I FIND THAT SHE DOES MORE PREACHING FROM A HIGH HORSE THAN PROVIDE SMART, FACTUAL, EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND FINANCIAL STRATEGIES. I GO TO SUZE ORMAN FOR THAT...BUT THEN AGAIN SHE'S THE ONE WITH THE O MAGAZINE COLUMN AND CNBC SHOW.

ANYHOO, I AM A RECENT COLLEGE GRAD WHO'S 23 YEARS OLD AND DOESNT PLAN TO MARRY/HAVE KIDS FOR A VERY LONG TIME...

BUT, WHEN I DO MARRY I'LL USE COMMON SENSE AND NOT THIS FOOLISH BUSINESS OF "BECOMING ONE" AND "FEAR OF SHARING." I EXPECT MY FUTURE HUSBAND TO HAVE THE SAME MENTALITY. I WOULD ACTUALLY ADMIRE HIM FOR IT.

Posted by: 23 yr old with no kids/no husband (THANK GOD) | June 15, 2006 12:57 PM

"If you have so much stuff that you can't stand the idea that you may actually have to share it while you are in the marriage"

I haven't seen anybody supporting the idea of post-nups mention using them to keep "stuff". The idea is to avoid poverty.

"As I wrote in "Your Money and Your Man," in a battle there are never any winners."

A post-nup would make this point abundantly clear and discourage magical thinking by laying out the nasty economic reality of divorce.

Posted by: x | June 15, 2006 1:01 PM

Once upon a time, a woman's assets belonged to her husband as soon as they married. Many profligate young men from rich families spent all of their money and then wound up in debt to creditors and gambling partners. So they married a wealthy young woman and settled their debts with "her" money and lived off the rest. Often she had no idea her beloved had a great deal of debt. If she left the marriage, she could not recover her own money, but had to hope for a decent settlement or a better remarriage.

I don't care what this Michelle woman thinks. I thought I could trust the man I was going to marry. I was sure he would never harm me financially, and we had talked about how we would handle things and he even wrote out examples. Well, it all fell apart before the wedding and he ended up taking advantage of me financially when I was emotionally exhausted and couldn't defend myself. I never thought he would act the way he did.

Sorry, I won't make that mistake again. Yes, I have too much to lose.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 1:02 PM

single western mom | June 15, 2006 12:26 PM

1. Many of the improverished single parent households are not from marriages, so wouldn't be helped with a prenup. Many others are from parents who refuse to pay child support, also not helped from a prenup.

Oh, and for the person talking about community property - it only applies to assets acquired during the marriage, not anything you had before.

2. Inheritance is a whole separate issue than child support or alimony or separation of assets on divorce. maybe they didnt lose inheritance because he wasn't giving it to them. People should NEVER expect an inheritance to live on. The person could lose the $$, could not leave it to them, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 1:30 PM

single western mom | June 15, 2006 12:26 PM

1. Many of the improverished single parent households are not from marriages, so wouldn't be helped with a prenup. Many others are from parents who refuse to pay child support, also not helped from a prenup.

Oh, and for the person talking about community property - it only applies to assets acquired during the marriage, not anything you had before.

2. Inheritance is a whole separate issue than child support or alimony or separation of assets on divorce. maybe they didnt lose inheritance because he wasn't giving it to them. People should NEVER expect an inheritance to live on. The person could lose the $$, could not leave it to them, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 1:30 PM

sorry - no idea why that posted twice

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 1:34 PM

What are wills for? Or life insurance polices? If I had a lot of assets and the person I was marrying didn't, why wouldn't I to protect myself in case he ever ran away with the secretary?

Why should another person get half my assets that I had before the marriage? I agree with western single mom, you just don't know what someone else is going to do.

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 1:38 PM

From quark ... "the whole "trust" issue is interesting. as somebody pointed out yesterday that weddings and marriage are a contract that you sign. if you truly "trusted" your spouse why get married at all? why do you need a ceremony to validate the "trust" that you have for the person you've just chosen to spend your life with? why not just shack up?"

You over-simplify this, there can be many reasons to get married ... first and foremost, our society recognizes marriage in it's laws and equates it to rights (i.e. the issue of rights for homosexual couples).

For my wife and I, we decided to finally marry since we wanted to adopt. We were together for more than 10 years and living together for 7. We were always happy, shared everything, no pre-nup, did all the right things ... wills, medical powers of attorney for each other, etc., and didn't have a care in the world. But once you add a child to the mix, there are legal ramifications that we believe responsible parents need to address. Not only that, but it facilitated making the adoption process easier. If we had not married, one of us would have had to adopt alone and the other would have NO legal rights to the child, not be entitied to make healthcare decisions, etc. We are still happy and share everything, but maybe now have a few more cares in the world. ;-)There are so many shades of grey out there and you can't just say to yourself that marriage isn't different or sometimes necessary. I tried, believe me, but once a child entered, it just didn't make sense any longer.

Posted by: New Balt Dad | June 15, 2006 1:39 PM

Ok Suze Orzman is a joke. She always tells people not to buy new cars, and then gets paid by GM (I think it was GM) to appear in ads for a new financing plan. Her defense is that she's a celebrity and allowed to make celebrity endorsements.
Look, one thing people should realize is that having a pre-nump or post-nump isn't necessarily going to prevent you from having a nasty divorce. And insurance is different. First of all you have to have car insurance by law, and medical insurance is necessary because the system is rigged so that if you don't you're paying a lot more for services (that's an entirely different topic).
I'd compare a post-nup to life insurance people buy for their kids. Just another way for companies to make money off your fears...

