Does a wife deserve a monetary “bonus” for exemplary skills in housekeeping and child rearing? In some social circles, this is actually occurring. In fact, the trend was explored recently in a New York Times Op Ed piece, “Poor Little Rich Women,” and I was asked to comment it today on television on Fox29.
The concept is that wealthy, educated women who choose to stay home are rewarded for their skills as a wife and mother, sharing in their husband’s year end bonus. It appears that in most instances, this sharing is totally at the discretion of the husband. And while it seems that couples sometimes attempt to memorialize this arrangement by way of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the problem is that there is no guarantee of any amount of money to be paid to the housewife.
The idea of a woman as the lesser partner in a marriage is long lost notion — one that need not be revived in modern society. Our divorce laws have developed over time to recognize the contribution of a spouse who decides to stay home to maintain the household and raise children. That is why, that in a divorce a spouse who does not work outside of the home is nonetheless, entitled to share in the marital assets — at least equally — if not disproportionately in their favor. Similarly, in most states, without a prenup, a party cannot disinherit their spouse in the event of death. By operation of law, a spouse may be entitled to at least a third of the deceased spouse’s estate. Thus, the law recognizes that a dependent spouse should have entitlement to certain monies in the marital estate without relying solely on a reward from the monied spouse.
While memorializing the right to a bonus in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement appears as a means of guaranteeing same, the problem is that without specifying an amount or percentage of a bonus that is to be paid on an annual basis, enforceability becomes an issue.
While there is no doubt that incentivizing employees to perform their duties is a time-tested concept that works in the marketplace, spouses should not have an employer/employee relationship. Rather, they should be viewed as equal partners who work together to further the joint enterprise.