Happily married, but conditions apply


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
Happily married, but conditions apply

Draped in a traditional red bridal kanjeevaram, Sangita's forehead showed creases of worry as she slowly approached the mandap. She would have to cut down on her favourite delicacies she once loved. Why? Well, because clause 2 on page 20 of her 55-page prenuptial contract forbids her to gain "extra" kilos beyond a stipulated weight, else she pays a penalty.

A prenuptial agreement is the latest fad that has hit the matrimonial scenario in India in the last decade. For the present age couple, marriage may be on the cards, but conditions apply. A pre-nup is a contract that would-be marrying partners sign into, laying out terms and conditions for distribution of financial assets, property, etc, in the event of a failed marriage or divorce.

Though quite popular in the West, the concept has not really taken off with Indians. Michael Douglas-Catherine Zeta Jones and Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes are among famous international couples that have opted for a pre-nup. As per reports, Catherine is entitled to receive a sum of 5 million dollars on charges of infidelity against Michael Douglas; Katie Holmes, on the other hand claims a whooping 3 million dollars for every year the marriage survives.

Documenting and agreeing upon division of property, child custody, cheating and philandering or negotiating other rights as means of safeguarding individual interests do spare the couple an embittered separation. This memorandum of understanding however, achieves an unreasonable status when clauses on paper cross the lines of prudence and enter the path of absurdity. The intention behind a pre-nup for a secure future post a split doesn't hold up in such circumstances.

One such example of a 'vicious' pre-nup can be found in the peculiar case of Anjali Sharma, a middle-aged businesswoman, who wanted to deny her husband the right to re-marry post divorce, besides asserting her claim over the custody of all pets, among other things. She realises, "It was a manifestation of anger, fear and insecurity, all combined together. Thankfully, it did not materialise."

A pre-nup may become a precursor to a negative married life ridden with lack of trust and one full of suspicion. Dr. Kamal Khurana, relationship expert and marriage counsellor, draws an analogy between a pre-nup and a restaurant menu. He says, "A relationship cannot be ordered for, like food at a restaurant. A pre-nup is precisely like that menu card, a deal you are willing to pay for."

Dictating outlandish terms like ownership of pets, far-out pointers such as barring the in-laws from staying over for more than two weeks or something as obnoxious as paying a fine for gaining weight over the marital years spell an outcome utterly immature and bizarre. Clinical psychologist Dr. Bhavna Barmi explains, "Such obscure demands indicate a complex psyche. Insecurities are high and add to it an inflated ego. Such clauses manifest mistrust," she adds. Dr. Bhavna also makes it clear that the trend of pre-nups is predominant among sections of the upper strata of society, in instances of second or late marriages.

On being asked about the legal implication of such clauses, divorce lawyer and senior advocate Rakesh Taneja says, "Pre-nups that bar the husband from remarrying are a bit far-fetched and cannot be allowed within the jurisdiction codes." Nonetheless, he agrees that since one of the primary causes of dissolution of a marriage is pesky and interfering in-laws, 'lifestyle clauses' that determine the period of their stay is understandable and to some extent applicable. "Couples have forever been apprehensive of their in-laws. Pre-nups address such maladies."

For some, a pre-nup guarantees a hassle-free divorce and for the rest, it is a dangerous proposition that assumes a divorce even before the honeymoon.

Miss India Earth 2011, Hasleen Kaur sums it up well when she says that for a union, which is composed of multiple shades and colours, "it is advisable not to let it be dictated by ink and paper."

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