Posted by: New to DC | June 15, 2006 1:53 PM

The problem with a marriage contract is that it's not flexible enough to accommodate everybody's goals of what they want out of a relationship. One would think that with today's attitudes, the "Until Death Do Us Part" clause should be replaced with "Until Something Better Comes My Way". I think time has come to offer tempory marriage licenses, the 2, 5, 10 ,15 or 30 year plan, or what the heck, the 30 day learner's permit. Why not? Hollywood would love it. I would think that if people can pick and choose exactly what they want out of a relationship, marriage would be a much happier institution.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 15, 2006 1:54 PM

I say the same about this as I do to my friend who thinks I'm crazy for not having my own money set aside, 'just in case.' I'd rather live my whole life knowing how wonderful my husband is, and perhaps wake up one day to find out he's lousy (i.e., in divorce court) rather than spending every waking moment wondering when he's going to leave me.
It's not fantasy - I married the guy and I know who he is, inside and out. The only mystery to me is when people are exactly as they have shown their whole relationship, and people are shocked that they bring that out in divorce court, when they've seen it all along.
Of course, if there is family property to protect (i.e., it isn't really the spouse's) that's different, as well as if one or more of the spouses has children. But really, I do think a prenup is not a good idea.
and yes, it was very hard to merge our finances, but I knew it was the right thing to do, you either trust someone or you don't. If you don't, with every ounce of your being, then don't marry them...

Posted by: Me | June 15, 2006 2:00 PM

"If, say, the SAHM knows she will be compensated well for her time she did not work if she leaves, where's the incentive to try and repair the marriage?"

What's the incentive of the non-stay at home parent to stay in the marriage??? He has all of the money, so he loses little or nothing. C'mon John, wise up.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | June 15, 2006 2:02 PM

If sitting down and having a discussion about finances is such a good idea, why does memorializing this discussion in writing suddenly become so bad? What is it about writing it down that makes it wrong? Also, writing things down often clarifies things and helps you think things through in a way that oral discussion does not.

Posted by: One question for Michelle | June 15, 2006 2:04 PM

For some people the issue of property and property rights in a marriage is often clouded by the inheritance questions. As a moderator of a Second Wives Board, we see the pre-post nups discussed ad nauseaum because for many people property owned prior to entering the marriage is one of the top two conflicts encountered -- the other being property aquired during the marriage and who actualy paid what and what each did to "earn" it.

Generally, the second comment out of the mouths of children from prior marriages is "did you sign a pre-nup?" And in once instance we are aware of, even the husband's will was contested because he left his second-wife with resources. Would a pre-post nup helped? We don't really know, but one more document, whose existance was known by the husband's children, might have saved this poor widow some unnecessary grief.

In another case, the ex-wife of the husband benefited from an incorrectly filed million dollar insurance policy. The second marriage was longer than the first, the husband had changed the beneficiary, but the workplace never re-filed with the insurance company. The second wife stated they paid the premiums on this policy which was intended to assist with raising their minor children. The ex-wife won. Perhaps a pre-nup would have clarified the intentions of the husband which was to leave the insurance to his second wife.

Sometimes, the pre-nup can protect a spouse from those outside the marriage who stand to benefit, by providing one more piece of evidence of the spouse's intention.

Posted by: Missourian | June 15, 2006 2:09 PM

"What are wills for? Or life insurance polices?"

Ummmm ... because you know you're going to die? It's a given?

Seriously, whether you agree with prenups or not, equating a prenup to a life vest doesn't really work. Logic people. Because all poodles are dogs, doesn't make all dogs poodles (or I wouldn't have a dog). Correlation also does not necessitate causality.

Posted by: MC | June 15, 2006 2:09 PM

I find it interesting that so much of the criticism of pre-nups pre-supposes the arrogance and selfishness of those wanting to sign.

Perhaps the parties involved (as hopeful and trusting as they are regarding their significant others) are humble enough to realize that maybe, just maybe, they could actually be wrong.

Posted by: mizbinkley | June 15, 2006 2:10 PM

"If sitting down and having a discussion about finances is such a good idea, why does memorializing this discussion in writing suddenly become so bad? What is it about writing it down that makes it wrong? Also, writing things down often clarifies things and helps you think things through in a way that oral discussion does not."

There's a difference between writing stuff down and using that as a communication tool, and having a lawyer help you write stuff down, and then signing a formal, binding, legal document

Posted by: MC | June 15, 2006 2:11 PM

equating a prenup to a life vest doesn't really work. Logic people. Because all poodles are dogs, doesn't make all dogs poodles..

MC, what about the logic does not work. Your example about dogs and poodles does not make any sense. Would you care to explain your so called logic?

Posted by: Rockville | June 15, 2006 2:13 PM

There's a difference between writing stuff down and using that as a communication tool, and having a lawyer help you write stuff down, and then signing a formal, binding, legal document.

Marriage is a legal document. Why bother with the marriage contract then?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 2:14 PM

Lou: "But it seems to me that a side effect of planning for an event is to make you more comfortable with that event if it should happen. If I can't even conceive failure I'll fight with every breath to succeed."

Maybe that's the key difference between you and someone who sees the pre/post nup as valuable. For you, not having it keeps you from thinking about it. For them, not understanding what would happen MAKES them think and worry about it. People deal with possibilities differently. I think for some people, when they know they've considered all the possibilities and run through all the scenarios and sorted it out, then they can sort of put the issue away, it's no longer on their mind. For these people, doing a pre/post-nup stops them from needing to think about the possibility.

