Here Is One Prenup a Catholic Could Make

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All the talk about divorce and prenups on my last post, got me thinking. There is one prenuptial agreement that Catholics can make. Unfortunately, it’s not an option. Yet.

Maybe you’ve heard of it. In certain states a bunch of years back there was a movement to fight no-fault divorce laws. There still is in some places. The concept is that when a couple goes in to get a marriage license they can opt out of no-fault divorce, simply by checking off a box. That agreement would be legally binding.  That would mean that, should the unthinkable happen, there would be no divorce granted without proving a just cause.

That is how it used to be in America. A spouse had to prove cruelty or abuse or some other just cause in order to be granted a divorce. This created a barrier against frivolous divorce suits—which are sadly common today. As Dr. Ray Guarendi told me in a recent interview, “Most marriages fail not because there’s pathology, but because ‘I don’t like you anymore.’”

Most marriages fail because one spouse says 'I don't like you anymore.' Click To Tweet

But ever since 1970, when the divorced and remarried Governor Ronald Reagan signed “no fault divorce” into law in California, divorce has been comparatively easy to get. The reasons given for removing the requirement to prove just cause were that people were perjuring themselves—making things up so as to get a divorce, or that they were risking their reputations by dragging their dirty laundry into the open. What followed was a tide of bleeding families, provoking some citizens and lawmakers to bring back a barrier—at least as an option.

No one wants the option

My husband and I met with our state rep in our home and proposed at least giving the option to a couple to opt out of no-fault divorce themselves. Though our rep was a Catholic—who in fact went to school with my husband—he didn’t see how it could work. The reasons became clear not long after our meeting when he left his own wife.

Not surprisingly, the option failed in other places as well. Too many people have a personal stake in the status quo—the freedom to get an easy divorce.

Still, I know of one place where even the idea of that option did some good. My brother used it to prove a point to the all male students of the high school Theology class he teaches. He asked them what they thought of the option. Would they check off the box? No, they said. It would limit their freedom. That did not surprise me. What surprised me (and him) was that most of them did not think it should even exist!

“Even for other people to use?” he asked. Nope!

It made me wonder how a classroom full of girls would have responded to the same question. Would they be more on the side of freedom or commitment?

A red flag question

As my brother did with his Theology class, I think singles could use the concept to jump start a conversation. Suppose you are dating someone and it is getting serious and you ask, “Would you check off the box saying you opt out of a no-fault divorce? Should the box even exist?”

You can learn a lot about the person you are dating based on their answers. If someone is not willing to limit their freedom to walk out on you at will, as my brother’s students were not, it should raise a red flag. It’s basically saying, I vow to love you until… I don’t anymore.

That’s how too many people in our culture take marriage these days. It’s a contract. If it becomes unsatisfactory, you can break it. That’s why prenups exist. But Matrimony, in the eyes of the Church and in the eyes of God is a covenant. It’s meant to last a lifetime. So how about a prenup that helps you stay together?

What your significant other says about that could make all the difference.

 



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20 Comments

  1. Matthew-1317463 May 16, 2017 Reply

    I think you’re confusing civil marriage and religious marriage. Big difference.

  2. George-1274666 May 15, 2017 Reply

    Susie, I see you as mixing governmental laws and church laws with the outcome being a compromise between the two that might help the current problem with a high percentage of marriages ending in divorce. But the problem is you can’t mix the two systems because their authority comes from different sources. In the past those sources were more closely aligned, but they are not so much so today. The government has no say in sacramental marriage, their no-fault divorce does not affect the Churches designation of marriage at all. In a similar fashion a pre-nuptial agreement or divorce decree are purely governmental and the parts that attempt to override Church law are not recognized as being valid by the Church.

