Can Catholics Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

High Swartz LLP

A prenuptial agreement is commonly viewed as planning for divorce before a marriage even begins in the Catholic Church.

The mere mention of the word “prenup” can incite a gasp and an inquisitive raise of the eyebrow. But prenuptial agreements are not necessarily executed with an eye to an exit plan, but rather a marriage based on communication about finances to avoid problems. Talking with a family law attorney about your plan is the first step anyone interested in a prenup, Catholic or not, should consider.

It is widely known that arguments about money are common in marriages. When couples meet at the end of the aisle they each may have brought with them varying levels of debt and financial responsibilities. Once those bank accounts combine, how much each spouse brings in and how much they spend, and what they spend it on, may become excruciatingly clear. Couples who don’t understand each other’s fiscal personality and haven’t discussed how to divvy up debts, bills and spending money are in for some tough conversations.

There is nothing wrong with couples discussing and documenting their financial plans. In fact, it would be foolish not to discuss it; entering the marriage with a clear understanding of each other’s financial goals, and of any bad habits, prevents surprises and possible disappointment down the road. 

When you consider parties who may raise an eyebrow at a prenup, the Catholic Church naturally comes to mind as they remain honorably committed to the union of marriage. However, the Church also recognizes the importance of smart marriage preparation, and it is possible – and may be wise – for Catholic couples to have a Catholic Prenup drafted by a family law attorney.

So, can Catholics get a prenuptial agreement?

Where Pre-Cana classes can start the conversation around financial planning, a prenuptial agreement can document the decisions made without creating an expectation of divorce. The astute family attorney can assess couples’ unique needs and concerns, including those that are religious, and take the right measures in creating pre-marital agreements. The agreements will be drafted without mentioning “divorce”, and not subject to disapproval by the Church.

This “Catholic Prenup” memorializes in writing a couple’s financial plans, addressing their liabilities and assets as they embark on their marriage commitment. A lack of communication can lead to heartache and too often a ruined marriage. Preemptive measures like Pre-Cana classes, other counseling methods, and supporting documentation such as prenuptial agreements can help to strengthen unions, rather than set them up to fail.

What financial matters should be addressed before marriage?

As family law attorneys we get asked this question a lot. Here’s a quick rundown, but these are anything but quick fixes. These are not fool-proof tips to a successful marriage, but they could help bring a sense of understanding to an often difficult subject.

  1. Pay off separate debt. Separate debt can sometimes include personal car loans, credit cards, student loans, or anything that occurred before the marriage takes place. 
  2. Clean up a poor credit history. This could be the most difficult matter to undertake. In many cases increasing a credit score can take months, even years. Beware of companies that state they can fix your credit score fast. 
  3. Preserve some separate money. This often goes without saying. A separate banking or checking account should continue to be funded for personal expenses. Most often, couples come to the table with pre-existing accounts.
  4. Identify how to manage the couple’s pooled funds. What is the best way to pay for family expenses? Is a joint checking account the answer? Are credit cards an option? There should be transparency and discussion beforehand on what constitutes a family expense, and the rules should be strictly followed. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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