For others, thinking of the worst-case makes it seem more real and likely, so doing a pre/post nup would seem to bring the possibility closer.

I don't think most people will deny that there is always the theoretical possibility they will end up divorced, even if their hearts don't feel that way at all. It's a matter of what allows you to set aside that theoretical possibility, more than a reflection of how much you believe in your heart.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 2:16 PM

It's not fantasy - I married the guy and I know who he is, inside and out.

Yes, I am only 23 with no kids/husband. But the above statement is such an ILLUSION and one reason why women especially are so devastated when a marriage falls apart. You may know your man, but you only know what he ALLOWS you to know about him. The only person that knows him inside out it's him. You are a grown woman. Stop living in La-La land.

Posted by: 23 yr old with no kids/no husband (THANK GOD) | June 15, 2006 2:22 PM

""What are wills for? Or life insurance polices?"

Ummmm ... because you know you're going to die? It's a given?"

MC, perhaps you should learn more about how life insurance works before getting so snide. I'm no expert, but I do know that most life insurance provides benefits if you die prematurely, within the term of the life insurance. It is NOT a given that you will die within the term of the insurance, otherwise it would be a very poor underwriting decision for the insurer.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 2:22 PM

Re: Community Property

It's actually pretty complex. Most states do distinguish between pre-marital assets and post-marital assets, but it can be surprisingly easy to convert the former into the latter. For ex., where I lived, any individual property that was ever commingled with any joint funds (including additional deposits from investments made after marriage) became community property. My current state isn't a community property state, but it follows that same rule. And there's lots more like that.

In short, the laws on this are very complicated and vary from state to state. Which is one reason why I have no quibble with people who want to write down how they want things to be instead of leaving it to the whims of their State Legislature and judiciary should the time come. Like I said before, I'm happily married without a prenup. But if I were divorced and had spent 15 years saving for my daughter's college education, before remarrying I would at least consider a prenup to protect her in case my judgment was off and he turned out to be a liar and a cheat.

Posted by: Laura | June 15, 2006 2:25 PM

oh don't even have the desire to respond to the poodle comment. Why? Because people shouldn't care what their neighbors are doing unless they are hurting someone else! WHo cares is they sign one or not? Who cares if your neighbors are gay.

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 2:25 PM

"But if I were divorced and had spent 15 years saving for my daughter's college education, before remarrying I would at least consider a prenup to protect her in case my judgment was off and he turned out to be a liar and a cheat."

GOOD PLAN

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 2:29 PM

I hate the idea of a pre/post-nup, it suggests to me (like so many others) a lack of trust that's needed for a marriage. However, if my boyfriend and I decide to get married, I will be the one to suggest we sign one. The reason? He has a child from a previous relationship and a sizable share in the family trust. In this situation, where there are more than the two of us involved with the money in question, I feel that a pre-nup is not showing a lack of trust on either of our parts, but protection for the others involved. In addition, it would make me feel better that the money for his son and his family would not be involved in a dispute between *us*. I had nothing to do with that money, I have no claim to it and I don't want it in the equation if we get into a nasty divorce. Not an exit strategy, but more of a show of goodwill to the other people who would be affected.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 2:34 PM

"In this situation, where there are more than the two of us involved with the money in question, I feel that a pre-nup is not showing a lack of trust on either of our parts, but protection for the others involved. In addition, it would make me feel better that the money for his son and his family would not be involved in a dispute between *us*."

Doesn't this apply equally to a post-nup with children involved? It seems that the point is to make sure that the assets are divided in a way that is fair to both spouses, which is clearly also best for the child(ren) - what child would want to see her parents fight bitterly over the money or have one of her parents get totally slammed by the divorce? Especially given that in most states joint custody is preferred, so the child will be a part of both parent's living and financial situations. I was in college when my parents split and they fought bitterly over who would be responsible for certain college-related costs and who would claim me on their taxes, and it made me furious (they ignored my arguments that I should be responsible for my college costs, I guess because they were so wound up in their struggle). I didn't want to be a part of that. Had they done a post-nup agreeing how such expenses and tax benefits would be addressed, MAYBE I wouldn't have.

I guess my point is that your concern for your stepson and your in laws is admirable, and I don't see why it wouldn't extend to any additional children you might have, and why we aren't willing to assume that people who do post-nups in other situations don't have the same admirable motives.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 2:44 PM

Megan, THANK you for your 2:16 post -- I think you succinctly identified a major difference in approach here. I literally cannot relax unless I know that, whatever the worst-case is, I'll survive. Planning to me would not mean I am thinking of leaving my marriage; to the contrary, it would mean I could STOP worrying about him leaving me. Thus, I am probably less likely to read a negative motive into a prenup than others who believe thinking about and planning for something makes it more likely.

Posted by: Laura | June 15, 2006 2:45 PM

Hey, it's not "pre-nuMp" or "post-nuMp". The words are prenuptial and postnuptial, so it's pre- or post- "nup".

Posted by: Editrix | June 15, 2006 3:00 PM

Hey, it's not "pre-nuMp" or "post-nuMp". The words are prenuptial and postnuptial, so it's pre- or post- "nup".

Oooh. Correcting spelling errors and typos. Now that's insight I was really looking for.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 3:03 PM

To the annonymous 1:30 poster:

I do realize that many of the impoverished single parent families headed by women are the result of children born out of wedlock, but the fact remains that most women lose in their socio-economic status as the result of a divorce, and this is particularly hard on women who gave up careers to raise children (the subject point of the POST-nup agreements).

