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Tue, Feb 24, 2009
The Sunday Times
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'You can cook only once a week, ok?'
by Jamie Ee Wen Wei

For a prenup, or prenuptial agreement, this one's among the more unusual.

For instance, she's only to cook once a week. He said this is to ensure they have 'quality time' together.

He, in turn, has to agree to reduce his smoking by 5 per cent every year. And no puffing away in the bedroom.

Both were prepared to not get married to each other if these, and other quirky conditions put into their prenup, were unacceptable.

Both said 'yes', and five years ago they got hitched.

The groom, Mr Samir Saraiya, 37, wrote to The Sunday Times after reading last week's story about more Singaporeans showing an interest in prenups.

The business development team leader for South-east Asia at the Microsoft office here said he had heard about celebrities signing prenups in his youth and embraced the idea immediately.

So did his wife, Ms Monali Shah, 36, a senior fashion product manager.

Mr Samir said: 'We were entering into something long-term. We needed to know what we were getting into.'

So in 2004, months before they were married, they entered into a prenup pact. Money issues were addressed, but so were social and lifestyle behaviours.

Apart from the cooking and smoking clauses, Mr Samir is not allowed to drink every day. But Ms Monali has to do some imbibing.

She is also not allowed to buy jewellery that comes up to more than 5 per cent of her annual salary.

Have these rules been breached?

Twice, he broke the no-smoking-in-the-bedroom rule. His wife learnt about it from his parents but merely gave him a warning.

'We try to be fair to each other,' he said. 'Finance is important but this is also about me as a person and my fundamental beliefs. It's our way of saying to each other: Are you ready to accept me as a person?'

Mr Samir was thrilled that Singapore's highest court said two weeks ago that contracts made before marriage regarding a couple's assets, maintenance and the custody and care of children will be considered by the courts in a divorce, although they will not be automatically upheld.

The Indian nationals and their 16-month-old daughter moved to Singapore in November last year. They live in a condominium unit in Meyer Road.

Two lawyer friends, one in India and the other in London, helped draft the prenup in four months.

They admitted that family and friends worried for them. 'A lot of people asked, 'Why start the marriage on a negative note?'' said Mr Samir.

'My response is always this, 'Why do you take up insurance? Why assume you may get into an accident?' The fact is we don't know the future.'

The couple said the prenup has proven to be a workable template. They do not waste time arguing over issues agreed on earlier.

Ms Monali said: 'In the process of drafting the prenup, you learn more about the other person and how strongly he stood on certain issues.'

They said friends who later had messy divorces called their prenup the 'smartest document in the world'.

As for assets, in the event of a divorce, the person with more liquid assets will have to pay a percentage of the difference to the other party. The percentage depends on the number of years of marriage.

They will update the prenup in the future if need be.

Mr Samir said: 'I believe this kind of a prenup strengthens a marriage...and if things go bad, at least it will be clean.'

This article was first published in The Sunday Times.

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