We all like to think marriage is forever and that the person to whom we pledged “…til death do us part” is the only one we’ll ever marry. Statistics show, however, that many first marriages will end in divorce. Second and third marriages have an even greater chance of ending in divorce.
Divorce, more often than not, is complicated, stressful, contentious, and time consuming. Divorce is rarely amicable and entered into with spouses agreeing it’s for the best. Because divorce can be such an unpleasant experience when it comes to dividing what’s yours, mine, and ours, many couples choose to get a prenuptial—often referred to as a “premarital”—agreement. A pre-nup is a legally binding contract usually drawn up by a divorce lawyer that clearly explains what will become of assets and liabilities should the marriage end in divorce.
Is a Lawyer Really Necessary?
If you’re considering a pre-nup or you’ve been asked to sign a prenup, you’re going to need a lawyer—most likely a divorce lawyer who practices in the state in which you reside. While there are generic prenuptial agreements available online, nothing you’d find on the Internet is stronger, more enforceable, and more binding than a premarital agreement drafted by an attorney.
The laws governing prenuptial agreements are complex; if you decide to go it alone, without legal representation, you run the risk of the prenup not holding up in court. You also run the risk of getting the short end of the stick, especially if your spouse has hired a lawyer, and you just blindly sign the agreement because you trust your spouse. In the United States, there are certain requirements that must exist in order for a prenuptial agreement to be legally binding. A divorce lawyer will know what needs to be in the pre-nup and how to ensure it is fair to both parties.
Why Get a Prenup?
Prenups are legal contracts that make divorces much easier to resolve. These pre-marital agreements are especially helpful when one spouse brings much more to the table than the other (money and other assets). Prenups are also quite popular when people are on their second, third, or subsequent marriage and both have acquired assets prior to the current marriage. These agreements also help to ensure children from previous relationships inherit what their parent wishes them to have instead of that property going to the new spouse. Without the legal protection afforded by a prenup, sizable portions of money and assets may go to a spouse, rather than a child, upon death or divorce.
Prenuptial agreements not only detail who gets what when the marriage ends; they also list specific debts that belong to each spouse. Many people enter a marriage with debt accrued long before they met their new love. A premarital agreement will make it clear that the owner of the debt is responsible for paying the debt should the marriage end in divorce.
Planning and Discussion Prior to the Prenup
Prenups require a great deal of planning and thought. You cannot enter into them lightly nor should you spring the idea on your love. Some people consider prenups insulting and feel as though the document gets the marriage started off on the wrong foot. Premarital agreements are actually an excellent tool to protect your property and other assets, and they ensure your children receive what’s theirs upon your death or divorce, should the person you’re divorcing not be the children’s parent.
Talk to a family law firm in your area to learn more about prenuptial agreements.