And back child support is owed by divorced men as well as baby daddies. At least a post-nup would help with the AMOUNT of money a woman would receive based ont he fact she gave up her earning power. Given that most SAHM are middle class, there would be a better chance collecting from her ex-husband.

As for community property states...I now live in one. And perhaps it's my imagination (or the fact I work with law enforcement and prosecution), but there seems to be a large number of people here who kill their spouses (including an alarming number of women from upper middle class suburbs). I can't say that there is a correlation, but given that I generated most of the assetts, and my ex-husband left the country owing the IRS and a dozen creditors...if we had lived here in Arizona, I would have been responsible for half the debt he ran up and he would have been entitled to half my assetss. I would have been tempted to bury him in the desert...or at least set up residence in another state : )

FATHER of 4: I laughed about the idea of a 30-day learner's permit for a marriage license! It's the funniest thing I've read on this blog.

Posted by: single western mom | June 15, 2006 3:03 PM

Oh Great,
Here comes the Megan and Scarry show. Spare me for one day at least.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 3:06 PM

FATHER of 4: I laughed about the idea of a 30-day learner's permit for a marriage license! It's the funniest thing I've read on this blog.

I actually think it's a great idea. Hey, driving a car is a lot less of a commitment than marriage, but they make you get a learner's, and if you don't pass the test, you can't get married. There should be at least as many hoops to jump through in order to get married as there are to get divorced. Premarital counseling (including on financial matters) should be required, and I don't think that legally mandated prenups are a bad idea.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 3:06 PM

From scarry: "oh don't even have the desire to respond to the poodle comment. Why? Because people shouldn't care what their neighbors are doing unless they are hurting someone else! WHo cares is they sign one or not? Who cares if your neighbors are gay."

Huh?!? I was just saying that if A is a part of B, then B isn't necessarily a part of A. I don't particularly like poodles. I prefer bigger dogs. I think you read WAY too much into that.

Posted by: MC | June 15, 2006 3:17 PM

"I surmise that when two people become so fundamentally incompatible w/ another person that they want to break their vows and divorce, such people may forget their willingness to share, their mutual values, etc."

Great way to explain it! You both may be all for caring and sharing and totally compatible, but things happen and people behave in ways that will amaze you. Money is a huge subject of contention within marriage (even good ones) so why think you won't argue over it in the divorce hearings?

I am wealthy. All I want a prenup to say is that my assets prior to marriage are mine and will not be divided if there is a divorce. Same with whatever he has. I will not marry a man who refuses to protect me by saying he won't sign a prenup. Any man who won't sign is sending me a signal that he secretly hopes to get his hands on my money. If I meet a man of equal wealth, I will still ask him to sign a prenup. If I meet a man with greater wealth, I will happily sign a prenup. What we make in the marriage is ours, what I choose to share within the marriage is ours, what we had before is his and mine.

Posted by: Alexandria | June 15, 2006 3:17 PM

Oh Great,
Here comes the Megan and Scarry show. Spare me for one day at least.

Oh great, more nasty comments from anonymous posters, spare me for one day at least. I guess I could just be like you and post with no name so nobody knows who I am, but I think that would be kind of lame. Sorry you don't like me, but I think you're out of luck on this one.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 3:18 PM

My mother always tells my father: What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine. They have been pretty much happily married for over 40 years.

Posted by: his and mine | June 15, 2006 3:20 PM

"Marriage is a legal document. Why bother with the marriage contract then?"

I think you missed my point. The earlier argument was that writing a pre-nup = good because it helps to write things out. I'm saying that you can write stuff out without having to sign anything. If it's the legal document you want, then by all means go ahead. But jsut to use it as a way to facilitate a discussion? It seems that there are easier ways to communicate.

Posted by: MC | June 15, 2006 3:22 PM

I read Michelle Singletary's column all the time and I respect her views. However, having been married twice and going through a divorce again--I would say something to the tune of: "I will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GET MARRIED AGAIN UNLESS I SIGN SOMETHING SO THAT THEY DON'T GET MY PROPERTIES!"
I've operated in good faith too long. I'm still operating in good fath with my current girlfriend. But as I said before, "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GET MARRIED WITHOUT A PRE-NUP THAT OUTLINES WHAT YOU BRING IN YOU GET OUT. Otherwise you lose it.

Posted by: Annandale, | June 15, 2006 3:23 PM

Annandale:

YIKES! That's rough. I was married once only, and I will never marry again. My post-divorce philosophy: I don't ever want to be legally responsible for someone I didn't give birth to.

Posted by: single westerm mom | June 15, 2006 3:27 PM

Comments like Annandale's typify people who are not going to trust a new spouse. He's got a good reason, he got shafted before. But if you can't completely trust this new girl with your stuff, don't put it in danger by marrying her.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 3:32 PM

"I am wealthy........Any man who won't sign is sending me a signal that he secretly hopes to get his hands on my money."

You've got to be kidding me. Talk about pessimism. I'll take the "what's yours is mine" attitude over this one anyday.

Posted by: Lou | June 15, 2006 3:42 PM

Ms. Singletary's comments do reflect one view of pre-nups in this country, but I think this position that pre-nups are just setting marriages up for failure is a faulty one. It's important for all couples to have a serious discussion about assets before marriage, especially for couples who are further along their career paths and have investments and retirement accounts to protect. While her sentiments are admirable, I think her position is unrealistic and short-sighted.

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | June 15, 2006 3:44 PM

It's not pessimistic, it's realistic. If you love each other and trust each other, why do you want to claim each other's pre-marrital assets if somehow the relationship fails? People who do this are greedy and feel they "deserve" payment for being in the marriage. I will share plenty with my husband, I just don't think we have a right to claim each other's money or property that we had before we met.

