For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part – no one goes into a marriage thinking about the possibility of it eventually ending. The sad reality, however, is that around 50% of marriages conclude in separation. The decision to end a marriage is always difficult and going through the process of divorce is even more so. Prenuptial agreements may get a bad rap for being anti-romantic but can help separating spouses navigate the pains of an ending marriage as smoothly and
peacefully as possible.
Prenuptial agreements are legal contracts entered by two people prior to marriage. It sets the legally binding expectations of the couple in a marriage and is often used to outline the rights of each partner in case of a divorce. It may be a difficult topic to open and discuss but many marriage lawyers and counsellors believe that prenups are not only a good idea, but are necessary. Rather than being a bet against the success of one’s relationship, it is better to view prenuptial agreements as a protection of both parties’ assets and interests. While a marriage is primarily a romantic relationship in this modern age, it is important to remember that it is also a legal and financial partnership. Setting the guidelines of the marriage with a prenup is a wise move that helps guide partners through a new stage in their relationship.
One of the most beneficial aspects of getting a prenup is opening up the conversation of a couple’s finances. Assessing one’s own assets, liabilities, and investments and sharing that information with a potential lifetime partner can help couples successfully navigate their shared finances once they enter married life. Not everyone who would enter a marriage would be on an equal monetary footing and a prenup sets a fair agreement on financial expectations for both parties. Some of the important points to settle in a prenup include premarital assets, debts, alimony, and division of property.
A prenup can protect businesses and wealth in case of a divorce. It allows businesses or assets earned prior to the wedding to remain intact should the marriage go awry later on. Whether a couple owns a small family business or a large multimillion corporation, a prenuptial agreement helps secure the future of a business after a couple separates. It can prohibit an unjust allocation of wealth to one spouse and help determine fair agreements on property distribution. If one party has amassed significant debt prior or even during the marriage, a prenup can also protect the other spouse from being shackled to the debt of the other in case of death or divorce.
Child custody rights and child support should not be included in a prenup as the best interests of a child during the time of divorce are usually decided in court. If in the course of a marriage, the couple decides to leave one person at home for child rearing, thus giving up a career and a means to support one’s self financially, a prenuptial agreement can be made to lay out the specifics of alimony after a divorce. While deciding the custody of the children in a prenup will not hold up in court, pets and sentimental items are fair game in a prenup.
For people with children outside of the marriage, prenups can also be set to protect the inheritance rights of their kids. It allows one partner to set aside a fair part of his or her estate to children from a previous marriage that would be untouchable by their step parent in case of divorce or death. If the written terms in the last will and testament conflicts with a prenuptial agreement, the court may choose to honour the prenuptial agreement if the terms appear to be justly negotiated between partners.
Overcoming the pains of a failed marriage will take time to heal, but a prenuptial agreement can set a nice, clean slate for separating couples. Opening the topic of a prenuptial agreement prior to an engagement can help couples who are considering marriage lay out their expectations without feeling that their partner already has one foot out the door. It also gives them ample time to figure out what they want and need should things fail to work out. The divorce process takes a laborious amount of time, effort, money, and emotions. A thoughtfully laid out prenuptial agreement can help make this arduous process even just a tad easier.
The important thing is to make prenups as fair, honest, and as agreeable as possible to both parties, and they should not induce pain points in a marriage. Revisiting the prenuptial agreement later can also ensure that the agreement remains just in case of big financial and legal changes throughout the marriage. As long as the prenuptial agreement is discussed between couples as a team, it can provide a sense of a shared, respectful partnership rather than feel like a personal and financial attack. Drafting a prenup together can even strengthen the way couples communicate and thus ultimately improve the relationship.