Are Prenups Pernicious?

W. Bradford Wilcox is against prenuptial agreements:

My research suggests that couples who embrace a generous orientation toward their marriage, as well as those who take a dim view of divorce, are significantly more likely to be happy in their marriages. A National Center for Family and Marriage Research study finds that couples who share joint bank accounts are less likely to get divorced. In fact, married couples who do not pool their income are 145 percent more likely to end up in divorce court, compared to couples who share a bank account.

So, the kind of partners who wish to hold something back from their spouse in a marriage — emotionally, practically and financially — and to look out for No. 1 instead are more likely to end up unhappy and divorced. If that is your aim in marrying, go ahead and get a prenup.

Erik W. Newton, on the other hand, argues that every “married couple has a prenup, whether they want one or not” because the “laws covering marriage and divorce in every state are nothing more and nothing less than premarital agreements”:

For the majority of couples, a state’s default prenup is perfectly sufficient. It has been crafted over hundreds of years both through common law and common sense. That said, a couple can’t know if it works for them unless they take the time to explore the law. We enter into a nuptial contract when we say “I do” but not very many of us know the exact terms of it.

A couple should use the existence of a “state prenup” to discuss finances before getting married. Challenging topics will inevitably arise during a marriage. Many of these topics are addressed in the law, but some might be more delicately handled with a customized prenup.