Why would anyone refuse to sign? If they argue about it, to me it means that they feel somehow they deserve money that I brought into the relationship. Why? I will write a will that leaves him (and our children) everything. That's trust, isn't it? Why can't I protect myself from the realities of life? Sorry, I've seen too much to believe that anyone acts in a predictable way when money enters the picture.

Posted by: Alexandra | June 15, 2006 3:50 PM

Prenups aren't romantic. Postnups aren't romantic either. Contracts in general seem fairly unsexy to me. However many people see marriage as a contract-- both on a spiritual/emotional/highly personal level and on a civil/legal level. My sense is that too few people think to read the fine print (either the legal or spiritual/emotional) beforehand. I am not qualified to offer any sort of legal opinion on these issues, and no one should take any of my words as advice. I do like that the people in this forum are thinking about these issues and will hopefully seek a qualified person to offer them advice if they are interested in their options.

The divorce laws in each state might effectively be a prenup--when you get married, there they are waiting for you. By getting married, you agree to a set of rules and formulae for child support, asset division, and spousal support upon divorce. The issue is that they seem to be triggered by where (and when) you get a divorce, which may not be where you got married. You can't predict which state's set of those rules you are agreeing to, and from what I gather, there is some difference. People move around a lot these days. Is it a benefit to your children to figure out a way to settle things in case mom and dad run into trouble? Should their college fund go to lawyers fees for unnecessary litigation?

If I choose to get one, a prenup would be an attempt to custom tailor some of these default rules and avoid some of the uncertainty of not knowing which set of rules I might end up with. I don't know if I would get one, even having been divorced once. Prenups do seem to be for people who can afford an attorney or at least those who expect to eventually have enough to fight over. That doesn't sound like me. I can't afford a pet, much less kids, and I couldn't even begin to think of paying a lawyer to draft me a visitation agreement for a dog, as some have mentioned anecdotally. But to each his/her own.

More practically, maybe a pre-nup could address how people resolve their differences, by suggesting a more collaborative form of dispute resolution than adversarial litigation. I don't know, but that might be a worthwhile concept. Such an agreement could seek to limit fighting and promote collaboration. I do not know if such a thing is legal or enforceable, but it seems like an idea worth exploring.

As to the insurance analogies that have been bandied about: statistics, for what they are worth, suggest that about half of all marriages fail eventually. Does anyone marry assuming that they will be divorced? I don't think so, unless it is their plan to strip equity from their partner at an opportune time. (known pejoratively in the parlance as a gold-digger)

Given the coin-toss odds of a marriage surviving, it doesn't seem sound to advise people to stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best. (As an aside, there is an undisputed 100% chance of death for everyone, yet I assume that many people never bother to write a will.) It is a very personal decision that should be reached after seeking professional advice. Maybe, as some have argued, marriage needs a little more mystery and sense of finality to it. To me, prenups seem to be for the rich, though perhaps an appropriate form of these agreements should be a little more accessible to people of more limited means and educational backgrounds. Dividing debt or child care and support duties up can be as important or more important than dividing up assets. You can't plan for every eventuality, but perhaps we should try to set up a framework that meets our relationship needs better than our courts and legislatures have. There may be some form of plain-language agreement that people of all backgrounds could use to structure their lives and plan for an orderly future. Perhaps some enterprising young legal mind can think up something. Or maybe Suze Orman already has. I can't say that I've made a study of what's out there.

Posted by: pants | June 15, 2006 4:02 PM

"Oh Great,
Here comes the Megan and Scarry show. Spare me for one day at least."

Gee what did we ever do to you! And, you forgot father of four, we love him too!

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 4:06 PM

MC,

I wasn't reading anything into it, I seriously was too tired to respond. And, I really don't care to much about the topic becasue I feel that it's no one's business about other people's lives.

I like all dogs by the way.

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 4:10 PM

It's easy to see why some people disagree with M. Singletary. Her perspective is based on the assumption that you marry someone whom you totally trust - aka the right person. Marrying the right person is her prerequisite. This is not how many of us get married. Many of us marry due to societal pressures or whatever reasons, whether the person is right or wrong for us. This explains why many get divorced - marrying the wrong person in the first place. No wonder why you have to even think about pre-nups and post-nups. Her advice is not useful to those who got hitched b/c they just wanted to get hitched and who will end up divorcing someday, which would make post-nup useful.

Posted by: Upstate | June 15, 2006 4:16 PM

Now and then you hear about a divorce that went smoothly and had an equal and unargued division of assets. Both parties want the best for their ex-spouse and do their upmost to make sure former wife and former husband are financially secure.

But most of the time you hear about arguments and name-calling, hiding of assets, disbelief that the former beloved could behave so badly, accusations and blame thrown everywhere. If everyone marries for "love" why do so many part with anger and continue to be angry for years? I'm sorry, it's not always "he ran off with another woman". Sometimes people change in huge ways. Could you predict that the woman you marry at 24 will have severe bi-polar disorder at 30 and act totally erratically for years, including raiding your shared savings to finance her own crazy schemes? No matter who you marry, change is inevitable and you can't control how another person will behave.

Posted by: Lyda | June 15, 2006 4:21 PM

Marrying the right person is her prerequisite.

I would say that never making a mistake is her prerequisite. Being able to predict the future is also a prerequisite. Having control over your spouse is another one. Living in a perfect world also is a prerequisite. Michelle says she gives advice about what marriage should be. So much for practical advice. Those of you who never make mistakes, can predict the future, and have control over your spouse's actions, of course, listen to her advice. The rest of us humans don't have such luxuries and must be more practical.

