Is the Legal Profession Hurting Marriages? A Lawyer's Perspective
- Thursday, August 20, 2009
I have to make referrals sometimes. I [try] to connect [couples] with a Christian attorney who is still going to hopefully reflect Christ's values through their family law process. I have also been incredibly blessed to get the phone call sometimes a couple years later where a client says, "You know what, we didn't get divorced. We did go to counseling, and the marriage is great." That is the most awesome news you can ever get.
CW: We have spent a lot of time discussing divorce. What about before the marriage? What are your thoughts on prenuptial agreements?
SB: It's a good question. Prenuptial agreements are simply a legally binding contract entered into by husband and wife before a marriage takes place. In most states [for the prenuptial] to be valid, that prenuptial agreement requires that each spouse have separate legal counsel - their own attorneys.
By nature, it raises this situation where in the weeks and days leading up to the wedding, the couple becomes adversaries. They are negotiating against each other to gain the upper hand, either directly or through their attorneys.
To me, that prenuptial agreement is undermining the foundation of the marriage from the get-go. It's as if you are going to build a nice new house, and you start to put cracks in the foundation intentionally, so the foundation is weak.
Marriage is supposed to be a commitment of 100%. I think that is reflected in the book of Genesis where marriage is described as husband and wife becoming one flesh, which implies the spiritual, physical, and emotional unity - oneness. A prenuptial literally comes between the spouses. It's as if they are saying rather than be 100% committed to each other, they are going to be maybe 95% committed to each. They are going to keep some things separate. They are going to have a plan for when the marriage crumbles later, an easy escape that is already charted, and they will know where they are going to stand in that.
I know this would go against the counsel of most attorneys, but I really honestly feel as a Christian attorney that prenuptial agreements are destructive of marriage, and Christian couples should think twice. If they are not ready to give 100% of everything to the other spouse, then why are they even getting into that marriage relationship?
Amazingly, I felt like I was kind of alone in giving this kind of advice as a Christian attorney. Recently, I found out -- you mentioned Pope John Paul II earlier in this interview -- this has actually been fairly well established in Catholic practice for a long time. A lot of Catholic attorneys are very uncomfortable with prenuptial agreements. I didn't know that, and I was really encouraged to find out that I wasn't alone after all.
CW: What would you say to a reader who has a tough legal question and wants to find a lawyer who will honor their Christian values?
SB: There are some initial questions any Christian client can and should ask a potential attorney. Don't be shy, we're used to blunt questions! Ask the lawyer if he or she can briefly share a personal faith testimony, and if they can articulate how they reconcile that faith with their work in the legal profession. There are many potential right answers to these questions, but I'd be worried if the lawyer can't give a testimony or, even worse, has a testimony but can't explain how they've integrated their Christian faith with their practice. As a client, you want your lawyer to be not only technically competent, but also a spiritually engaged follower of Jesus. If you're having trouble finding a good Christian lawyer, the Christian Legal Society has a referral service through their website, clsnet.org.
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