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Prenuptial agreements in the Americas can trace their roots back to the days of colonialism. In the Canadian colonies, men outnumbered women and often married poor women who immigrated to the Americas for economic opportunity. These women were known as “filles du roi” or “king’s daughters” because King Louis XIV helped pay their way to the Americas to grow the population. Because of their coveted status, they could negotiate the terms of marriage. More than eighty percent had their husbands sign prenuptial contracts. Their counterparts who remained in France did not have the same leverage.
Prenups that addressed divorce rather than death did not emerge in the United States until after the Second World War. And even in the 1970s, couples could not enforce prenups because they promoted the “worst-case scenario” by addressing divorce in advance. It wasn’t until Posner v. Posner, a 1970 Florida case, ruled that prenups should be enforceable as a standard practice that created a ripple of change. Nearly every state leans toward enforcing prenups, albeit with a wide range of varying provisions.
Younger Americans are now adopting prenups to protect spouses from the American debt-collection system, making them so popular that startups like HelloPrenup debuted on the television show Shark Tank.
For more information see “Prenups Aren’t Just For Rich People Anymore” The New Yorker, July 12, 2022.