Posted by: Rockville | June 15, 2006 4:22 PM

Woof! Woof!
Pant Pant Pant Pant Pant
Woof!

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 15, 2006 4:30 PM

heel, dog, heel!!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 4:32 PM

awwww, father of 4, I knew you'd make me laugh today, you always do.

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 4:32 PM

MC, you asked about the logic, so here it is. We have term life insurance; we bought it to protect the kiddos until they're launched, and as substitute income for the surviving spouse during what would otherwise have been our joint earning and saving years. Our term is timed to coincide with college graduation and early retirement; once we reach that point, the insurance will have served its purpose, and we will drop it.

Yes, I will die sometime, whereas I may never get divorced (sure hope not, at least). But I very likely will NOT die while the insurance is in effect (knock on wood) -- I think the statistics will tell you that my chance of dying in the next 15 years is, I don't know, 5%? So I didn't buy it knowing that I will die, or planning to use it -- I bought it hoping desperately that I won't ever need it, but wanting to protect my husband and our kids from a horrible but possible event.

So how is this not logically consistent with a prenup?

Posted by: Laura | June 15, 2006 4:37 PM

Hee hee, you guys are FUNNY! I needed that laugh!

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 4:39 PM

Lyda wrote: "If everyone marries for "love" why do so many part with anger and continue to be angry for years?"

A friend's marriage counselor once told her that if they are still angry, they are not ready for divorce, because it shows they still have a strong emotional commitment to each other. Only if they became apathetic and really no longer cares about the marriage would the counselor say they should get divorced. (They are still married and doing much better.) I thought that was an interesting perspective - it does seem to be the people we care about the most who have the greatest ability to hurt us, so maybe that's why so many divorces are so acrimonious - there's still some kernel of love and desire that makes the battle that much worse.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 4:43 PM

megan,

i think some people hate people who get along. so that would be us!

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 4:43 PM

So leave it to a woman to disparage nuptial agreements, since it is usually the woman walking away with the wealth.

Having NO PLAN is the only plan for failure. Nuptial agreements are rational contracts to handle high-probability contingencies of a legal contract with major financial impact -- i.e., marriage.

But asking a woman to acknowledge the lopsided financial benefits of divorce for many women, or to prepare a rational plan for this likely outcomes, is clearly asking too much.

Tell me, what are Michelle's qualifications again?

Her advice is self-centered, and pie in the sky romance.

Posted by: nosurprise | June 15, 2006 4:44 PM

Megan -- "there's still some kernel of love and desire that makes the battle that much worse."

Or, more likely, the memory of the love they had. People who still care (have a kernel of love and desire,) once they remember that then work on the marriage, like your friends. But to say that "many" divorces are acrimonious because people still love and desire one another, is not only wrong, but does a dis-service to people who didn't want to divorce, but their partner did. Thereby hanging on to a hope that isn't realistic.


Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 4:49 PM

Put your money in a trust. That's a lot safer than a pre-nup.

And don't put your trust in your spouse when it comes to money. That's a lot stupider than doing nothing.

Posted by: trusttrustbaby | June 15, 2006 4:49 PM

I just want to say that I've found this whole discussion today fascinating. It seems the central question became not whether you think pre/post nups are a good idea, but rather "what does marriage mean to you (and your partner or potential partner)?" Even though I don't necessarily agree with the "pro nup" crowd, I do think there is lots of logic to be found in some of their reasoning. The bitterness and heartache some of you divorced folks have experienced does make me sad - but thanks for sharing your experiences - makes me realize how lucky i am in my marriage.

Megan/Scarry - I like reading your thoughts and comments - ignore the nasty troll.

Father of 4 - You are hilarious.

Posted by: another child of divorce | June 15, 2006 5:02 PM

Down with Nups. Up with Swiss bank accounts. Grand Cayman, anyone?

Posted by: Billionaire Boys Club | June 15, 2006 5:03 PM

Down with Nups. Up with Swiss bank accounts. Grand Cayman, anyone?

Hey Billionaire Boy - I'll marry you, but only if I can see your bank account first. No prenup necessary.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 5:07 PM

Billionaire Boy - St. Barth's is where it's at... Grand Cayman is so 1990's...

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 5:10 PM

All the people I know who are divorced took their marriage vows seriously and intended to be married forever, including me. No one who has ever gone through a divorce would ever call it the "easy way out."

I was married for almost 25 years. I stayed home and raised the children. When were getting divorced, my then husband became extremely vindictive, insisted all the assets were his (because he earned the money) and refused to settle for anything less. I was not angry, just depressed and afraid. Although he never physically harmed me, he made plenty of threats to do so. So it dragged on for years and finally went to trial. My son was still in high school, so my ex-husband was ordered to pay child support until he turned 18 years old. However, my ex-husband stopped paying any college expenses for my daughter, so that became my responsibility too.

I did get a share of the assets, but even so, I struggled financially for a few years while I went back to school and started work at an entry level. My income has increased significantly in the past 15+ years and I am now comfortable and will have a comfortable retirement soon.

I sincerely hope none of the posters who smugly declare that they love their spouses, trust them completely and will be married forever have to experience the pain I did. But if they ever do, perhaps they will learn to be less judgmental of others whose lives have been less than perfect.

Posted by: celery | June 15, 2006 5:15 PM

You mean if I get a Post Nup I get control over my spouse?

