As this recent New York Times article points out, some people are choosing to begin their marriage with the (potential) end in mind.
Pre-nuptial (a/k/a pre-marital) agreements have been around for a long time. The new trend is that couples that cannot, or do not want to get married are choosing to put their understanding about how their relationship will work and how it will end in writing up front.
In North Carolina, same sex couples cannot be legally married. So, a pre-marital agreement is not an option. Given that the number of same sex couples in North Carolina has risen 68% since 2000, cohabitation agreements may become far more popular.
For heterosexual couples that want to live together but choose not to marry, a pre-marital agreement is likewise useless.
But, both kinds of couples have the option of executing a co-habitation agreement.
This kind of agreement can set forth the understanding of how the relationship will operate. For instance, the terms can state that one partner will stay at home to raise children, while the other is expected to earn the family funds at work. Or, it can state that both parties will work outside of the home. The agreement can state how many children each party expects to have or adopt, how many vacations the couple will take and even whether one of the partners is expected to cook meals (I have actually seen that).
More commonly, these co-habitation agreements pre-arrange how (but not if) the relationship will end. The terms often set forth how assets and debts of the relationship will be handled in the event of a break-up. They can dictate what process the parties will use to determine these issues in the event of the break-up (Collaborative Law, mediation, etc…).
Some see these agreements as cold or anathema to romance. But many couples are comforted to know that they have agreed not to drag each other through a nasty court battle if things don’t work out. And, having a discussion about big important issues and expectations before entering a long-term relationship is a good idea, even if it does not lead to an agreement.
As for divorce insurance, one company (in North Carolina of all places) thinks it’s a great idea.
From my point of view, the best insurance for your marriage is to discuss the big issues before you get married, and then commit to really truly communicating during the relationship. Discussing the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement encourages that conversation far more than simply buying an insurance policy.