I remember meeting, on several occasions, with the rabbi who was going to perform our wedding ceremony. My future husband and I were surprised when he told us we needed to sign a Jewish prenuptial agreement. He asked us to determine an amount of money that my future husband would pay me, on a daily basis, in the event he refused to give me a get (a Jewish divorce). Our rabbi suggested a large sum, and my husband and I laughed as I told him to triple it! Divorce was the furthest thing from our minds, and I knew that my husband was not the type who would refuse to give me a get. Since both of us knew this was never a document we would be using, my husband readily agreed to triple the amount and we signed it.
Looking back, our rabbi was really on to something. What better time to get a future spouse to agree to something then when he or she is happy and excited about the marriage, and divorce is far from anyone’s mind? And while every other week the magazine covers in the supermarket checkout line talk about one celebrity or another signing or not signing a pre-nup, most people have not heard of, or considered, a post-nuptial agreement.
Let me be clear: I do not believe everyone needs a post-nuptial agreement, which is a contract between spouses outlining what will happen financially, or otherwise, in the event the marriage breaks down. However, if you have given up your career (or taken a very long hiatus) to raise children and manage the household, I am suggesting that you at least use this article as food for thought.
Stay-at-home-parents (SAHPs) typically prioritize themselves last. I frequently hear about how they have given up their own careers (and to some extent, lives) for the benefit of their families. Of course, with an intact (and presumably fulfilling, loving, and happy) marriage, what’s the problem? The SAHP’s financial needs are being met, and he or she is able to fully commit to the children and to providing a wonderful home for the entire family, spouse included. If this is your current situation, I hope it lasts for as long as you want it to!
But, I’m a divorce lawyer and coach. I know the prevalence of divorce. I know how much, or how little, soon-to-be ex-spouses want to pay each other. Let’s just say that it is far, far, far less than the triple I got my husband to agree to pay when we met with our rabbi before the wedding.
If you’ve traded networking for nap schedules and boardrooms for baby food, have you considered the difficulty you may have trying to re-enter the workforce in the event of a divorce? How are you going to be able to provide for yourself in the event of a divorce if your judge, likely a working parent as well, is unsympathetic and awards you little or no spousal maintenance (a.k.a. alimony)? Additionally, if you are looking to interview and get back into the work force, don’t discount that a potential employer (or if you are hired, a new employer) may be able to see that you are unfocused as you deal with the financial strain and emotional difficulties inherent with the dissolution of a marriage and for many, the experience of not seeing your children every day.
Of course money does not fix everything – but the reality is that it can certainly help ease some burdens a newly divorced and former SAHP may be facing. A post-nuptial agreement could provide for spousal maintenance for a period of time that it might take to emotionally recover from a divorce and/or get you back on your professional feet. There are no unions or collective bargaining power for SAHPs. Simply stated, you need to be your own advocate.
Just like my rabbi caught us at the time my husband was apt to be his most generous toward me, if you are a stay-at-home parent, consider having a conversation with your own spouse, while you are happily married, about how to ensure your financial safety in the event of a divorce.
Jennifer K. Mittelman is a coach and attorney who helps people navigate major life transitions. Visit her coaching website at www.yourbrickroad.com.