Bill and Melinda Gates dropped a bombshell this month, announcing that they are seeking a divorce after 27 years together.
The news was noteworthy not only because of their prominence on the world stage, but also because of the staggering amount of money that stands to be divided between the two.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is the fourth richest man in the world. Together, the couple formed The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one the world’s largest philanthropic organizations. All in all, $130 billion is on the line—making this one of the most financially consequential divorces in history.
Almost as shocking as the news of their split itself is the fact that the two reportedly have no prenuptial agreement.
For some time, prenups have been seen as a tool of the rich and famous to protect their assets. Bill had been a billionaire for seven years when he married Melinda at age 38—leading many to take such a legal arrangement in their marriage as a foregone conclusion.
Prenups are rare, but they have been increasing in recent years among millennials. Still, they are often associated with wealth and historically only five to 10 percent of the population obtain one.
Prenups offer numerous advantages. They protect an individual’s property, shield them from debt, and save time and money should a marriage dissolve.
But, they remain controversial among the general population with many believing they indicate a union is being taken less seriously.
Following the revelation that Bill and Melinda did not have a prenup, some Twitter users took to posting their wedding photos under a "prenup shoot" thread to mock those that would obtain such documents prior to getting married.
But while 63% of people believe that they would be at a higher risk of divorce if their partner asked for a prenup, evidence actually points to these agreements reducing the rate of divorce.
Prior to the mid-1980s, US courts often refused to enforce prenups. That changed in 1983 when the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws promoted legislation called the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) that was designed to strengthen these agreements’ legal enforcement. Research into the adoption of this law across multiple jurisdictions shows that such enforcement actually reduced the rate of divorce.
In reality, money and communication are two of the leading factors in divorce. Having upfront conversations about your finances and plans to handle future issues can actually lead to healthier marriages and get ahead of two of the biggest stumbling blocks couples face.
Contrary to popular opinion, contracts are a sign of mutual agreement, cooperation, consent, and communication - all healthy foundations on which people should hope to build a marriage.
In his famous work Socialism, Ludwig von Mises wrote, "As the idea of contract enters the law of marriage, it breaks the rule of the male, and makes the wife a partner with equal rights. From a one-sided relationship resting on force, marriage thus becomes a mutual agreement...."
It is important to recognize that the legal entity of marriage has not always been built around equality, choice, or even consent.
Historically, women have been married off by fathers to men of their choosing, they’ve been bartered over, and used to make deals with.
Within the union itself, women have often been forced into subservient roles, been unable to make financial decisions apart from their husbands, or had unequal power in the union. Many of these conditions continue to exist in other parts of the world.
And even in the US, in modern times, our social policy and societal pressures are still structured to entice women into marriage and motherhood - wonderful options if they are a woman’s choice, but potentially harmful situations if they are not.
These things considered, the contract system afforded to us offers a wonderful opportunity to foster mutual agreement between spouses, create an equal power dynamic, and clear conditions under which a partnership can operate.\
Furthermore, the government’s increasing role in marriages, divorces, and private property has added an additional element of force that many should hope to avoid.
Those without a prenup leave the division of their assets, property, debts, and inheritance to the will of government actors. These arrangements, more often than not, favor one party over the other and can frequently lead to bitter disputes, drawn out proceedings, and more emotional damage to the parties.
While it might not feel warm and fluffy, prenups are a way of taking care of yourself and your partner. And they give couples a chance to build a marital foundation. So go ahead, scream into the microphone, "We want prenup!"
Hannah Cox is a Brand Ambassador for The Foundation for Economic Education, the host of the vodcast "Based," and a Newsmax Insider. Read Hannah Cox's Reports — More Here.
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