Learn To Love The Prenup


Signing on this dotted line could safeguard your financial future.

In the famous Marla Maples–Donald Trump case, the young and, some would say, naive girl from Georgia ended up with a smidgeon of the tycoon's wealth because the prenup required four years of marriage before she became a full partner, and she got caught messing around with her bodyguard a few weeks shy of the mark.

Equally appalling stories come from the monied and celebrated who don't have prenups. Director Steven Spielberg had only a paper napkin containing a sketched-out prenup; it didn't hold up in court because Amy Irving had no lawyer present when she signed it. Spielberg ended up paying his ex-wife what was at that time a record $100 million. "People, at the start of a marriage, really think Cinderella, and are caught off balance," Janis Altman says of the dreamy optimism that's the hallmark of so many unions.

It doesn't help the prenup's rap that some couples have wrapped bizarre clauses around issues that would be better suited to a therapy session. Nachshin, who's drawn up thousands of agreements in celebrity-rich southern California, has seen it all: substance abuse, gambling addiction, whether the toilet seat is left up or down, how much football is watched on Sundays.

One couple spelled out provisions for dividing their Lenox china set; another dealt with adultery by giving all frequent-flier miles to the injured spouse. In his 28 years of working with the rich and famous, Nachshin has heard of agreements that pay a wife $100,000 for each child carried, or fine a husband $100,000 for each instance of being "rude or cruel" to the wife's parents or late to events.

Some prenups even tackle weight gain, with financial penalties if a certain notch on the scale gets crossed. As he and Weston write in their book: "Putting a prenuptial agreement together can be as eclectic as decorating your house… You can practically make up your own rules." Advice: I Want A Prenup, He Doesn't

True enough, I'm thinking, but you can also paint your house the color of guacamole, can't you? And since when does any grown-up get married hoping the other person will change? Altman agrees that an attempt at behavior modification, via a contract, probably isn't the right spirit to bring to the table, let alone the relationship.