Delving into the prenuptial-agreement issue a bit deeper - thoughts & advice welcome


#1

I have searched the internet and CAF pretty thoroughly on the topic, and I know the basic answer: for a Catholic marriage, a prenuptial agreement (excluding widows and widowers making a document to protect their children in the event of their own death) is verboten. My questioning has more to do with how we think of it in the light of the fact that in America, despite having contracted a Catholic marriage, any divorce can be done against our will in a civil court. I haven’t seen this exact topic discussed anywhere, and I’m just curious.

I understand why the idea of any kind of prenuptial agreement regarding divorce is a logic fail regarding a Catholic marriage, so I’m not trying to rehash the Cathechistic reasoning. I understand that when we marry in the Catholic Church, we give ourselves over completely - lock, stock, and barrel. The Catholic Church does not believe in no-fault divorce; the Catholic Church does not believe that someone can be divorced against his or her will, and won’t grant that kind of verdict. Amen to that. Would that when Catholics attempted to end their marriages, it was a matter only for Catholic tribunals.

But it’s not. It’s a matter for U.S. courts who famously do not recognize the form of Catholic marriage, and this is the sort of sticky reasoning I’m curious about.

Let’s say that I’m a Catholic woman with many assets of her own acquired before marriage, committed to my marriage, and my husband one day walks out of the house and proceeds to divorce me in civil court. Well, in civil court he can do that and there’s nothing I can do to stop him, but to me - as a Catholic woman - I will consider myself married for the rest of my life. (Church and state are separate, as we all know. The Catholic Church, of course, is happy - especially when it comes to marriage - to make that distinction.) Even though I consider myself spiritually married, there would be no material support for me any longer. I might consider myself a wife, but that wouldn’t mean that the law would consider me a wife, and thus my husband could take a great deal of my money and leave me very badly off. I could believe that I deserve to not be abandoned in this manner - physically and financially - and the Church would of course believe as much as well, but that wouldn’t translate into anything enforceable in the U.S.

The Catholic Church, I know, does not approve of prenuptial agreements because they presuppose divorce, and there is no divorce in the Catholic Church. But this ignores the fact that there is also a civil agreement being entered into which operates with different rules.

My question, I guess, is why it’s spiritually wrong to create a document that deals purely with the civil contract that’s also being entered. There is no way not to enter that civil contract, even if you think it’s wrong - the Church in fact requires it for all marriages. I mean, if I’m getting married, it means I’m entering into two contracts: one Catholic, one civil, despite not agreeing entirely with the terms of the civil marriage - the prenup would be my way of altering that civil contract. Why would it affect my spiritual state if it’s so contractually separate?

By the way, would there be an ethical way to make a prenup, e.g. it could state that if a Catholic tribunal annulled the marriage or approved separation, then this hypothetical wife’s assets could be distributed, but if the husband in this case just walked out the door and pursued a civil divorce, then the prenuptial agreement would stand and the wife would keep her assets, as it would be under the aegis of civil courts?

(I’m not trying to pick a bone with the Catholic Church, which I love, and have chosen to obey fully! Please understand this. I am just genuinely very, very curious.)


#2

Interesting. I have never considered the CC's stand on prenups, because in Australia they are not valid anyway (as far as I know). So I did a quick search, and it seems the CC doesn't approve of them, except in circumstances where the prenuptial agreement is designed to protect a third party, such as children of a previous marriage or elderly parents.

This makes sense to me. If you decide to marry, you are joining yourself to your new spouse, as one person. If, God forbid, a divorce happens that you didn't want, there is definitely a possibility that you will have to share the marital possessions in whatever way the court decides, and therefore not equal to what each person brought to the marriage. What went before the marriage is past history, before you united yourself with another person, so if you brought considerable wealth in, while your spouse didn't, that is irrelevant at the time of the breakup.

None of this takes into account the fairness of a court's decision, but that's above my head. I think it just highlights the gravity of the decision to marry. You really should not take it lightly.

My two cents.


#3

The sacramental union of marriage is bound by God. Anyone entering this union with even the slightest notion of it not being bound by God is not ready for the sacrament.

