June 5

Love Contracts – The Newest Kind of Prenup


Tags

divorce blog, prenuptial agreement


In this day and age, prenuptial agreements are nothing new. For anyone with a big income, or a sizeable chunk of money, or who has kids from a prior marriage, signing a prenuptial agreement before marriage is pretty standard. Most “prenups” lay down the rules for who will get what if the parties divorce or if one of them dies. Now, however, some agreements (ironically dubbed “love contracts”) are going even farther, and setting out how the parties will live while they are married.

“Love Contracts” Are Really Lifestyle Clauses

Officially known as “lifestyle clauses” these love contracts have been used to lay the ground rules for how parties will act during their marriage.

For example, Mark Zuckerburg reportedly agreed in his prenup that he would spend at least one night and 100 minutes of alone time per week with his wife, Priscilla Chan.

Jessica Biel will reportedly receive $500,000 if husband Justin Timberlake ever cheats on her.

Catherine Zeta Jones will get $2.8 million dollars per year if she and her husband Michael Douglas divorce, plus an additional $5 million bonus if he is caught being unfaithful. (Yeah, THAT’S trust!)

Lifestyle clauses cover more than infidelity, though.

For example, if Keith Urban, who has allegedly battled cocaine addiction, uses illegal drugs, his prenup with Nicole Kidman states that he will give up any claim to her fortune.

Lifestyle clauses in some prenuptial agreements provide penalties if a wife gains weight. Or they penalize a husband who watches more than one football game a week.

These clauses lay down the rules for everything from having children to having sex. But, if you’re not rich and famous (or maybe even if you are) should you sign this kind of a “love contract”?

The Pros and Cons of Lifestyle Clauses

As interesting as they may be, most of these lifestyle clauses are probably not enforceable in court.

True, courts have upheld infidelity clauses in prenuptial agreements (i.e. if one party cheats the other party gets a certain amount of money or property). But it’s hard to imagine that any judge really wants to divide marital property, or bar maintenance/alimony based on how often a couple had sex! (… although it would be interesting to see what kind of “proof” that case would involve!)

The bigger question, thous, is if lifestyle clauses aren’t enforceable, why bother having them?

The answer, depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

While lifestyle clauses may not be legally binding, psychologically speaking, they might encourage your spouse to do something that you feel is important.

Certainly, having an honest discussion with your soon-to-be-spouse about money and lifestyle issues BEFORE you’re married is a great idea. Some issues, like infidelity and substance abuse, probably are important enough to include in a prenuptial agreement. But sometimes, too much is too much.

When Do These “Love Contracts” Go Too Far?

If you really have to sign a legal document saying you agree that if you gain 5 pounds your spouse gets $100,000, why are you getting married? I mean, seriously!

Do you want to have to live your life worried about having to pay out large sums of money to your spouse if you do something s/he doesn’t like? Isn’t maintaining a happy, healthy, marriage hard enough as it is?

If you’re about to get married and you’re contemplating a prenuptial agreement, think about why you want it. What do really hope to achieve in the agreement?

If you want to protect your pre-marital assets so that you don’t end up bankrupt if you divorce, that’s one thing. And, if you really want to set out what happens if a few important bridges are crossed (like infidelity), that’s fine. But, if you need to write down a list of everything you want your spouse to do during your marriage, as well as the punishment s/he will suffer for not doing what you want, maybe you ought to re-think getting married in the first place.

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