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Standard device to break up an engaged couple, or to introduce a conflict for them to overcome.
A couple is engaged. The man asks the woman to sign a prenuptial agreement. She is so offended that she breaks off the engagement, or threatens to. Usually the prenup is introduced by the one with more money -- often at the urging of misguided but well-meaning friends -- and the fiancee will react badly because the prenup is, by its very nature, a sign of mistrust. In more idealistic shows, the prenup will be discarded and the wedding will go on.
A prenuptial agreement is a document signed before a marriage which specifies how property will be divided in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements came into public consciousness in the United States in the 1980s, and most examples will come from that time period.
- Beer commercial: Man goes to bar to fetch drinks, Fiancee gloats to his friends how she's going to take him for everything he's got. When Man returns, Friends get him to drink beer, which is so delicious he forgets what he was about to do. Friends claim he was about to ask Fiancee for a prenup.
- Drives the entire plot of Intolerable Cruelty.
- In "Deeply, Desperately", the second of Lucy Valentine novels, Emerson finds out the hard way that her fiance, Joseph Betancourt, was planning to ask her to sign a prenuptial agreement. Joseph thought he had the upper hand, but he'd given her a "Them or Me" ultimatum before they (being Lucy and Marisol) revealed he'd been lying to her about hanging with his parents while he was really with a lawyer getting the prenup drawn up.
- Frasier and Lilith fought over this on Cheers. She refused, and the wedding proceeded.
- And then their marriage fell apart. The moral of the story, kids? Prenups are your friends.
- Averted with the marriage between bartender Woody and the exceedingly rich Kelly...with Woody asking for it. "I don't want her taking half my stuff." Naturally, it isn't an issue.
- In Frasier, Niles during his divorce describes the depths to which Maris would stoop for the trial.
Niles: When we were courting, I sent her a Valentine that said: "You're the girl my heart adores, everything I have is yours". Now they're calling it a pre-nup.
- Played straight in Corner Gas when Oscar and Emma decide to get married, and Lacey "convinces" Oscar to ask for a prenup.
- Happened on Diff'rent Strokes when Dixie Carter joined the cast. The prenup was discarded and they married anyway.
- The Golden Girls: Stan asks Dorothy to sign. This ends the engagement.
- L.A. Law: Stuart asks Ann to sign (in this instance, she refused, and they got married anyway.)
- In one The Love Boat episode, this was part of a subplot: a man getting over a very economically taxing divorce tries to court several women on the boat who immediately shun him when he asks for them to sign a pre-nup (while dating.) Eventually he decides not to do it for the woman he ends up falling in love with... who at the end of the episode asks him to sign one, having also been through a similar divorce.
- The Nanny. Maxwell asked Fran, Fran freaked out. In a slight subversion, upon reflection, she decides it is just a piece of paper that she would never need to use anyway, and so offers to sign it. However, in the interim, Max decides he doesn't need it and instead gives her the adoption papers for his children.
- Subverted on Seinfeld: Kramer suggests this as a way for George to make Susan break up with him. Susan just laughs, because she's the one with the money.
- Appears on Sex and the City. Trey springs a prenup on Charlotte late in the wedding process, which is considered pretty bad form. The agreement contains an unusual clause that, in the event they divorce, gives Charlotte an increasing percentage of $500,000.00 for every year that she and Trey were married. Charlotte negotiates with Trey's mother to increase the payout to One Million Dollars. ("I'm worth a Million", she says.)
- Considering how quickly that marriage went down the drain it was actually VERY smart on the mother's part to demand it. Though the couple split pretty amicably and it's doubtful Charlotte would have done anything.
- Used in Shakespeare Retold - The Taming of the Shrew. Bianca, a supermodel in this version of the story, asks her gorgeous-but-penniless fiance to sign one. He is insulted, and refuses. Katherine, Bianca's older sister, tells her that if she doesn't trust him enough to marry him without the prenup then she shouldn't be marrying him at all.
- On Newhart, Stephanie's father wanted Michael to sign a prenup. Stephanie didn't care one way or the other, but when Michael was uncomfortable with signing, Stephanie began to doubt his love for her.
- Rom and Leeta on Star Trek:Deep Space 9 briefly break off their engagement when she refuses to sign a Ferengi prenup-for pretty good reason, since it would've handed all her property over to him.
- On Two and A Half Men, Charlie suggests a prenup to his fiancee, then gets angry when she readily agrees because she owns a good deal of real estate she hadn't mentioned to him yet.
- This was the subject of a routine in Eddie Murphy's Raw.
- You can propose to your childhood friend Misha in Metal Saga. If you do, she asks if you'd like to save the game beforehand, which prompts your character to reply: "Ah, a prenup." Then the game ends.