With the back door open

With the back door open

With the back door open

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ rather messy divorce has been snagging its fair share of the limelight over the last few days and one of the first topics to seize attention in the blogosphere after it was announced was their pre-nuptial agreement.

Questions pertaining to this all-important document are plenty: ranging from the
security of Tom’s financial fortune to the chance that Katie might push for a
sizeable amount of child support.

What did leave a bad taste on the palate, however, was the matter-of-fact manner in which this document was worded — stating a fixed sum allocated to Katie for each year they were married and each child they had.

The trend of the pre-nup, thankfully, isn’t very common in Indian society. It’s largely restrained to the creme-de-la-creme of married couples, who have fortunes sizeable enough to protect.

But even more alarming than the commercial nature of this sort of agreement is the fact that essentially, a couple signing a pre-nuptial agreement is getting married with the notion that their relationship will soon end — a pessimistic view if there ever was one. As Uday Shankar, an advocate, puts it, “Couples who sign pre-nups obviously have decided already that their marriage will soon be on the rocks — it’s more of a commercial contract, than anything else.”

How prevalent, then, is this ‘commercial contract’ in India? Shankar reassures that the trend is still limited — mostly, however, for legal reasons.

“Pre-nuptial agreements are rarely executable in a court of law in India. It’s largely a future contract — for instance, it may make provisions for property which one of the partners buys years after it is signed — and because this can’t be projected accurately, these agreements tend to be vague. In India, issues like separation of assets and alimony are decided by the courts without any fixed formula,” he explains.

Legal issues aside, Arusha Berry, a professional, believes that pre-nuptial agreements are rather reflective of the attitude of a couple.

“It signifies a very commercial attitude — after all, you’re signing a pre-nup to protect your wealth from your partner. I think they’re quite common in the West because divorce rates are high there. Here, however, the trend is still limited — I personally don’t know anyone who has signed a pre-nup,” she says.

Patricia D’Souza, a marriage counsellor, agrees with this view, saying that pre-nuptial agreements do have rather a negative connotation.  “It just means that a person is walking into a marriage keeping the back door open — they might be getting into a relationship, but want to keep their options safe in case it doesn’t work out. I think that really starts off a marriage on the wrong foot. After all, marriage is a commitment, so it doesn’t make sense to look for safety nets or a way to bail out gracefully,” she concludes.

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