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What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

Molly Recka

What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

Family Law
| 5 min
7 Min

For most engaged couples, living happily ever after or “until death do us part” is the desired marriage destination. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case as about two out of every five American marriages end up in divorce. Whether a divorce happens two or twenty years after marriage, it usually raises many issues, especially concerning property division.

While some engaged couples are ready for such an eventuality, many do not want to think of an end to their marriage. Mostly, those who think ahead on how they would like to handle issues such as property division in case of a divorce or death prepare a prenuptial agreement or simply a ‘prenup’.

What is a Prenup?

A prenup is a written agreement or contract that a couple signs before getting married. Typically, the contract lists the property each individual owns, including debts, and specifies what each person would be entitled to in the event of a divorce or death.

If you and your spouse-to-be decide you do not want a prenup but then change your mind after getting married, you can still enter into a similar contract, known as a post-nuptial agreement. Generally, prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements address similar issues, including how to divide marital property or assets, how to deal with each other’s debts, and if there will be alimony or spousal support.

Depending on the state where the marriage took place or where the couple lives, the enforcement of prenuptial agreements is different across states. In choosing which laws to apply to their prenup, most couples seek a state whose laws are the most beneficial to their agreement terms.

Even though most prenups start applying on the wedding day and last indefinitely, some only become effective after several years. Still, others end after a couple has been married for a specific number of years.

Why You Might Need a Prenuptial Agreement

Despite the common perception that prenuptial agreements are only useful to the wealthy, many couples who are not necessarily rich have prenups. In addition to high divorce rates, several other reasons have made having prenups a necessity for many Americans. Essentially, if you plan to get married, you need or should consider having a prenuptial agreement. Some of the reasons why you might need a prenup include;

  • To avoid an ugly divorce case – Even though no one gets married with the intention of divorce, some marriages eventually end in divorce. Mostly, divorce cases involve a lot of arguments and ugly disagreements. By specifying beforehand what you and your spouse are entitled to in case of a divorce, including property rights and responsibilities, a prenup helps you avoid a potential ugly divorce. Generally, it simplifies the divorce process.
  • To protect children – Divorce or death can leave your children from a previous marriage struggling as your ex-spouse may have the right to claim a large part of your estate compared to the children. A prenup helps spells out who gets what and can act as a protection for your children, especially in your death. 
  • To protect yourself from debt – A prenup can help you limit your responsibility concerning your partner's debt during marriage and in the event of a divorce. By spelling out who is responsible for what debt, a prenup helps you save money by protecting you from your ex-spouse debt. Essentially, a prenup clarifies each partner's financial rights and responsibilities.
  • Peace of mind – even if you and your spouse were to have a successful marriage, having a prenuptial agreement act as an assurance that your assets are protected. In essence, a prenup promotes your peace of mind by assuring you of a fair settlement in the event of a divorce or death. 

Even though the idea of a prenuptial agreement may be unromantic, especially for a pre-wedding couple deeply in love, experts see it as a necessity for modern marriages. Since finances are at the heart of many divorces, it is only logical that couples state their financial wishes in advance. In the event of a divorce or death, having a prenup ensures you and your partner and not the state are the ones handling financial matters and other related issues. However, whether you and your partner need a prenuptial agreement is entirely up to you as a couple. A decision you should only make after serious consideration.

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