Talking about prenuptial agreements may seem like the least romantic discussion to have with your bride to be in the weeks or months preceding the big wedding day. I get that. Who starts to plan for a divorce before even saying “I do?” The thought of mentioning the words to your starry-eyed lover may send shivers up your spine, but with more than half of marriages in our country ending in divorce, it may just be the smartest conversation you ever choose to have.
Prenuptial contracts aren’t just for celebrities and millionaires. They make sense for a lot of everyday couples, and they by no means increase your likelihood of getting a divorce.
What are Prenuptial Agreements?
Prenuptial agreements (commonly referred to as prenups) are legal contracts made by a couple before they get married covering the ownership of assets should the marriage end in divorce. Without an official prenuptial agreement, the state will determine who owns everything following the divorce, up to and sometimes including the property and assets you owned before you were marriedWho Needs a Prenuptial Agreement?
Couples all over the financial spectrum are turning to prenuptial agreements, and they are becoming increasingly popular. There are many situations that a marrying couple may benefit from a prenup. Here are just a few:
You have children from a previous marriage or relationship.
- If this isn’t your first marriage or if you have children from another woman, you can use a prenup to spell out legally what those children will receive in the case of your death or divorce. Without that agreement in place, your spouse may be entitled to claim a large percent of your property which would leave your children with much less. If you have children from another woman, a prenuptial agreement may be the only way you can protect their inheritance.
You (or your fiancée) has debt.
- Debt is an unfortunate reality for many people. Whether you or your fiancée is carrying debt from a previous marriage, college education or another reason, that debt could be at least partially transferred to you in a divorce. Prenuptial agreements protect you from your partner’s debt and vice versa.
You own a business.
- Divorces can get messy when it comes to the division of a business. Your spouse may get rights to part of your business in the divorce, including the right to sell her portion to the highest bidder. Prenuptial agreements can lay out exactly what rights your spouse has to your business (if any) should your marriage fail.
You (or your spouse) sacrificed your career to support your partner.
- If you or your future wife has chosen to give up or modify your career to support the other person, a prenuptial agreement can ensure that you (or your spouse) be compensated in a fair manner following a divorce.
You want to avoid arguments in the case of divorce.
- We all know that divorces are commonplace, and we have all heard the horror stories that ensue when couples fight over money, property and other assets. Prenuptial agreements can help you avoid arguments and potentially lots of money and time in court by making these decisions before the start of heated divorce battles. A prenup can help you get back on your feet a lot quicker if a divorce occurs.
What Prenups DO NOT Cover
Prenups are for property issues in the case of divorce. They do not cover personal preference such as which partner will clean the toilet or pick the kids up from school. And if you try to include such items, the court may throw out your entire agreement. Requirements for prenuptial agreements vary from state to state, and you should always check with your local laws or with an attorney to make sure your prenup is valid.
In most states, a prenuptial agreement will not hold up in court if it:
1) Encourages divorce or incentives divorce
2) Waives right to alimony or spousal support
3) Determines child custody or child support
4) Was not officially agreed to by both spouses in writing
If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, you may want to speak with a family law attorney to make sure your agreement meets the letter of the law. There are many qualified attorneys in most areas, so take your time and find one that meets your needs.
How to Talk to your Future Spouse about a Prenup
No one likes to talk about divorce, especially before you even get married. You may be dreading the conversation with your bride to be, but it doesn’t have to lead to an argument. Here are a few tips to having a successful conversation regarding the decision whether to have a prenuptial agreement.
- Start early. While you may not want to bring up the prenuptial agreement discussion on the same day you propose, don’t wait until the night before the wedding either. If you want a prenup, bring it up early. It may take some time to address and maneuver through the emotional and technical issues that come up. Take the pressure out by starting the process early.
- Decide the terms of the prenup together. If you come to your spouse with a pre-drafted prenup, she may get defensive right away. Instead, treat the document like a collaboration so that both sides are on equal ground. After all, this is an opportunity to discuss what each person expects from the marriage.
- Be honest. If there is something you want from the agreement, own up to it. By being honest, not only are you more likely to get what you want but you also choose to start your new marriage off with trust. Explain the history or your beliefs that make you want the specific terms you desire. The more transparency and honesty you portray, the smoother the process is likely to go.
- Listen to your fiancee’s thoughts and concerns. Your partner will probably have a slightly different perspective than your own. Being open and truly sensitive to her needs will make the prenup process (and marriage as a whole) better. Listen with your heart and be creative about solutions to any disagreements.
- Be flexible. Your life today may look a lot different than your life the day you choose to get a divorce. Make sure your prenup is flexible enough to account for anything that may happen in the future. For example, your spouse may give up her career to raise children or take over most of the business responsibility. Come up with terms in your prenup that allow for change.
A prenuptial agreement may be the last thing on your mind as you prepare for an upcoming marriage. These agreements tend to come with a negative connotation – as if you are giving up on your marriage before it even starts. However, divorce is a reality for more than 50% of marriages in America today, and prenuptial agreements are becoming more popular than ever.
Think of them as an insurance policy. You have it for protection, but you hope you never have to use it! In fact, discussing a prenuptial agreement is one way to start your marriage off with open communication. You never know – it may just put your marriage at better odds of never needing one!
- While no couple walks down the aisle intending to one day sign divorce papers, it is common for marriages to end in divorce. Maybe you went into it with unrealistic expectations, rushed into marriage without really getting to know your spouse, or experienced a catastrophic life event that changed you…