Foreigners in Shanghai discuss the merits of signing a prenuptial agreement

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/10 18:13:39

To ‘nup or not to ‘nup

Photo: VCG

Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs of China show that the marriage registration rate of Chinese citizens has been declining since 2014 while the divorce rate has been rising for 16 consecutive years.

To most Chinese couples, signing a prenuptial agreement before getting married is something uncommon and unacceptable. However, prenuptial agreements are very common among wealthy Westerners.

Former Hollywood golden couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie signed a prenuptial agreement to explain the ownership and arrangement of their properties, which were worth a combined $400 million before they got married, according to a 2016 report by

But how about ordinary working-class Westerners? Are prenups necessary? The Global Times asked foreigners in Shanghai if such agreements are common in their countries.

Swedish national Emil Rehnberg, 35, said a prenuptial agreement is not in his country's culture unless there is a lot of money involved. "If there's a lot of money, or an estate, then you sign a vow saying either that you split 50-50, or that you own this I own that," Rehnberg said.

According to Rehnberg, divorce in the West, especially in Sweden where he is from, is very common. "So then you will typically just go on your gut feeling about who owns what and it gets tricky when you have an apartment and other stuff, but you make it work out somehow," Rehnberg added.

Australian national Andrew Sutherland, 47, who has lived in China for a long time said that a prenup is not something that he and his wife ever signed for themselves, but he thinks it is becoming more common in Australia. "It's not something I would do. I think it's person to person," Sutherland said.

Australian national Mark Unger, 60, said he is not an expert on the topic about prenups, but he guesses that about 25 percent of his friends have signed one. "I wish I made one," Unger joked.

Russian student Nata, 29, thinks some Russian couples may decide to sign a prenup, but she doesn't think it's really common there. Italian national Daniel said he never had the experience, but he supposes making prenups happens in his country.

Photo: VCG

Defining possessions

Many Chinese parents meddle in their adult children's financial and marriage affairs, but do Western parents have the same tendency to get involved in such discussions?

"No, that's personal. It's very seldom that our parents would be involved in our personal finances, especially if you are married. You don't even have to be married, you can just be sort of living together… typically it wouldn't include your parents," Rehnberg said. "You can discuss it with your parents, but they are not a stakeholder."

Nata thinks Russians usually don't consult with their parents about prenups. "The area where we are from, people are free to choose whom they wish to marry," Nata said.

But Sutherland does not think couples should consult with their parents about prenups. "It kind of depends on case by case. I mean of course if the parents are uncertain about the match, they might bring that up as a way of expressing their uncertainty about it," Sutherland said.

So how do our foreign interviewees define their personal possessions and properties? "The money I earn, everything that I have as a woman, it's mine. Everything that my husband earns, it's ours," Nata joked.

"Of course when you are married, your properties become combined. That's part of marriage. What you own and what your wife owns are joint... it belongs to the family. So it's an interesting question. Like, does that include parents, grandparents, and so on?" Sutherland asked hypothetically. "In Australia, just the husband, wife and children are family. Property belongs only to that family unit," Sutherland said.

"Strong definitions [on properties] are on paper with the governments or you own a piece of land or cars or something like that," Rehnberg said. "Maybe also if you have like some super-valuable paintings, you would have to be able to trace that kind of property."

"Even pets can be personal properties of course. Something you own, that you really care about," Daniel said.

Photo: VCG

Potential disputes

In China, if someone brings up signing a prenuptial agreement before getting married, it can cause rather than avoid disputes. Is it the same case in Western countries? Do foreigners think it is helpful to sign prenuptial agreements?

Rehnberg said prenuptial agreements can be useful if people have a lot of assets. But people have to weigh the pros and cons when they bring forward the issue to their future spouse.

"The pros are that, if there's a death or if you separate, it's sort of clean-cut and you don't have to worry about the divisions. But it also might lead to emotional baggage in a sense that, if you clearly define whose is what, if they are very sensitive, they might feel like you are preparing for separation, death or whatever," Rehnberg said.

"I'm not sensitive like that, but my partner would be. I think it's good if you have a lot of assets, and if it's not clearly defined, then it might be good to do some kind of prenup, sure, for the most important things," Rehnberg added.

Rehnberg thinks prenuptial agreements can avoid disputes. "Parents or people in your close family would have opinions about how to split things up if something will happen," Rehnberg said.

"In my own experience I would say that it would possibly cause disputes. I mean to me personally, it seems a little bit pessimistic, because it's kind of like saying before you are married, 'maybe this won't work out.' I once believed that once married, it's forever," Sutherland told the Global Times.

"I'm lucky, I have a wonderful wife. I really plan to spend the rest of my life with her. I don't think about what would happen if we broke up and who would get what. It doesn't cross my mind," Sutherland added.

Unger thinks prenups can avoid disputes if people divorce. "But if you think about doing prenups before you get married, it might be a sensitive issue," Unger said.

"It depends on what kind of relationship you have with the person. If it's a very good relationship, then you don't need to do that. It has to be done on a personal basis," Daniel said.

"It's complicated. It very much depends on the character of each person," Daniel said.

This story was based on a Global Times video.

Scan to watch a video of the entire interview



blog comments powered by Disqus