Today Doree Lewak takes on prenups in the New York Post, and they are crazy! It says it right there in the article headline, "New York's craziest prenups." So it's gotta be good. What are they? How nuts, exactly? And what does it mean?
Lewak talks to a few New York City lawyers to determine the weird stipulations and qualifications people insist on their partners agreeing to before they walk down the aisle. From "celebrity-divorce lawyer" Nancy Chemtob, we learn that one bride asked to be compensated for sex in her prenup, though, perhaps fortunately for practical and also other reasons, that item did not make it into the final. Other kooky requests Chemtob revealed to Leewak: "'No piano playing while the husband is home,' 'Wife not allowed to cut her hair' and 'If the wife were to get pregnant, she’d have to have an abortion. He was in his 40s but didn’t want to have more kids.'"
Some of those, however awful, sound like simply agreements, like the relationship contracts we spoke of a while back, to govern the duration of the marriage; others are to allow for some restitution should things go badly, i.e., actual divorce. Rosie O'Donnell's recent marriage was reportedly preceded by an "extreme prenup" that required extensive negotiation and had a clause that if Michelle Rounds, O'Donnell's wife, were to cheat, she'd be awarded nothing in a divorce. Non-celebrities are incorporating that sort of clause as well, often following bad experiences that came before, like having been cheated on. One freelance writer stipulated that she'd get more money in a divorce if he cheated. Then there are the kind of icky pregnancy payments—from one: “If I become pregnant, husband agrees to pay wife $50,000 for carrying each child.” And the rudeness payments: "If husband is rude or cruel to wife’s parents, husband agrees to pay $10,000 for each infraction.” Or the lifestyle things: Smoke-free households, banned TV sets, " the arrangement to go to the Rice Diet Program facility every year." How dreadful.
Sort of worrisomely, another celebrity marriage lawyer told Leewak he'd seen these "lifestyle clause" contract requests double in the last five years, and it's not just the wealthy or celebs who get them. That we're acknowledging this as a trend spiraling into "normal people" marriages seems a bit disheartening about relationships en toto. Sure, it's great to plan ahead and talk about what you want and don't want, and to go into a relationship (and especially marriage) with awareness and full disclosures and such. But are we really so battle-scarred and terrified that we won't marry without written protections that include not only defense of ourselves but offensive strategies and punishments to the other party, a party presumably loved? Perhaps the only defense for an extreme prenup is that we've gotten kind of loopy as well.
And so go the requirements. For example, "the skinny clause": If a wife or husband gets too fat, some terms require him or her to pay the other an amount of money, or to forfeit an allowance. Other requirements might be a certain number of home-cooked meals per week. No wearing of a certain color. Not speaking to former friends or flames. Not being able to look at a person of the opposite sex. Or, a woman demanding her husband be home at a certain time each night. It's policed fidelity for a payout: "Other women love it because they get shopping money when the husband cheats," says Patti Stanger of, yes, Millionaire Matchmaker. Cash rewards for a outside-of-marriage dalliance, isn't that a treat!
Maybe we can blame that plot involving Charlotte, her mother in law, and Trey in Sex and the City for putting this in the minds and hearts of normal people, but we all know how that went, right? (Answer: They divorced.) It's hard to imagine that any divorce is made significantly more favorable via a lump sum of money when, say, cheating is proven. Could it be easier, when getting hitched, to simply communicate about what you want and don't want, and if you're going to insist on ridiculous, hyper-demanding, or paranoid things, maybe spend some time working on you before you walk down the aisle? If you're so afraid old so-and-so is going to cheat, maybe he or she is not the right person to marry?
Naw, that's crazy talk.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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