    In a way being a practicing Catholic is like having a “pre-nuptial” agreement, with the agreement being a joint understanding of the indivisibility of marriage. This is why the recent confusion and conflict within the hierarchy of the Church with respect to the indivisibility of marriage is so bad … it jeopodizes all of the existing “pre-nuptials” entered into by practicing Catholics. In the case of a practicing Catholic marrying a non-practicing Catholic or non-Catholic, your concept of pre-nuptial might be a good talking point, but it is much more than a talking point. Complete understanding and agreement on this concept is a non-negotiable requirement for a valid marriage. In the Grounds for Annulment used by the Church, “Cannon 1101 Section 2 Willful exclusion of marital permanence” states it is grounds for annulment if “You or your spouse married intending, either explicitly or implicitly, not to create a permanent relationship, retaining the option to divorce”. No body reads these items related to grounds for annulment until after they get divorced, but it’s probably not a bad idea to include them as part of what is implied and specified by a Catholic marriage in pre-Cana classes. I don’t know what’s in pre-Cana, so maybe they do.

    • Susie Lloyd May 15, 2017 Reply

      Unclear why you think I’m mixing the two forms of governance. That’s your misreading. This is about a largely failed attempt by Christians to influence civil divorce laws. Also, it is about a talking point which could do some good among Catholics. As I mentioned, my brother’s students were all Catholics and they all had the benefit of my brother’s solid Catholic teaching but they still ALL didn’t want the civil option to opt out of no-fault to even exist on paper for the free use of other people. That is how deeply ingrained secular values are in our fellow Catholics. But you are right about how Catholics – as Catholics – don’t need a prenup.

      • Christopher-1441926 May 16, 2017 Reply

        It doesn’t seem like a misreading to me. There is Marriage, the indisoluble sacrament between one man and one woman sanctified by God. Then there is the domestic partnership, or civil “marriage” which is used in the courts mainly for tax, custody, and alimony purposes. A prenuptual agreement is really only part of the latter.

        • Susie Lloyd May 17, 2017 Reply

          Yup. And this article is about making a CIVIL agreement not to utilize no-fault divorce. Catholics are trying to get this option to exist CIVILLY for the benefit of families of any religion or no religion.

  3. Mary-970372 May 15, 2017 Reply

    Unfortunately, the divorce itself means that both parties were probably not committed to the idea of marriage til “death do us part” at the time of the marriage. Therefore there was an impediment to a valid marriage at the time of marriage.

  4. Stephanie-1368834 May 15, 2017 Reply

    +JMJ+
    A prenup, be it secularly defined or as recommended by the author, one that helps you to stay together, already has a negative connotation to it. It presupposes that a divorce and/or an annulment is looming in your marriage sooner or later. I believe in a solidly-based marriage prep program such as Witness to Love (WTL), which thoroughly prepares the engaged couple not only to focus on preparation, but also to embrace marriage as a sacramental covenant, one that bonds the two flesh into one, one that is not meant to be broken. Moreover, the WTL program pairs the engaged couple with a mentor couple to help the engaged walk through the preparation. It not only forges a deeper relationship among one another, but most importantly, it deepens your spiritual life, thus, putting Christ at the center of the marriage, thereby, God-willing, will fortify their faith and love foundation in each other, helping each other and their families to enter Heaven. As such, there is no need to opt out of a no-fault divorce, or better yet; don’t even think about the D word. God bless.

  5. Gregory-1082518 May 14, 2017 Reply

    I would suggest your brother appeal to his students’ sense of masculinity – if you promise before God to do something you do it no matter what! What a sad state of affairs.

    • Susie Lloyd May 15, 2017 Reply

      That is a good idea, Gregory. Maybe he did. I’ll ask him. Here’s a neat story. One of his students – not one of the ones from that particular class, one that was always a really great kid – ran into my brother in the store a few years after graduation and my brother invited him over. Well, he ended up marrying my brother’s daughter and is a wonderful husband, dad, and son in law, from all accounts. Cheers!

  6. Nicholas-1207352 May 14, 2017 Reply

    Thank you Patrick! Anyone can get an annulment. The church “rubber stamps” annulments. What a joke. If someone doesn’t want to be married anymore, why would you want to force that person to stay? So you live with someone that doesn’t want you? The Church would be better to work on marriage preparation, to try to assure the right two people end up together, which is why I financially support the Catholic Match Institute.

    • Gail-1350414 May 14, 2017 Reply

      Not everyone can get an annulment. I know of people on CM who were denied an annulment.

