Financial agreements that preemptively decide property division have become acceptable among the secular population in the past few years (let us be reminded that the ketubah is also a binding contract). However, prenuptial agreements that can free a woman from a marriage, even if the husband is opposed, are still new but some versions have already been implemented by the rabbinical courts.
Since, according to Halakhah, the husband is the sole decision-maker on whether to give a get and when to do so, a prenuptial agreement attempts to correct the unequal power structure between partners as much as possible. This is done by applying economic pressure: if the husband refuses to give a get, he must pay increased financial support until he does so. This kind of an agreement obligates both sides according to contractual law and Halakhah.
The main advantage of prenuptial agreements is that they are signed by both the bride and the groom before they are wed, out of love and mutual trust. Thereby, when a couple separates, it may be possible to keep the situation from deteriorating and leading to the husband's recalcitrance. Authors of such prenuptial agreements hope that individuals, families, and even rabbis and legislators will adopt a policy that will obligate couples to sign such an agreement before they get married.
However, even if awareness increases and such agreements are signed, it will still be necessary to overcome two halakhic problems: a) whoever signs the agreement must understand its content fully, so that s/he will not be able to claim later on that there was no informed consent. b) According to Halakhah, a man divorces his wife only of his own free will. If he was forced to divorce his wife against his will, the divorce is called a get me'useh or gets given under compulsion and is invalid.
Many people consider premarital agreements a sensible solution. Others claim that the agreement does not obligate a husband to divorce his wife. Therefore, divorce depends on the husband's good will and on the pressure from Rabbinic Courts. Those who oppose these agreements add that people are misled when they sign a prenuptial agreement, which is just a waste of money that goes to the lawyer who drafts it.
Despite disapproval by certain members of the religious establishment, the distinct advantage of these agreements is that they can be approved by a notary public, marriage registrar, Rabbinic Court or Family Court (and it is then considered an official ruling), thereby ensuring that if the couple separates and wishes to enforce the agreement, the courts will recognize its validity as that of any other contract. The recalcitrant spouse (usually the husband) will prefer to go to a Rabbinic Court and resolve the issue of the get in order to free him/herself from the increased financial support he is obligated to pay by virtue of the agreement. If the prenuptial agreement leads to a negotiated divorce based on mutual respect within a reasonable period of time, it would thereby be considered successful. The couple will then file a joint request for a get at the Rabbinic Court. This procedure will avoid unnecessary suffering to both partners and their children.
In the State of Israel, where Rabbinic Courts prolong trials in cases of recalcitrance beyond a reasonable period of time, a contract that is honored in civil courts can be very helpful in moving the process along and freeing women who are agunot.