Be My Valentine Forever… But First, Let’s Talk.
Amid the planning, anticipation, and excitement of your upcoming wedding, the last thing you want to think about is the possible end of your marriage-to-be. Many people see prenuptial agreements as nothing more than planning for a marriage to fail. And, while a prenuptial agreement can set out how certain things would be handled in the unfortunate event of a divorce, it can do so much more than that. One of its greatest benefits is providing the bride and groom an opportunity to have tough conversations now, rather than when an issue comes up after they say, “I do.”
A common misconception is that prenuptial agreements are only for the rich and famous, as finances can be a source of conflict for many couples. This is especially true when one person has significantly more money than the other, when one person has significantly more debt than the other, or when you and the one you love take different approaches when it comes to making financial decisions. If either or both partners have children from a prior relationship, there may also be unique financial considerations to ensure the future support of those children. The fear of the unknown can be the greatest obstacle when it comes to talking money. Discussing finances before the big day helps each person understand the complete financial picture and gives the engaged couple an opportunity to discuss what is important to each of them. A prenuptial agreement can protect assets a spouse accumulated before the marriage as well as protect a spouse from debt the other racked up on his or her own. Protections such as these can provide a couple the peace of mind to then come up with a plan – together – to work toward their individual as well as their shared financial goals.
Financial goals aside, people have other life goals and expectations. As you prepare to tie the knot, your goals and expectations will most likely be impacted by those of your partner. Although a prenuptial agreement typically won’t resolve day-to-day issues like who takes out the trash or walks the dog, it can open the door to discussion of issues such as how you’ll allocate responsibilities within your household and it can address more impactful issues, such as genetic material, infidelity, and pets. If you plan to use or are considering assisted reproductive technology, a prenuptial agreement can dictate what happens with each person’s genetic material in the event of a split. It can bar a cheating spouse from pursuing a claim he or she may have otherwise had to alimony and, as much as we love our animals, it can determine who ends up with the pets. Hopefully, provisions like these never come into play, but again, having these tough conversations now makes each person’s goals and expectations crystal clear from the start.
A prenuptial agreement is a lot like an insurance policy or estate plan, and if you think of it that way, it seems much less daunting. No one wants to be involved in a car accident, see their house flood, or think about their own death, but we routinely plan for these undesirable events to protect ourselves. A prenuptial agreement offers similar protections and couples who enter into such agreements may be better prepared to tackle the future and live out their happily ever after – together! – with a shared vision of what that looks like. Although I think most everyone would agree that open communication is the ideal way to start a marriage, a prenuptial agreement may not be fit for every couple. Talk with a family law attorney to determine how to best protect yourself and whether a prenuptial agreement is the right fit for your situation.
At the end of the day, none us can know what the future holds. A prenuptial agreement can remove some of that uncertainty from your marriage and give you an invaluable peace of mind as you walk down the aisle.