Missing Contracts: On the Rationality of not Signing a Prenuptial Agreement
Many couples do not sign prenuptial agreements, even though this often leads to costly and inefficient litigation in case of divorce. In this paper we show that strategic reasons may prevent agents from signing a prenuptial agreement. Partners which have high productivity in marital activities wish to signal their type by running the risk of a costly divorce. Hence this contract incompleteness arises as a screening device. Moreover, the threat of costly divorce is credible since the lack of an ex-ante agreement leads to a moral hazard problem within the couple, which induces partners to reject any ex-post amicable agreement, under specific circumstances. We also investigate conditions that make this contract incompleteness an optimal form of contracting and we briefly discuss the effects of enforceable and/or mandatory premarital agreements on the rate of divorce and on the social welfare. Finally, our model suggests that there is no major objection in making prenuptial agreements enforceable, but also that there are not good reasons to make them mandatory.
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