USA Today's Personal Finance section has an article today about the importance of prenups. Reporter Laura Petrecca cites Suze Orman, Elizabeth Gilbert, and matrimonial lawyers in support of the notion that prenuptial agreements protect a person entering a marriage from financial harm.
I can definitely see some instances where a prenuptial agreement makes sense, especially to protect children or other dependents who are not related to the new spouse. A prenup can also protect control of a business a spouse won't be contributing to, especially one closely tied to a person's reputation.
However, all prenups are predicated on a risk of a marital breakup. Most people with assets to protect very likely have a much smaller risk of divorce than the 40-50% across-the-board divorce rate so often cited. And this risk can be reduced even more.
For a lot less money than that prenup lawyer will demand, anyone can significantly reduce the probability of ever needing that agreement. Marriage education is available at every stage of a marriage -- from dating (How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk) through the engagement (PREP) and the wedding (The First Dance).
If problems arise after marriage, this blog has plenty of answers. There is also marriage education for those hit by infidelity (the Beyond Affairs Network), those whose spouse wants out (Divorce Busting®), and those whose marriage has become violent or threatening (Love without Hurt).
Marriages can be fortified before they reach the problem stage. There is marriage education for those who have forgotten to make time to date (10 Great Dates) and those in Empty Nests (Second Half). And there is the annual Smart Marriages Conference, where you can experience these programs and many, many more.
Most of these programs cost a good deal less than an hour of a lawyer's time. Participating sends a much more positive message of commitment than a request for a prenup (which, in itself, can reduce your risk of divorce). And it protects a lot more than assets, as preventing a divorce may also protect health, mental health, job performance, and the children's sense of security.
So here's my challenge to matrimonial lawyers: don't just protect your client after the divorce; protect him or her from divorce. Make a coupon for a local marriage education program part of your prenup package. And suggest the couple include include marriage education every 5 or 10 years right in their agreement.