For most couples, marriage is an exciting time in their relationship. Amidst the wedding planning and preparation, few couples want to think about their marriage ending. While no one gets married for the purpose of getting divorced, it is still important to think about what might happen if one of you decides that the marriage is no longer the right fit. For some people, a simple division of assets would be sufficient in the event of a divorce. However, for others, a divorce would strip them of many of their assets, benefits, and even inheritances. If you are headed down the aisle, you may want to consider signing a prenuptial agreement with your spouse. Though these aren’t necessary in all situations, they are beneficial and can even make a marriage more caring and full of love in the long run.
What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?
Many people have assumptions and opinions about prenuptial agreements, and it is vital to correctly understand their definition and propose. A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed before marriage that protects certain assets that were acquired before the marriage began. These agreements spell out all debts, assets, and incomes that the two individuals have as they enter the marriage. The prenuptial agreement ensures that these debts, assets, and incomes remain under the sole ownership of the individual and do not become joint assets during the marriage.
The Effects of a Prenuptial Agreement
For the most part, a prenuptial agreement does not have an impact unless the couple decides to get divorced. If this should occur, the prenuptial agreement ensures that all assets of each individual remain under his or her ownership. For example, let’s say that a wife owns a home on her own before she gets married and decides to retain the property. If she and her future spouse signed a prenuptial agreement that included that home, the home would not be split as a joint asset in the divorce. However, if no prenuptial agreement were signed, the house that solely belongs to the wife could be divvied up during the legal process. In this situation, the wife could lose her asset, even though her husband was not involved in purchasing or managing the home at all. This same effect applies to savings/money accounts, stocks, bonds, and other assets spelled out in the prenuptial agreement. It simply states that the original owner will get their property back in the event of a divorce.
Dividing Assets If There Is a Divorce
Another central aspect of prenuptial agreements is the definition of how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce. This means that you and your future spouse can spell out how you would like joint assets to be divided if the two of you split up. For example, a prenuptial agreement may say that, in the event of a divorce, each spouse gets joint money in accordance with what they earned during the marriage. Others may say that assets will be split 50/50 or 60/40. Making these decisions before marriage ensures that you make them without the lens of anger or hurt. Many couples who need to make these decisions during divorce proceedings act out of anger or emotion. If you determine how assets will be divided before you marry, you can be sure that the decisions are made in the right frame of mind.
Prenuptial Agreements Are Flexible
A significant advantage of prenuptial agreements is that they are customizable to the couple that signs them. You have the freedom to make the agreement in whatever way you choose and in a way that fits your unique needs as a couple. If you would prefer to keep certain assets but are OK with others being divided, the agreement can reflect that. The only requirement is to disclose all assets and debts when the prenuptial agreement is made. The terms of the deal itself, however, can be personalized.
What Prenuptials Leave Out
There are specific terms that cannot be included in a prenuptial agreement. These terms include:
- Child custody, support, or visitation. You cannot spell out how post-marriage parenting might look before you are married. These decisions can only be made in the event of a divorce.
- Waiver of alimony rights. Spouses always have the right to fight for alimony or spousal support, and you cannot force an individual to give up that right in a prenuptial agreement.
- Non-financial matters. This includes how chores will be divided, how often you will go on vacations, the role of other family members, etc. Prenuptial agreements are strictly financial and cannot reflect personal preferences or any non-financial aspects.
These terms are in place to protect the integrity of prenuptial agreements and ensure that they remain available for security, not for control.
Who Is Protected
While many people think that prenuptial agreements are only to protect assets, they can be helpful in low-asset marriages as well. As mentioned, prenuptial agreements cover debts. If your future spouse has a significant amount of debt in his or her name, a prenuptial agreement will absolve you of any responsibility for that debt in the case of death or divorce. If no prenuptial agreement is signed, you could be forced to take on that debt if your partner dies. Similarly, that debt could be factored into divorce settlements and leave you financially vulnerable. Aside from their financial impact, however, prenuptial agreements can help protect the integrity of marriage itself. Signing one of these agreements ensures that both you and your spouse marry for the right reasons and not to gain money or assets.
Stange Law Firm for Prenuptial Agreements
Stange Law Firm has been serving the Midwest for almost two decades. In that time, we have developed ways to serve members of our community who wish to have prenuptial agreements and help them find terms that work for them. We believe that prenuptial agreements are a wonderful resource for any couple and could benefit most any marriage. Contact us today for a consultation.