Take out some marital insurance
Money can be a cause of comfort or discord in a marriage, depending on how it is handled right from the start of the partnership.
Worldwide, about 50 per cent of divorce cases are attributable to money, and even amongst the marriages that survive, money issues can be the cause of secondary problems such as abuse and neglect.
Often, the problem is not whether there is or their isn’t any money.
Even – and sometimes, especially – when the money is plentiful, there may also be shifts and rifts in the relationship.
Money makes some people change. A person’s true colours are often revealed, and very interesting aspects of an individual’s character are portrayed when vast amounts of money are involved.
Some plot all sorts of evil against their partners in a bid to lay their hands on their money.
Some men have a tendency to run berserk upon realising a windfall.
They buy a collection of cars to fulfill their boyhood dreams and date women whom they thought were previously unattainable to them.
Women too are not spared the temporary insanity that comes with sudden riches.
They may go on spending sprees in countries they previously could never be granted visas to visit.
While there, they might buy clothes from designers whose names they only come across in foreign glossies.
Pre-nuptial agreements remove the money motive from any malicious damage that might otherwise have been committed within the marriage for pecuniary benefits.
In marriage, a couple whose perspective of money is separate from the core of what brought them together will most likely survive the financial storms that are normal in life.
However, if one or both the parties entered into the marriage with financial gain in mind, the going will be rocky in case of any changes, whether for richer or for poorer.
For this reason, many couples are opting to sign pre-nuptial agreements before tying the knot.
Pre-nuptial agreements are not just for Hollywood movie stars and celebrities.
Professional couples who wish to bring up their financial cards before marriage are going for them like never before.
A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract between two persons planning to marry, which governs the financial rights and liabilities of the parties if they should happen to get divorced or in the event one spouse dies.
In a nutshell, the pre-nup agreement determines the rights of the parties to property, responsibility, or debt and may even determine whether spousal maintenance is to be paid.
Contrary to popular belief, a pre-nuptial agreement is not a negative statement of mistrust between an engaged couple where property must be kept away from the other; rather it is a safeguard for both you and your spouse to be.
It protects both your assets and may prevent expensive and acrimonious litigation if a divorce should occur, by clearly outlining and defining the couple’s rights in advance, which both of them have agreed to.
It is a very practical way of dealing with a situation that could get out of hand if not drawn out before marriage, as money has a way of fuelling conflicts.
With such an agreement in place, there will be no shocks and surprises, with one spouse committing all manner of atrocious acts such as lying, stealing, conning, and conniving for the family money.
It places money in its own place, with a well-understood and signed document, before the marital adventure starts.
It makes sense, and helps to avoid soap opera-style dramas among families.
In a real life case scenario, a 35 yr old Nairobi businesswoman known as Wanjiru stood to lose her real estate in a case that had several loopholes.
She was married to a doctor who was 10 years her senior, and who insisted on a pre-nup when they were engaged 15 years ago when she was only 21.
At the time, she did not know what she was signing, because her husband explained to her that it was just a simple document concerning his property, which was to go to her in case of anything.
She was naïve, trusting and penniless, and did not read the document. Besides, she was grateful to be getting married to him anyway.
Wanjiru went on to inherit a small parcel of land from her parents, and started a cake making business from home, which thrived.
At the time, her plot seemed to be of low value and her husband kept urging her to sell it since, he opined, it was located in a crime ridden part of town.
She held unto it, although she almost sold it several times. As the real estate boom gained momentum, the couple decided to develop the plot and build apartments.
They both contributed to this venture. He collected the rent for several years, since they agreed that he should re-invest the rent money.
Wanjiru’s nightmare began when her husband took a mistress. He changed overnight due to her influence, and plotted on how to throw Wanjiru out.
He falsified documents pertaining to the sale of her property, aided by the other woman who had friends in high and low places.
Wanjiru says that she fought tooth and nail to keep her property. At the eleventh hour, she remembered the document she had signed years ago at a certain lawyer’s firm.
The lawyer interpreted to her that she had signed a pre-nuptial agreement unknowingly, which stated that in the event of a fall out, she should not gain anything, and neither should her husband lay claim to anything she owned.
This is how she fought her case and won, despite the fact that her husband had placed a caveat on the property by saying it was he who built it up.
Wanjiru won because the title deed was still in her name, and the pre-nuptial contract supported her.
This is lucky for her, because today, the value of the property has increased a hundred fold.
According to Mr. Alban Nyangweso, a city advocate, it is important to ensure that your pre-nuptial agreement is binding. The following aspects must be included in it:
A full disclosure of the couple’s finances, assets and liabilities, including expected inheritance. It needs regular updating since there is bound to be increases in income and investments with time.
It should describe how the pre-marital debts will be paid, and whether either partner will be liable to pay the other’s debts.
It should fully outline what happens to pre-marital property when changes in value of the property occur such as appreciation, gains, rentals, and share dividends, and the proceeds of such property in the event of divorce or death.
Decide who will own and occupy the marital residence in the event of death or divorce and how proceeds from any other rental properties will be divided in the event of a divorce. This one is highly sensitive and is often at the centre of ugly scenes.
Maintenance or spousal support is a particularly contentious issue. According to the new constitution, a woman is liable to support her ex-spouse if he can prove that she has been providing or earns more than he does.
Once this is proven, she will have to pay him maintenance for the rest of his life. He can claim her house, even if it is in her name, and car if he has had access to and use of them, so that he may continue enjoying the lifestyle he has been accustomed to.
The same applies to women – they can claim maintenance to maintain the same standard of living they had. If, as a family they went on annual holidays to Mauritius, she has every right to insist on this, whether or not she is working.
Pre-nuptial agreements also help to decide what would happen in the event of a divorce with regard to medical care and disability.
The agreement must be made in writing; it should be executed in the presence of two witnesses, and acknowledged by the parties before a commissioner of oaths.
In some cases, a court may invalidate a pre-nuptial agreement. The reasons for this include cases where the full disclosure of what is owned was not made, where a spouse attained injuries from the partner, rendering him/her disabled, or where one partner has contracted a venereal disease from the other resulting in medical expenses and dependence.