Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What If Couples Signed a Baby Contract?

I have never been a fan of prenuptial agreements. It seems as if the couples signing them are already planning for the marriage to fail. But it occurs to me that maybe something in writing could help when it comes to deciding whether or not to have children. A lot of the people who comment at this blog tell me their mates said one thing when they were courting and another when they started getting serious about making babies. Either they led their partner to believe they would be happy to procreate or they told them they weren't interested. Then they did a complete 180 and changed their minds. People change their minds. God knows I can't even make a firm decision on what to eat at a restaurant until I'm forced to choose one thing or the other.

But what if part of getting legally married included a written agreement about having children. Yes, I solemnly promise to make babies with you or no, we both agree that our marriage will not include children. What do you think? What could be done to make it binding?

Let me tell you a story. My first husband and I got married in the Catholic church. We were required to attend classes for a few months at St. Lucy's. At some point, we signed a lot of papers. I'm certain one of those papers included a statement that we would gladly accept children as a gift from God and raise them in the Catholic faith. For me, that was the plan all along. For my ex, who went to church maybe twice in the eight years we were together, if it got us closer to getting these classes over with, why not? It turned out he didn't want children and threatened to leave me if I got pregnant. That written promise meant nothing.

When our marriage fell apart for other reasons, I was able to obtain an annulment from the church on the basis of his refusal to have children. It wasn't the only grounds I submitted. I may have told them he was nuts. But they went with the no-babies clause. The annulment freed me to get married again in the church. Wouldn't you know my next husband would be a divorced Presbyterian, but that's another story.

Most prenuptial agreements focus on money and what happens to it if the couple splits up. The laws differ in every state and country, and maybe whether or not to have children falls outside the realm of a prenup, but what if couples did agree about children, in writing? What if violation were grounds for divorce? What if the party who changed his/her mind had to pay the other person a large sum of money? I'm just thinking out loud, but join me in thinking about this. What if you had to make a decision and not turn back? I'm not talking about when someone proves to be physically unable to have children, just about people who change their minds, leaving their spouses in a mess of heartbreak?

What do you think? I really want your comments on this.

5 comments:

Lara said...

It's a very interesting question, thank you for raising it! But in case the couple say yes to kids and turns out the kid doesn't show up, one has to address the "how far are you willing to go to make it happen?" IUI? IVF? Sperm donor? Egg donor? Surrogacy? Adoption? And when/how do you decide that you did all you could to honor the contract?

But give that infertility is raising, along with later second marriages it is indeed a question that begs to be asked...

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

You're right, Lara. The contract would have to include an agreement on how far the couple would go. Only natural means? IVF all the way? Adoption? It gets complicated, but it's worth thinking about.

Anonymous said...

I don't think people can agree upon whether they do or don't want kids in writing. And whether it's an enforceable contract, I highly doubt it. If one person has infertility, well technically I suppose the contract can address it. But I have been through an infertility diagnosis and I can tell you it's easy to say what you will do when you don't know your infertile. But it's an entirely different story once you do know -- those decisions become real and very hard. I would hope the couple can support each other emotionally in making these decisions together because waiving around a written contract to get what you want would be devastating to the person with infertility. If the couple can't resolve these issues by talking, then they are in greater need of a pre-nup agreement.

Anonymous said...

If we had signed a baby contract, i'd be outta luck with no marriage as i've changed my mind about having kids. scary thought

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Very scary, Anon. That's the thing; people change their minds.