I've never heard it said that a prenuptial agreement could save the world, but I'm starting to believe that it may be able to actually save a few marriages.
As an attorney who works with divorcing couples on a daily basis, I've had a professional perspective on the issue. However, with many friends and acquaintances divorcing after very short marriages, I know the problem is being exacerbated by my peers. Marriage should be a more significant institution to enter into and get out of, and strengthening marriages in Oklahoma should be a priority of the highest importance for all of us.
With that in mind, Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, proposed legislation earlier in the month that would restrict the use of incompatibility as grounds for divorce in Oklahoma. I have said in a past column that when a couple can get divorced in less than two weeks in Oklahoma for less than the cost of an iPhone, something is wrong.
Therefore, I applaud Kern's recent attempt to decrease the divorce rate in Oklahoma. However, I believe there is a more practical way of achieving her goal in a form and fashion that could be more acceptable by more groups, and provide a less government-oriented approach to the problem. It's as simple as a prenup.
It is time that Oklahoma allow couples to put sincerity and meaning behind their wedding vows by enforcing more than property distribution in prenuptial agreements. Although viewed as a contractual relationship between couples in Oklahoma, a marriage can be easier to get out of than a tanning membership.
For many years we've discussed covenant marriage in Oklahoma. Although I believe it's a noble idea, I also believe it's an idea that may be limited in its practicality due to its one-size-fits-all approach. Instead of providing a rigid marital structure that may not be appropriate in all cases, why not allow couples to construct their own version of a covenant marriage in consultation with their family, minister, counselor, attorney, financial planner and anyone else they see fit to involve in the process? In other words, give Oklahoma engaged couples the authority to truly make a covenant between themselves. Leave the Legislature out of it.
To allow Oklahoma couples the opportunity to make such an agreement would require a change in Oklahoma law. However, it would be a change whose time has come and which would be a valuable, forward-thinking concept to strengthen marriage and families locally. If a couple would like to limit their grounds for a divorce, ensure that counseling is required prior to the event, or simply outline the process which the couple will follow in the event of a divorce, then the Legislature should create a legal framework that would allow for it.
Allowing couples the flexibility to privately elect to hold themselves to a higher standard of marriage, whether faithfully based or secularly elected, is a right that all Oklahomans should be allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary first step in strengthening Oklahoma marriages and reducing the rate of divorce over the next decade.
Smith is an attorney living in Oklahoma City.