Premarital Agreements
A future husband wanted to be sure that if his marriage didn't work out, he could keep his treasuredice-cream collection safely stored away in a freezer. A woman insisted on verifying who would walk thedog. One man wanted the right to get a divorce if his bride-to-be gained more than 15 pounds once shebecame his wife.
These are some of the crazier clauses of prenuptial agreements. But make no mistake about it, whatmost of them are about is money — and how financial assets will be divided up if a couple divorces. Anddivorce with its accompanying money problems is common in the United States.
Prenuptial agreements — or "prenups" — are designed to address these problems as they arise.
Prenups are negotiated by lawyers for the prospective spouses, and signed before a minister bindsthem in marriage. They have been gaining in acceptance in the United States since the early 1980s,when more states began passing laws that affected the division of financial assets in a divorce. The lawsare based either on "community property" (split evenly) or on "reasonable distribution" (whatever ajudge thinks is "fair").
The prenups of the famous make the headlines: lawyers for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis contestedthe prenuptial agreement between her and Aristotle Onassis after his death, reportedly winning $26million in an out-of-court settlement.
But prenuptial agreements are also for lesser known, although wealthy folks. "It's because divorcehas such great economic consequences, and successive marriages have become so common," said afamily law lawyer.
A typical candidate for a prenuptial agreement is a man who has accumulated considerable wealth,has already been stung once, and wants to reduce his exposure to future problems. "They want tomake their own arrangements, rather than let a court decide," said the president of the New Yorkchapter of the American Academy of Marriage Lawyers.
Protecting children from a previous marriage is a strong reason for prenuptial contracts. "Someonemay have an estate of $1 billion and he may not want a second spouse to get a payment of half a billion.
He may want more for his children," said a lawyer. The effort to shield assets to be passed on tochildren and grandchildren is making prenups more common among retired people in their 60s and70s who are remarrying after a spouse has died.
Another situation that calls for premarital agreements occurs when a potential spouse has, or is inline for, great inherited wealth or a family business, especially if the future partner has little or nothingat all.
But even when both parties have signed such an agreement, it can be impossible to enforce it incourt if proper guidelines have not been followed. A lawyer is required to write the document, formistakes in language — even a misplaced preposition — can be disastrous. But never, ever, warnmarriage law consultants, should you use the same lawyer as your future spouse does.
Another problem is a prenuptial agreement signed under pressure. To avoid this, some lawyers willnot draw up an agreement once a wedding date has been set. "I figure there's a sword hanging overtheir head, and that's pressure," they said. Such lawyers counsel their clients never to send outwedding invitations until both signatures are on an agreement.
But not everyone takes this advice. A classic example is cited by lawyers: "An agreement is stuckunder somebody's nose on the day of the wedding — and it's usually a 'she' — and she signs, but doesn'teven read it." Another lawyer recalled one awkward episode where the two sides were still editing thecontract, arguing over what to keep and delete, as 150 wedding guests were arriving for the wedding.
When an agreement could not be forged, the wedding was canceled.
A dispute can also break out over prenuptial agreements if a couple decides to divorce while livingabroad, or when they have different passports. A lawyer in a London law firm that often handlesdivorces for British-American couples noted that in Britain, prenuptial agreements were "just aboutignored" by the courts because English law says that circumstances of a marriage aren't static, andtherefore a judge should decide how financial assets will be divided.
That can lead to "court-shopping", since what matters is the law of the country where the couple isgetting divorced. He gave the following example: "A wealthy Mr. Ed Smith gets married to Mrs.Smith,and they enter into a New York prenuptial contract. They live in England, and then decide to getdivorced. English lawyers will say to Mrs. Smith, 'No, that contract is not valid,' while Mr.Smith willwant it to be an American case. The issue of where it will be held can greatly multiply the amount oftime required to reach a settlement."Romantic love has no bearing on this process, say these lawyers, who consider prenups to bebusiness agreements. Their justification: some 50 percent of all marriages in the United States end upon the trash heap.
Moreover, the discussions for a prenuptial agreement, which involve laying bare all one's finances,sometimes save a couple from a terrible marriage. "It sheds light on issues which could later widen andresult in divorce," said a lawyer.
But there is still hope. "Many people sign an agreement, put it in a drawer and never look at itagain," the lawyer added.
Words: 902
New Words
■marital a. 婚姻的;夫妻的
premarital a. 婚前的
ice-cream n. 冰淇淋
collection n. 1.收藏品,收集的东西 2.收集,收取
verify vt. 证明,证实,核实
clause n. 1.条款,款项 2.分句,从句
■nuptial a. 婚姻的,结婚的
◆prenuptial a. 结婚前的
bind vt. 1.连结,联合,结合 2.捆绑,捆扎 3.迫使,约束
acceptance n. 1.接受,接纳 2.赞同,承认
division n. 1.分开,划分 2.分歧 3.部门
headline n. 标题;新闻提要
contest v. 1.质疑,辩驳 2.争取,争夺;与……竞争
n. 1.竞赛,比赛 2.争夺,竞争
candidate n. 候选人;参加考试者
sting vt. 1.激怒,刺痛 2.刺伤,蛰伤
n. 刺痛,刺伤
exposure n. 暴露,曝光,揭露
chapter n. 1.支部,分会 2.章,回
payment n. 支付的款项
shield vt. 防护,保护,庇护
n. 防护物,护罩,盾(状物)
retire v. 1.(使)退休,(使)退役 2.退下,离开
retired a. 退休了的
enforce vt. 1.使生效,实施,执行 2.强迫,迫使
preposition n. 介词
consultant n. 顾问
sword n. 剑
invitation n. 1.邀请;邀请信 2.引诱,诱惑
signature n. 签名;签字
cite vt. 1.引用,引证 2.(军队的)传令嘉奖
awkward a. 1.困窘的,尴尬的 2.难操纵的,使用不便的 3.笨拙的,不灵巧的
edit vt. 编辑,剪辑,校订
delete vt. 删掉,划去(文字)
forge vt. 1.锻造,锤炼;使形成 2.伪造,假冒,仿造
dispute n. 争端,分歧
v. 1.争论,争吵,辩论 2.对……表示异议,反对,辩驳
passport n. 护照
circumstance n. 情形,情况,状况
static a. 静止的,不变的
bearing n. 1.关系,影响 2.举止,姿态 3.方位,方向
▲justification n. 正当的理由
heap n. 1.一堆 2.大量,许多
vt. (使)堆起
shed vt. 1.流出,流下,发出 2.去掉,摆脱 3.脱落,脱去
n. 棚,小屋
drawer n. 抽屉
Phrases and Expressions
work out 发展很好;证明是成功的
store away 收起来,储存,储备
insist on/upon 坚决要求 坚持认为
make no mistake (about sth.) 别弄错了;毫无疑问
gain in 得到更多的……
make/hit the headlines 成为头条新闻
call for 需求,要求
be in line for 即将获得,很可能得到
under pressure 在压力下,在强力下
draw up 写出,制定 (使)停住
send out 发出,寄出
take advice 采纳某人的意见
under sb.'s nose 就在... ...面前
argue over/about 为……争论,争吵
break out 突然开始,爆发 逃离
just about 几乎,非常接近
lead to 导致
enter into sth. 开始讨论;着手处理
have no bearing on 与……无关
end up 结束,告终
lay bare 揭示,说出
shed/throw/cast light on (使)更容易理解
Proper Names
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis 杰奎琳·肯尼迪·奥纳西斯
Aristotle Onassis 亚里士多德·奥纳西斯
American Academy of Marriage Lawyers 美国婚姻法律师协会
Ed Smith 艾德·史密斯