The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

436. Heather Mahar, Why Are There So Few Prenuptial Agreements?, 09/2003.

Abstract: Why do individuals usually fail to employ prenuptial agreements to govern the terms of their marriages despite the potential value of such agreements? In seeking an answer, this paper first explains that there is no legal obstacle that prevents prenuptial agreements; these agreements are usually enforced by the courts. The paper then discusses two major explanations for the paucity of prenuptial agreements: underestimation of the value of prenuptial agreements, especially due to false optimism that marriages will last; and a belief that discussing prenuptial agreements would signal uncertainty about marriage. The paper reports on and analyzes a survey undertaken by the author that strongly supports these two explanations for the lack of prenuptial agreements.

436: PDF