HAHAHAHAHAHAH

I would like to sign a contract that makes it illegal for me not to be happy. The right to the pursuit of happiness provided in declared in The Declaration of Independance and assured in the US Consititution is no longer adequate given the high divorce rate.

If I am not happy I want to sue some DEEEEP pockets too. No Virginia, insurance companies do not sell marriage insurance. But if you're unhappy we can sue them and see if we can get a settlement out of court.

Posted by: Father of 3 | June 15, 2006 5:21 PM

I never thought I would think pre or post nups are a good thing, but I do now. My husband was involved emotionally with another woman for five years (I knew only about a couple of months and thought it was over years ago).

There was some physical involvement, but as far as I know, that's over.

In any case, I would not rule out a post-nup at this point, because he has lied and lied and lied again to me about this woman.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 5:31 PM

don't you guys get tired of yelling at each other?

Posted by: stan | June 15, 2006 5:41 PM

RE: More sposal homicides in community property states -

I'd be homicidal if I loved in the southwest or West, too (where all the CP states are)

OK - just kidding

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2006 5:44 PM

Scarry, let's you and me meet up in St. Barts!! No pre-trip agreement needed! And Father of 4, you come too!

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 6:08 PM

"if they are still angry, they are not ready for divorce, because it shows they still have a strong emotional commitment to each other."

I don't think that is true, for personal reasons and because I was told by a therapist that sometimes people won't or can't get out of bad relationship because they are emotionally BONDED to their partner. That does not necessarily mean emotional commitment. Sometimes bonds are unhealthy. I wanted badly to be out of my relationship and was very angry because I was being lied to and manipulated. I was still angry a year after the breakup because of how my ex behaved when it all fell apart. I had no emotional commitment to him and wanted nothing but to be rid of him, but before we severed all contact I was emotionally bonded enough that he could still play games with me and I him. We were not healthy and I'm so relieved we finally broke apart and stayed apart.

Posted by: S.J. | June 15, 2006 6:10 PM

I don't mind sharing my assets. But I want to keep what's mine if something happens. And I've seen what can happen when a soon-to-be-ex-spouse lets their anger get in the way of dividing up assets. It clouds everything and just makes a hard situation even harder. If there's something you can do at the beginning to protect yourself later, it's only wise to take that step, no matter how positive one's intentions are at the start of a marriage.

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | June 15, 2006 6:22 PM

S.J. and nameless, thanks for your points on the issue of anger, love, and divorce. Obviously it's not something I've thought through or experienced, and I appreciate your insight.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 6:31 PM

Yes, Megan let's do that! Father of 4 can you run away with us?

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 7:04 PM

another child of divorce ,

Thanks. I find it easy to not put your name on things and be mean. However, I find it harder to disagree but be nice about it, which is what me and Megan do. (okay, sometimes, I can be really mean, but people usually deserve it. Or, I was confused by what someone said and I (gasp) say I am sorry!

father of 4 is our comic relief.

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 7:08 PM

scarry - you and megan THINK you're not mean. you're actually frequently very snide. and it does get really old.

Posted by: becky | June 15, 2006 7:29 PM

Amen Becky and anonymous poster. Scarry and Megan aren't content to state their own viewpoints. They want everyone else to agree with them.

And father of four is wonderful and shouldn't be grouped with them.

Posted by: imnotalone | June 15, 2006 7:42 PM

huh, well what a crappy ending to a long and crappy day.

Scarry, I've enjoyed your commentary and spirit a lot, I'll set up an email at megansoffbalance@yahoo.com (I assume it's not taken...) if you decide you want to run off to St Barts with me. Or anyone else for that matter, there are a lot people whose posts I've really enjoyed. We could set up a commune or something.

Posted by: Megan | June 15, 2006 9:44 PM

Megan, scarry - don't let folks get you down. Debate is healthy. The socratic method looks pretty confrontational when in print. Not sure you guys are on the right side of this 'nup' thing (okay, maybe it's not a right/wrong, but a 'to each his/her own) but you guys definitely contribute to the conversation in a good way.

Posted by: Proud Papa | June 15, 2006 11:13 PM

While I like Scarry and Megan, and often participate in the friendly prattle, it's hard to get a word in edgewise.

And lately I've noticed some really great posts get lost amid the noise and blabber.

Posted by: Anonymous on purpose | June 15, 2006 11:50 PM

I was thinking on doing the backyard grill. Everyone is invited and bring the kids.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 16, 2006 8:21 AM

To the 23 yr old no kids no spouse

I think it is ignorant and sad that you cannot imagine knowing the person you marry inside and out. Setting aside the possibility of mental illness appearing out of nowhere, that is how well I know my husband, and I am not deluded that he is perfect, just perfect for me.

"Me" was addressing the fact that people ignore the nature of who they marry and then act surprised when, during a divorce, they discover they married a real jerk. Generally, this is not such a surprise to friends who know the jerk.

My sister had a civil divorce, very close to a downright nice divorce. In fact, her ex-husband and his girlfriend came to her house for dinner when my family came to where they live for a recent visit. They were married for 16 years, together for over 20. They did change, but they are still both good people and he is still family in my mind. There was not a lot of money involved, but there are children and they have worked together to make a bad situation the best it can be. She was a SAHM who has now reentered the work force and no one is living in poverty. All this with no pre-nup, in large part because they each knew the nature of the other person at the time of the marriage.