      If someone doesn’t want to be married anymore, he doesn’t have to stay; the couple can separate, which is not the same as a divorce or an annulment. I know of someone who is in this situation, with the separation more or less permanent. Both spouses understand they are still married and not eligible to date others.

      I agree that marriage preparation is extremely important these days. People do not understand what marriage is about.

      • Patrick-341178 May 15, 2017 Reply

        Don’t mention their names of course, but I would actually love to hear a story of someone denied an annulment. I honestly don’t know of anyone who was willing to be patient enough to go through all the hurdles to get one, who eventually wasn’t successful.

        • George-1274666 May 15, 2017 Reply

          It’s not quite a rubber stamp, and is different between diocese because the tribunals (people) responsible for reviewing them differ between diocese. I’ve seen anything from 5 to 10% are denied a verdict of nullity, but that is highly variable over time and with location (no one really keeps total statistics on such things). Also, the amount granted vs. denied will be biased towards granting because people who know they won’t be granted never file. The one who wants to get married just gets married regardless, and the one left in the broken marriage usually doesn’t file because having a cheating or bigamist spouse isn’t itself grounds for an annulment (the cheating intent has to be shown to be there at the time of the first marriage, and this is difficult to do).

          There’s a lot written by the Church concerning the change to the annulment process, North America in particular, which contains a ton of statistics. An online search will find you more than you likely have time to read, and I’ll warn you ahead of time it isn’t uplifting reading and is very much weighted to discussing the Cannon law process side. Also, there are a lot of statistics on marriage and divorce rates in the United States, mostly because they are rapidly changing as fewer people bother to get married. But it is there is anyone wants to read it.

          • Patrick-341178 May 15, 2017 Reply

            5 to 10% isn’t very high but I am surprised that it is actually that high. But, I’d like to see official statistics on that. You make a good point that those who think they wouldn’t be able to get annulment never file one, which could be a factor why the vast majority are granted. Having said that, I imagine most people who are willing to go through the entire annulment process, realize they have to come up with a good reason(s) to get one, whether they are really truly accurate or not, so that’s a problem as well.

  7. Patrick-341178 May 14, 2017 Reply

    I would worry more about how the church grants annulments, i.e. catholic divorces, at will rather than what the state is doing.

    • Nick-1423791 May 14, 2017 Reply

      That’s a great point. It seems that the church grants annulments to legally divorced couples simply to encourage them to come back to church and maybe remarry.

      It’s hard for me to understand how two people can be married in a church, have two kids and be married for a decade but still get an annulment.

      “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”

      • Gail-1350414 May 14, 2017 Reply

        Nick, about your question regarding being married for ten years and then getting an annulment: some people can hide very serious problems during dating and engagement, but the problems will start showing up after marriage. Or a problem that one spouse thought had been fixed (say, alcoholism or drug addiction) reasserts itself after marriage. It sometimes takes years for the problems to surface, but they were latent at the time of the marriage itself. These things can be grounds for an annulment, because such problems are at a very deep level part of the personality of the one you are marrying.

        • Patrick-341178 May 15, 2017 Reply

          So, tell me a story of someone who wasn’t able to get annulment in the church. I know they can be costly and sometimes take awhile, but it seems like just about anyone who really wants one, will be granted one in the church eventually is they are patient enough. The definition of an annulment means it was not a true marriage. That is quite a high bar. What you stated, could be grounds for divorce, but an annulment seems like a stretch. Yet, I realize it is a sensitive issue but my point is more that we as catholics should be more concerned about this, rather than no fault divorce laws.

          • Susie Lloyd May 15, 2017 Reply

            So Patrick, for you own peace, joy, and whatnot, why don’t you just not bother reading my posts? Either you say someone else should have written it or you say I should have written about something else. If I consistently don’t like a certain writer, hey, I move on. Pax tecum.

          • Patrick-341178 May 15, 2017 Reply

            I enjoyed reading this article. I simply stated that in my opinion the annulment issue in the church is a bigger issue than divorce laws. Am I not allowed to state my opinion on this forum?

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