As with the Eucharist, if one doubts the True Presence within the host, then he/she should not present himself/herself to receive it.

If someone carries out the act of creating a prenuptial agreement, they are certainly showing a degree of doubt of the marriage’s viability. Hence, they should not get married.


#4

I don't know - my annulment grounds are fraud and deceit. I got taken for about half a million dollars. Would it have changed my comittment to my marriage had I signed a prenup - absolutely not. Would he have had his committment changed - he wouldn't have married me. Hind sight is 20/20. So yes I can see both sides of this - one that signing the thing if there had been would not have made a difference for me - it would have been a non-entity for someone who is able to form consent. However, for someone that is not able to fathom permanence signing one can change everything. I guess the question becomes if this has an effect are you ready to be married? These are my two cents.


#5

And all that being said - just for when and if I am ever able to date again - on what date is it appropriate to ask a man to undergo a psych exam - serious question - ooohhh I feel a new thread coming on???? :p;)


#6

The problem arises when one party later decides that the grass is greener elsewhere. It happens every day. 50% of the time.

When DH and I married, it was forever, and we had great dreams that we wanted to pursue together. 20 years later, he was a chronic alcoholic who no longer made sense and was emotionally abusive to me and our children. 20 years ago, I had no doubts in our marriage’s viability. Countless bottles of booze changed things.

So it is not always so simple. prstoessel.


#7

[quote="Catholic90, post:6, topic:234064"]
The problem arises when one party later decides that the grass is greener elsewhere. It happens every day. 50% of the time.

When DH and I married, it was forever, and we had great dreams that we wanted to pursue together. 20 years later, he was a chronic alcoholic who no longer made sense and was emotionally abusive to me and our children. 20 years ago, I had no doubts in our marriage's viability. Countless bottles of booze changed things.

So it is not always so simple. prstoessel.

[/quote]

Paragraph 2 does not correspond with paragraph 1. paragraph 2 is an acceptable reason for divorce - paragraph 1 is not.


#8

[quote="BrickRoux, post:1, topic:234064"]

The Catholic Church, I know, does not approve of prenuptial agreements because they presuppose divorce, and there is no divorce in the Catholic Church. But this ignores the fact that there is also a civil agreement being entered into which operates with different rules.

[/quote]

The Catholic Church forbids a prenup that presupposes divorce. But not every prenup presupposes divorce. A prenup can name certain items the property of one person, and both parties agree that said item remains the property of that one person and agrees that that said item does not become marital property.

For example, a prenup might state something like, "the monies in account number 12345 is the sole property of wife, or wife's children, or wife's parents, and remains the sole property of wife (or another) and does not become shared marital assets".. or "the property at this address is the sole property of this person, remains the sole property of this person, and does not become a shared marital asset"... This would be acceptable.

You just can't put conditions on the marriage in order to be compliant with Church rules. So, for example, you couldn't say something like, "....in the case of divorce, this will happen".

[quote="BrickRoux, post:1, topic:234064"]

My question, I guess, is why it's spiritually wrong to create a document that deals purely with the civil contract that's also being entered. There is no way not to enter that civil contract, even if you think it's wrong - the Church in fact requires it for all marriages. I mean, if I'm getting married, it means I'm entering into two contracts: one Catholic, one civil, despite not agreeing entirely with the terms of the civil marriage - the prenup would be my way of altering that civil contract. Why would it affect my spiritual state if it's so contractually separate?

[/quote]

It's the way it is worded that makes it acceptable for forbidden. If your prenup states that something is to be done with a certain asset 'in the event of a separation, or divorce, or annullment", then you're putting conditions on the marriage. The Church doesn't allow putting conditions on the marriage, which one would be doing if they stated something like, "in case of a divorce, assets would be divided as follows:....". But prenups don't have to be written that way. You can always name a certain asset the sole ownership of one party, and never to be shared marital assets. This has nothing to do with the Sacrament of marriage, and has nothing to do with the future status of the marriage. In this case, if there was a civil divorce, that item was never a shared marital asset and was always the property of the original owner -- so it doesn't matter what the state of the marriage is.