That said, I think post-nups have a lot more value than pre-nups to those of us without significant premarital assets. My community property professor from law school referred to women as "depreciating luxury items" (she was an old school feminist by the way). Her point was that married women who choose to either stay at home or take lower profile jobs to be primary caretakers of children have both (1) a lower earning potential over time and (2) a lower chance of remarriage - due it part to a general preference by men for a newer model. While these are generalities and are not necessarily true in any one situation, they are realities for many women. I took away from this that a valuable agreement would be one that, in the event of divorce, increased compensation to a spouse that chose one of these paths based on length of the marriage. In many ways, paying the wife for taking some of her best years in terms of her ability to prepare herself for retirement, etc. These kind of agreements recognize that the best decisions for the family unit are not necessarily the best decision for individual members of the family if the family dissolves. It is preparing a reallocation of resources to account for the SAHM spouses lowered earning potential that resulted from the family's best choices. If a spouse is willing to take on this role but is concerned about leaving a career, the other spouse offering up this kind of protection in the event of the "unthinkable" could be viewed as a gift of peace of mind. It all depends on the relationship and how it is handled.

Posted by: another DC mom | June 16, 2006 11:16 AM

I don't care who agrees with me. I just state my point and then I argue it if i see fit. It's not being snide, although I have admitted to sometimes being nasty to people. Which is somethign other people don't do to often.

Sorry some of you are bothered so much by me and Megan's posts and the fact that we usually agree with each other.

Posted by: scarry | June 16, 2006 11:21 AM

ANd on that note, I'm done with the blog. I come here to discuss issues about balance because I need advice, just because I don't always agree with other people and I argue my point doesn't mean I am snide.

However, I'm not going to be ganged up on either and made to feel bad about myself for no reason.

Posted by: scarry | June 16, 2006 11:33 AM

that's lovely, now two people who are nice have left the board. Good job people.

Posted by: why | June 16, 2006 1:10 PM

I agree with Michelle's comments. The "what about me?" attitude definitely leads to the high divorce rate in this country.

What I'd like to know is how many of the 3% who get prenups get divorced.

Posted by: Jennifer | June 16, 2006 2:01 PM

now now Scarry -- no one said they didn't LIKE your advice, merely that you monopolize the board, often with non-sense that has nothing to do with the topic.

Some posters don't get heard because by the time others have read through, the majority of posts are from "friends" playing on the board.

Posted by: anonymous on purpose | June 16, 2006 4:05 PM

Another DC Mom, I am sorry that you felt that 24 Year Old was "ignorant and sad" for thinking that you can't know a person "inside and out". I think she's totally right and quite realistic, and you are sad in that you have to put her down for expressing her thoughts.

You may believe that you know your husband inside and out, but I don't believe anyone could know me that well, nor would I want them to. I have thoughts and feelings that are sometimes contradictory to my usual personality, and dreams, hopes, and interests that no one knows, not even my mom, who's known me for 40 years. There have been novels written about how people are truly unknowable, even by those who think they know them best.

Posted by: JJ | June 16, 2006 4:29 PM

what, like the beer fridge and cat cleaning banter on the father's day board was so much different. and becky, i didn't notice a real decline in the mean, snide comments now that you chased them off. it's not like they were in your living room cutting you off, it's perfectly possible to skim and skip postings from the people you don't like and resond to those that are so much more meaningful in your opinion.

why do the people on this board have to be so harsh on each other?

Posted by: to mr anonymous | June 16, 2006 4:43 PM

I think Becky and others are like the girls who hate the cheerleaders but never try out themselves. They can't stand it when other people like each other and have fun.

If you can't stand it when people comment so much on the board, why don't you start commenting more.

Posted by: right on | June 16, 2006 6:53 PM

Are the marriage vows considered to be part of a marriage "contract"? If so, I think that the "til death us do part" phrase covers the reason that a post-nup is not necessary. If the marriage contract can be broken, why not the post-nup?

Am I the only one who remembers that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman had a pre-nup, and that he left just in time to avoid the pre-nup becoming effective? We don't know, but it looks like he was more interested in preserving his stuff than his marriage.

It's just money and things, people. I know someone who stayed in an absolutely miserable marriage to an alcoholic because she didn't want him to get anything that she had "worked so hard for". She and her child spent 10 horrible years with him before he died. Personally, I would rather start over as a pauper than give up that much of my (and my child's) life to a miserable existence.

Posted by: curious | June 16, 2006 7:20 PM

If HIRSHMAN "is almjost biblical" in her prouncement...it is undoubtedly OLD TESTAMENT. And therein lies the problem.
Mainstream America is not likely to be other than Christian. Also remember the names of proabortionist movementlkeaders. Anything in common?

Posted by: Elizabeth | June 19, 2006 1:48 PM

I'm against a prenup if he has the money and I don't...against it if otherwise. Like, what, do I look stupid? If you think all men don't cheat and want trade in old wives you're silly. It used to be different, but not that much different. Nothing changes. Nothing changes.

Posted by: Grandy | June 19, 2006 1:55 PM

To the 23 year old who says she "knows him inside out..." she doesn't. HE doesn't know himself..partly because 23 year old brains aren't finished yet (see new studies on car accidents) and partly because men never grow up...are never settled. Hormones are partially responsible, their ever-immaturity also a problem. Bumblebees and all. God, the hopeful idiocy of young women.

Posted by: PS | June 19, 2006 2:00 PM

Marriage is a legal contract -- it may mean much more than that to the individuals, but it is still a legal contract. If the partners decide to break the contract, the state has rules for deciding how assets (past, present, future) are to be divided. Signing a prenup is just a way of saying that, should you need to, you want to divide things differently than that provided by state law. It is no different than drafting a will because you don't want the state to determine how your property will be disposed of.

Posted by: TS | June 19, 2006 4:03 PM

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