American couples who have wearied of constant wrangling over who has to take out the trash, feed the fish, fetch the mail, or clean mashed-up lima beans out of the kitchen sink again even though there's never been a garbage disposal, are seeking succor in postnuptial agreements, once again proving Alexis de Tocqueville right about democracies being full of unreasonably litigious people.
The postnup, writes the Daily Beast's Jacoba Urist, is starting to gain the popularity that its antecedent cousin the prenup had 20 years ago. According to a 2007 study on postnups by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, half of lawyers polled reported an upswing in clients requesting a postnup. Since, then AAML President Ken Altshuler says that his own casual polling has revealed a steady increase in the drafting of postnup agreements across all age groups.
The postnup can help referee seemingly petty disagreements about household chores, as well as some more serious disagreements concerning spousal misbehavior, such as a man whose wife made him sign a postnup after his third DUI. Lifestyle provisions — who has to do what menial domestic task to keep the marital life raft from being overwhelmed by tiger sharks — still only account for a minority of postnup agreements according to D.C. divorce attorney Sanford Ain, but Ain notes that the recession has prompted some couples to draft postnups in an effort to shore up their dwindling finances. Nothing says, "We're going to weather this economic downturn together, darling" like a frantic partitioning of assets.
Postnups, however, aren't always effective, as in the reported postnup signed by Heidi Klum and Seal that prevent the singer (who has an estimated net worth of $15 million) from leeching any of Klum's $70 million fortune. California divorce laws being notoriously malleable, Seal's lawyer made quick work of the postnup, arguing that Seal had a right to Klum's earnings over the course of the couple's marriage.
Paula Szuchman, co-author of It's Not You, It's the Dishes, — a book, I assume, for dish-washing enthusiasts and their notorious fear of commitment — contends that postnups are a way to arrange for an enforceable code of behavior in the wake of altered circumstances, such as if one spouse suddenly realizes that an obscure relative left him or her a pile of Martian gold. Or something. In cases like these, it's good to call in the attorney because what else are overwrought, contentious couples going to do with all the extra money they're worried about sharing with each other if not spend it on attorney's fees?
Postnups Becoming More Popular, but They're Not for Everyone [The Daily Beast]
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