You can also protect certain assets by putting them in a trust, and the trust can stipulate that such item or items are the sole property of those named in the trust, and not to be included in any shared marital assets. This has nothing to do with the marriage and everything to do with the owner of an asset.

[quote="BrickRoux, post:1, topic:234064"]

By the way, would there be an ethical way to make a prenup, e.g. it could state that if a Catholic tribunal annulled the marriage or approved separation, then this hypothetical wife's assets could be distributed, but if the husband in this case just walked out the door and pursued a civil divorce, then the prenuptial agreement would stand and the wife would keep her assets, as it would be under the aegis of civil courts?

[/quote]

No, you couldn't word it that way because you're putting conditions on the marriage. But you can name assets and claim their owners in a prenup, and those assets wouldn't become common property, and if it's not common property, the condition of the marriage doesn't matter.


#9

[quote="joanofarc2008, post:7, topic:234064"]
Paragraph 2 does not correspond with paragraph 1. paragraph 2 is an acceptable reason for divorce - paragraph 1 is not.

[/quote]

Of course. Never said they had to.:confused:

What I was trying to state is that sometimes parties DO go into marriage fully intending it to last forever, but due to circumstances, such as alcohol, divorce happens. In that case, assets should be protected.

In my case, death happened, so I never had to deal with the divorce part, which probably would have happened, had death not occurred first. A drunk DH had threatened to spend everything we had so I would get nothing. He was no longer working due to being drunk (could not hold a job).


#10

[quote="Catholic90, post:9, topic:234064"]
Of course. Never said they had to.:confused:

What I was trying to state is that sometimes parties DO go into marriage fully intending it to last forever, but due to circumstances, such as alcohol, divorce happens. In that case, assets should be protected.

In my case, death happened, so I never had to deal with the divorce part, which probably would have happened, had death not occurred first. A drunk DH had threatened to spend everything we had so I would get nothing. He was no longer working due to being drunk (could not hold a job).

[/quote]

I am sorry for your loss and I hope that your family is able to heal. I know it was probably headed to divorce but either way it still would have been a loss.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is With Thee
Blessed are You Amongst Women,
Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God.
Pray for us Sinners,
Now and at the Hour of Our Death.
Amen


#11

[quote="Rence, post:8, topic:234064"]
The Catholic Church forbids a prenup that presupposes divorce. But not every prenup presupposes divorce. A prenup can name certain items the property of one person, and both parties agree that said item remains the property of that one person and agrees that that said item does not become marital property.

For example, a prenup might state something like, "the monies in account number 12345 is the sole property of wife, or wife's children, or wife's parents, and remains the sole property of wife (or another) and does not become shared marital assets".. or "the property at this address is the sole property of this person, remains the sole property of this person, and does not become a shared marital asset"... This would be acceptable.

You just can't put conditions on the marriage in order to be compliant with Church rules. So, for example, you couldn't say something like, "....in the case of divorce, this will happen".

It's the way it is worded that makes it acceptable for forbidden. If your prenup states that something is to be done with a certain asset 'in the event of a separation, or divorce, or annullment", then you're putting conditions on the marriage. The Church doesn't allow putting conditions on the marriage, which one would be doing if they stated something like, "in case of a divorce, assets would be divided as follows:....". But prenups don't have to be written that way. You can always name a certain asset the sole ownership of one party, and never to be shared marital assets. This has nothing to do with the Sacrament of marriage, and has nothing to do with the future status of the marriage. In this case, if there was a civil divorce, that item was never a shared marital asset and was always the property of the original owner -- so it doesn't matter what the state of the marriage is.

You can also protect certain assets by putting them in a trust, and the trust can stipulate that such item or items are the sole property of those named in the trust, and not to be included in any shared marital assets. This has nothing to do with the marriage and everything to do with the owner of an asset.

No, you couldn't word it that way because you're putting conditions on the marriage. But you can name assets and claim their owners in a prenup, and those assets wouldn't become common property, and if it's not common property, the condition of the marriage doesn't matter.

[/quote]

I think this is a good solution.


#12

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