By Keshet Starr
Another Tisha B’Av has come and gone, and we are now back in the busiest time of the year: wedding season. As you dust off your black dresses and block out your Sundays, I want to talk about one important item on any wedding to-do list: Signing a Halachic Prenuptial Agreement.
Let’s be honest: does reading that sentence make you cringe? In my work at the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), I’ve met with dozens of couples signing the Prenup in our office, answered countless questions about the Prenup, and even conducted three-way phone calls between engaged couples who vehemently disagree on what to do (awkward). So you could say I’ve heard a lot about this topic.
If you, or someone you love, is getting married this summer and has an “ick” feeling about signing the Prenup, this is for you. Here are some of the strongest concerns people have regarding the Prenup, and the truth behind them.
#1: It’s Not Romantic!
One of the primary anxieties people have about signing the Prenup is that it’s so unromantic. “This is the time to be in love and focus on building a life together!” couples argue, “Why are you making us talk about our worst nightmare: a divorce?”
Before I answer this one, let me give you a little bit of background. When my husband and I got married back in ‘08, the Prenup wasn’t really a “thing: ”in fact, even though I dealt with Jewish divorce issues at the time, I hadn’t even heard of it. We married with no Prenup in sight. A few years ago, my husband and I decided to sign a Postnup. Now at this point, we had already been married for a while. I knew that my husband was a good guy, the kind who would wake up in the middle of the night with our babies and bring home my favorite chocolate when I had a hard week. And he knew that I was a reasonably nice and normal person (or at least, I like to think so). The element of the unknown inherent in any engagement wasn’t there for us; we knew who we were married to. So why sign the Prenup?
It came down to two reasons. First, I believed in the Prenup and what it could do for the Jewish community, and I wanted to have a personal part in that. But secondly, I found the Prenup to be oddly romantic in its own way. By signing a Prenup, you’re showing your partner that you want to be there for them and protect them no matter what, even if the worst happens, and even if the person you have to protect them from is your very own self. It’s an expression of truly unconditional love. And take it from this old married lady: It doesn’t get much better than that (well, other than getting up with babies in the middle of the night, of course.)
#2: It’s for Couples at-Risk
Beyond worrying about romance, couples sometimes worry that signing the Prenup will reflect badly on their relationship. But the truth is that the vast majority of couples who come into the ORA office to sign their Prenups are healthy, happy and in love. They’re not signing the Prenup because they expect to have to use it, but for the same reasons I did, to strengthen the Jewish community and express their care for each other. Deciding to sign a Prenup is actually an expression of relationship security, rather than insecurity. It is these couples who feel secure enough to help make the Prenup a community standard that will ultimately protect the couples at risk of abuse and get refusal. In fact, in a recent study by Chana Maybruch, Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, and Steven Pirutinsky, the authors found that couples who had signed a Halachic Prenuptial Agreement ended up with a higher level of marital satisfaction, not lower. Yes, discussing the Prenup can sometimes lead to difficult conversations, but being able to work through opposing viewpoints is critical to a healthy marriage–so you may as well start now!
#3: It will Involve the Beit Din in my Divorce
Worried that signing the Prenup will now put the beit din in charge of all the nitty-gritty details if you end up, G-d forbid, divorcing? Don’t be. The basic text of the Prenup simply gives the beit din jurisdiction to address the halachic end-of-marriage issues, most notably the get. The Prenup also contains optional sections which, if signed, give the beit din jurisdiction to determine issues related to finances and parenting. Don’t want that? Don’t sign those sections. It’s that easy.
#4: Is it Really a Frum Thing to do?
Signing the Prenup is truly an expression of investment in the Jewish community, and expresses our core values as Jewish people. Countless rabbinic leaders have endorsed the Prenup and advocated for its widespread use. In fact, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) now requires its member rabbis to only officiate at weddings where a Prenup is signed. For a list of some specific rabbis who endorse the Prenup, check out ORA’s website here.
#5: It’s a Pain in the Neck!
Finally, sometimes the biggest barrier to signing the Prenup is just the work involved, especially in such a busy time in your life. I get it, wedding preparations leave you crazy busy. But signing a Prenup takes 15 minutes of your time, is quick and easy, and impacts the Jewish community forever. I promise, you’ll spend more time choosing your appetizers–and you won’t even eat them.
So now that we’ve talked about some of the most common questions we get about Prenups, add one more item to your wedding checklist and make sure to sign a Halachic Prenup–not for you, but for the entire Jewish community.