Trixie and Gbolabo had hurriedly prepared to attend today’s Marriage Seminar as advertised by Marriage Advisers and Counsellors Association Inc, one in a series of many for intending couples. Today’s topic had caught their interest, especially as it is rarely understood or practiced in their environment. PRENUPS or Prenuptial agreements as an option for intending couples. The seminar was meant to enlighten intending couples about prenuptial agreements while highlighting the pros and cons. The Panelists were introduced as follows:

  1. Mrs. Hilda Abdulkareem, a Marriage Counsellor, and the anchor for today’s event. She has been married for 25 years and is a Social Worker with the State government.
  2. Mr. Paulinus Nwaegbo, a practicing lawyer whose firm specialises in Family Law matters.
  3. Ms. Nony Okafor-Badru, a successful Industrialist, and a divorcee.

After the introductions, Nony kicks off the topic by telling her story. “In Africa, prenuptial agreements are rare and yet to gain ground, but I see it as worthy of consideration by intending couples and this is coming from someone who got the short end of the stick when I sued for divorce. If I had a prenup agreement, it would have saved me a lot of heartache. I come from a privileged background with considerable inherited wealth. Naturally, I had been exposed to Investments at an early age, so I came into the marriage with a lot of assets and continued to grow my portfolio of assets in the ten years I remained married. Blinded by love, I converted most of my assets to jointly owned assets with the notion that it would make administration of the assets for the benefit of our children easier, in the unexpected event of the premature death of either parent. Unfortunately, I had not reckoned with my spouse turning out to be an unrepentant drug addict whose drug habit dissipated most of his earnings and I had to maintain the family and sweat the assets to maximise returns. When all efforts to pull Lashe out of his addiction failed, I had no option but to file for divorce which was granted. However, since the assets were jointly owned, they were shared equally, and I really got my fingers burnt. I realised too late that a prenup agreement would have entitled me to the totality of my assets”.

Mrs. AbdulKareem interjects at this point. “Maybe we should backtrack a little and hear from Mr. Nwaegbo . What really is a prenuptial agreement, what are its significant features and what are its pros and cons”?

Mr. Nwaegbo defines a prenup as follows: “A prenuptial agreement is an agreement signed by a couple in which they outline the distribution of their assets in the event of a dissolution of the marriage. It involves full disclosure of all their individual assets and liabilities prior to the marriage and whether assets and liabilities accrued by both parties during the marriage, should be jointly or separately held. It should further state what should happen to jointly held assets including any matrimonial property in the event of the dissolution, Alimony or support, and children from prior marriages. However, key elements to a successful prenup are that it must be fair, without duress and duly signed by both parties. Legal participation is also advised.

It is however important to investigate whether Prenups are recognised or valid in your jurisdiction before embarking on it as not all countries, recognise it. In Nigeria, it is recognised although uncommon. In recent times it is gaining momentum as a fallout of the increased rate of divorce among public figures and celebrities although there are no reported cases yet. In Ghana for instance, it is invalid”.

Mrs. Abdulkareem continues “As spiritual beings we must also consider what our creed feels about it. My position is that Prenups do not fit into the mold of a Christian marriage since the concept of marriage frowns at divorce and prenups are predicated on the assumption of dissolution. Also, it contradicts the selfless love advocated in the bible. Prenups appear to have selfish intent and negate the concept of giving and sharing.

That said though, there are pros and cons to having a prenup agreement in the event of the unexpected – a dissolution of marriage and I use the word dissolution deliberately, as marriages can be terminated by death and even because the marriage was in fact a sham from the get-go. What happens when the marriage was founded on deceit e.g., the man is lawfully married in another town or country before contracting your marriage, or he contracts a subsequent marriage while yours is still subsisting? When the cat is let out of the bag, the logical action is to dissolve such marriage and, in such scenarios, a prenup becomes useful as it makes the separation/distribution of assets and liabilities easier, less traumatic, and less controversial. The most apparent disadvantage is that if not properly broached and executed, it breeds mistrust and can hamper the relationship from the outset. It is therefore advised that if considered as an option, it should be broached early enough in the relationship so that the partner does not feel railroaded or boxed into the arrangement”.

Havilah’s opinion is that prenups cannot be classified as “good” or” bad” but advises that the pragmatic thing is to discuss it as an option and based on the parties’ values and considerations, it can be adopted or discarded.



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