The idea of a prenuptial agreement can make people very uncomfortable. Essentially you are talking divorce before you even walk down the aisle. We think of it as something only really rich people get—you know, the type of people who always believe clearly not getting married for love. Maybe this is true sometimes and maybe not, but this does not mean it is only something for this group of people
You might tell yourself you don’t even have to consider it because you and your partner are deeply in love, and would never, ever get divorced. But, this is letting emotions get in the way of doing something that makes good sense. It is not a sign you are not serious about marriage, or that you think yours won’t last. Finances can be a difficult topic to broach; of course you don’t want to think of the possibility of divorce. But, should that happen, a good prenuptial can protect both of you. Here are some considerations for putting one together.
Why a Prenuptial Agreement?
There are several good reasons to put together a prenuptial agreement. It can open up the doors to fruitful discussion regarding your hopes, dreams and expectations. It will help you determine how each of you define the idea of equality in a marriage. It will give you a chance to establish the value of non-financial contributions to a relationship, such as one spouse giving up their job to take care of children, or one spouse sacrificing their own career advancement in some way to support the other. A pre-nuptial agreement will help protect any assets you have acquired before marriage, as well as any gifts or inheritances you receive. If you have been married previously and have children, a prenuptial agreement ensures they get any assets you want them to receive. Figuring this stuff out now can save a lot of headaches and nasty arguments down the line should you find yourself divorcing.
Bone Up on Your State’s Laws Regarding Marriage and Property
In order for a prenuptial agreement to be enforceable, anything within it typically needs to be in alignment with applicable laws. For example, states have strict laws regarding child support, and if a pre-nuptial agreement called for an amount that falls below an established minimum, the law would supercede anything in the agreement. If you don’t want to wade all through that, you should probably take the next point to heart, which is….
Work with a Lawyer
Laws of any kind can be complex and downright confusing. Courts will scrutinize pre-nuptial agreements very carefully, and if you want your agreement to pass muster, you and your partner should work with a lawyer. In fact, each of you should have independent counsel advising you. Upon review of your agreement, a judge may be reluctant to enforce certain elements if he discovers that the pre-nup was drafted without each side being represented independently. Working with attorneys can also give you an added layer of assurance the agreement drafted is fair.
But, do not go to the lawyer empty-handed, and expect him to build the foundation of the agreement. Before you take this step, both of you should sit down and discuss the matter. Each of you needs to outline what it is you want out of the agreement. Get it down in writing, and then bring it to the attorney, who can review it and offer guidance on finalizing the agreement.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about all things legal; she recommends learning more about the services of Coniff Law if you are in need of prenuptial agreement advice in the Chicago area.