The Pre-Nup that can end a happy marriage

by Michelle McDermott on October 21, 2014

Michelle McDermott

An article recently appeared in the BBC News Magazine which picqued my curiosity with the title "The pre-nuptial agreement that can end a happy marriage".  Now, in my experience in both Australian and in the UK, the drafting of a Financial Agreement prior to commencing either a de facto relationship or entering into marriage can certainly be a confronting exercise for the parties as they talk about what they want to happen in the event that their relationship or marriage fails – particularly at a time when they are 'loved up', so to speak. I have even had one couple decide that they no longer wished to pursue their intended coupledom as a result of the negotiations for such an agreement – I promise you, it wasn't my fault!

The article explained that in the Arab world, when a man gets married, he makes a payment to his bride's family. However, in parts of Yemen, when a brother and sister from one family marry a brother and sister from another, dowries are often not paid. I read, in wonder, that an ancient marriage custom called "shegar" or a 'swap marriage' is still practised in Yemen where a young man approaches a friend to ask for his sister's hand in marriage in exchange for his own sister's hand. The 'swap marriage' helps poorer families avoid paying dowries, which can amount to about $3,500, even though most people earn less than $2 a day.

The way it works is "I'll marry your sister, if you marry mine". However, and here's the catch, the other side of the bargain is "If you divorce my sister, I'll divorce yours". So a couple forced first to love can sometimes then be forced to divorce. It then gets even worse as the sister who may have the happy marriage, then has any children taken away from her and given to the brother of the sister whose marriage has broken down. Its a real 'tit for tat' response and, for mine, completely bizarre! Maybe I shouldn't be surprised in circumstances where more than a quarter of females in Yemen are married off before the age of 15.

Back home here in Australia, (where I am very happy to live) if you are considering entering into a Financial Agreement, please do not hesitate to contact one of our helpful Family Law team who will be more than happy to assist.

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