Last week, it was reported that India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development plans to bring into the legal system what was till now a western concept –– the prenuptial agreement. Prenups, incidentally, is not an unheard-of term in India. Media outlets often write about Hollywood couples opting for such agreements. There have been the odd cases of couples in India going in for those deals as well.
"A couple that I know had some issue with their families, and they felt there could be trouble in their marriage later because of it. So, they made an affidavit, and laid out guidelines in case they had disagreements or went in for a divorce. Fortunately, they are still married," says Manasi Karia, a divorce lawyer.
However, till now, Indian law never recognised these pacts, rendering them useless. This meant that though one could opt for them, they could not be legally enforced.
Another reason why the lawful introduction of this agreement seems timely is the spike in the number of divorce cases in the country. A report published in Hindustan Times earlier this year detailed the rise in the number of divorces in India, especially in big cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. It said that while 10 years ago the divorce rate was one in a 1,000, it now stands at 13 in 1,000.
Since getting a divorce can be an expensive and drawn-out affair that could easily turn bitter, some experts feel that having the option of a prenup could ease the potential pain for both parties. "A law on prenups in India could help couples have an open discussion while sitting across the table, where both partners are fair, open and genuine in their approach," says Mary Jose Varghese, a relationship expert.
But will having a legal prenup help? Karia says, "About 70% to 80% of people in divorce cases fight over distribution of property. And this fight only prolongs the court case, dragging it to up to six years in some cases. I always advise my clients to first mutually decide on what they want, come to a conclusion, and then go to the court instead of fighting long battles. So, if a prenup can reduce litigation or save relationships, it is advisable to have it in law. "
Shubham Prakash (name changed), 30, would probably agree. He married Preeti Gupta (name changed), 27, after dating her for six months. They both work in the financial sector. Almost immediately after their wedding, Shubham took a loan to buy an apartment that cost him `1 crore. But, within days, cracks developed in their marriage, and they filed for divorce three months later. As alimony, Preeti demanded the flat be given to her, and Shubham agreed to it. Soon after, Shubham started consulting relationship counsellor Riddhish K Maru. "He gave his house to Preeti because he didn’t want to go through a lengthy court battle. He agreed to Preeti’s demands so that the divorce proceedings end faster. A prenup would have surely helped him," says Maru. Shubham is still paying the monthly instalments on his loan as of now.
Whether or not a lawful prenup will really help couples, once, and if, it comes into force, is something only time will tell. Till then, we can continue reading about prenups signed by Hollywood’s elite.
What is a prenup?
A prenuptial agreement, or a prenup as it is popularly called, is essentially a contract that is made before marriage by a couple. The terms of the agreement usually mandate the division of property in case there is a divorce. The agreement may contain various other clauses, like forcing a cheating partner to pay the victim or the custody of children post a divorce.
1. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine gets $2.8 million for every year of their marriage if the couple gets divorced. She gets an extra $5 million if Michael cheats on her.
2. Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West
If they divorce, Kim will get $1 million for every year of their marriage. She will also get their Bel Air mansion (LA) and all the jewellery that Kanye bought for her when they were married. She is also the beneficiary of Kanye’s $20 million life-insurance policy.
3. Beyoncé and Jay Z
Beyoncé’s prenup says that she will get $5 million for every child she bears. If they divorce, she gets $1 million for every year of marriage.
4. Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake
Jessica has had an infidelity clause included in her prenup because of Justin’s "philandering reputation". So, whoever cheats in their marriage has to pay the other partner $5,00,000.
5. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban
If the couple divorces, Keith gets $4,60,000 for every year of their marriage, but on the condition that he doesn’t use drugs again. Keith is a former addict.