I recently heard from one of my very good friends. She called to share her sister’s good news: her sister had just married for the second time. I was very happy for her as the lady had a very sad first marriage. Her first husband died tragically in a plane crash less than three years into her marriage. She is a remarkable woman as she single-handedly brought up their two daughters and also managed to run a very successful business, making her very wealthy indeed. Aged fifty, it was heart-warming to hear that she had finally found happiness with someone.
I brooded on the call for a while, knowing that if I had known that my friend’s sister was planning to get married I would have given her some advice that may have led to problems in her relationship with her fiance. Before you jump to conclusions and accuse me of causing problems where there are none, permit me to comment on the world of pre-nups and second and third marriages in the twenty-first century.
What is a pre-nuptial agreement ( pre-nup)?
The law on legally recognized marriage can be loosely interpreted to mean that both parties will be married to each other to the exclusion of all others till death do them part. The ‘exclusion of all others’ part is still a prayer point in many families but that one is a story for many other days. We also acknowledge that due to a variety of factors, some marriages come to an end and, in many cases, people look to re-marry and give matrimony another try. What then happens to financial and material assets that a person may have acquired before marriage? This is where pre-nuptial agreements come in.
A pre-nup is an agreement made by two people and sets out how their finances will be resolved if they divorce. They allow couples to marry on their own terms – and to feel they’re marrying for love not money. Note that they are legally binding in Nigeria but not legally binding in the UK .However, courts in the UK will take the existence of a pre-nup into consideration when dividing assets after a divorce.
I would have told my friend’s sister to consider signing a pre-nup before she got married, for a number of reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, she is very wealthy. She acquired all her wealth through hard work as a business woman importing foodstuff to the UK and America from Nigeria. She has three houses in Nigeria and one each in the UK and the USA, among other assets. If her new marriage does not work out and she divorces her husband, he will be entitled to half, (yes half!) of everything she owns. If you doubt what I say, check the law. It gets worse….
Secondly, one of the houses was built on land that she bought with her late husband. Traditionally and morally, this house (and all the others) should be her daughters’ inheritance, right? Wrong! As I understand it, the house can also be considered as part of the marriage property so her new husband would be entitled to part of those too in the event of a divorce.
If the marriage lasts for a number of years before ending in divorce, it would be hard to convince the man’s family that the lady owned all the property before the marriage. Our culture encourages the belief that all matrimonial property belongs to the man, not jointly with his wife or even solely by the woman. So, even if the man is humble enough not to contest property with the lady on divorce, his family and friends are unlikely to accept this position and would pressure the man into demanding a court settlement, knowing that he is legally entitled to half of the woman’s assets.
Do I need to get a pre-nup?
Not everyone needs a pre-nup, but some people definitely do.
You may think that you don’t have much money now and you don’t need a pre-nup, but if you are going to inherit money or see yourself making big money before you get married, you have to consider if it wouldn’t be wise to agree a pre-nup with your spouse-to-be, in case of divorce.
I am definitely not advocating divorce. Another good friend of mine argues that I should not encourage people to get pre-nups. She thinks that if you do not trust the person you are going to marry, then you really should not get married to that person. She says that having a ready-made divorce settlement makes it easy to walk away from what should be a lifetime commitment.
While this might be true if it is a first marriage and both parties only have each other to protect, I disagree when it comes to a second marriage. When people enter into second marriages, it is necessary to protect assets, especially when children are involved. You don’t want to marry and lose half of your children’s inheritance to your husband/ wife in the event of a divorce.
I believe that prenuptial negotiations, when needed, will bring out all those latent issues where there is a lot of money involved e.g what to do with inherited money, which house(s) will be sold after the wedding, whose money will be used to start a new business etc. These are the kind of issues that can cause arguments in the future and then lead to the dreaded divorce. Pre-nups can help to build a strong foundation for the relationship – or realise that things aren’t as perfect as they seem before it’s too late. Where one partner is in the relationship solely for the money, they may back out when they realise that the pre-nup will prevent them from making-off with the other’s assets.
Finally, Margaret D’youville says that all the wealth of the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united. I wish the newlyweds all the best.
BTW, still wondering why I didn’t get my IV for the wedding o. Hmmm!!
Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listen to her musings on everything.