The Prenuptial Agreement – it has been portrayed in film, vilified by some lawyers, praised by others. Is it really the marriage-killing instrument that it has been portrayed to be? I vote in favor of the prenup; it sets out the parameters clearly and succinctly and lets both parties know what they’re getting into from a financial standpoint.
As a veteran of one divorce, I know that everyone goes into marriage starry-eyed and committed. Promises mean something and we all vow to keep them. But life has a way of changing and people can’t always adapt to those changes. To go into it blindly can be somewhat short-sighted in this day and age.
The history of marriage shows that it was, for many centuries, more of a financial contract or a blending of family contacts than a strengthening of the bonds of love. Many women brought a substantial dowry to the marriage; men were meant to provide for and protect the family. No wonder then, that today’s marriage bears no comparison to the traditional form of the marital contract.
However, with the introduction of the prenup, perhaps we are harking back to the days when marriage was more of a financial agreement than a love-match. A hundred years ago couples very rarely divorced; it wasn’t an option. Today, at a time when, according to statistics from the CDC, almost half of first marriages end in divorce, the subject of the prenuptial agreement, whether for a first or subsequent marriage, is one which is discussed more and more often.
In my home state of Florida, where divorce rates are in the mid to high range, I seem to know more divorced people than long-term married people. People also often prefer to cohabit instead of marrying to avoid all the financial details that can embroil couples in legal problems. But the bottom line is that spelling the details out before you sign the marriage certificate can be the best course of action for many couples.
When the time comes for divorce, tempers are high and the tendency is to want to retaliate against the partner you once cared the most about; a prenup can be a tool for alleviating that drama and settling the details amicably. Of course, not everyone who signs a prenup wants to abide by it later. If one party becomes more successful than anticipated, the other feels slighted, especially when the talk turns to money. If one partner is already very successful financially, the other party may feel entitled to a larger cut of the financial pie. The successful spouse is obviously not going to agree; and a prenup can decide that up front.
Of course, proposing a prenup can be a real romance-killer; but the experts recommend that the proposing party do it early on if the romance seems headed for marriage. For legal and financial planning, it’s best to get the business arrangement end of the marriage out of the way. It is hard, however, for some couples to remove the emotional component from the financial. Some advisers recommend that you draw up a list of your assets before you call in the lawyers, and have an idea of what you want the contract to accomplish.
A prenuptial agreement is an agreement between two people about to enter into marriage that indicates how the assets will be distributed in the event of divorce or death. It isn’t a new idea; marriage contracts have existed for hundreds of years, especially within royal families, as a means of protecting their wealth. Even if you aren’t a member of a royal family, you may still need a prenup. Answering the following questions can give you an idea of whether you are a prenup candidate.
- Do you own any real estate?
- Do you own more than $50,000 worth of assets other than real estate?
- Do you own all or part of a business?
- Do you currently earn a salary of more than $100,000 per year?
- Have you earned more than one year’s worth of retirement benefits or do you have other valuable employment benefits, such as profit sharing or stock options?
- Does one of you plan to pursue an advanced degree while the other works?
- Will all or part of your estate go to someone other than your spouse when you die?
Answering yes to one or more of these questions could make you a candidate for a prenup. In that case, both parties should retain lawyers to protect their interests. But a prenup is a decision to be made carefully between two people, with both parties committed to the terms of the agreement. Only you can decide if it is the right decision for you. Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign one, though so far I haven’t been asked to; but I do understand the importance of establishing the financial parameters of the union. Still, the decision is a personal one and up to each party to decide for themselves. After all, we may promise to stay together forever, but the track record shows that we rarely do. Easier to get it all up front and minimize the agony later.
CDC, Statistics for Marriage and Divorce.
“Is A Prenup Agreement Right for You?”, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/prenuptial-agreement-right-you-29652.html