There is no disputing the fact that prenuptial agreements evoke a specific mental picture for most people – and it is usually not a positive one. You might think of wealthy older businessman marrying a much younger woman and requiring her to sign a prenup guaranteeing that he keeps most of his money if they ever divorce.
Prenuptial agreements have earned their bad reputation, as we have previously written. But like most legal tools, they are neither inherently good nor bad. It all depends on how they are used. To that end, it is typically considered a bad thing to use prenuptial agreements to solidify imbalances in power and financial security.
Thankfully, prenuptial agreements are starting to be used in more equitable ways that just may rehabilitate their image. Americans these days are entering into first marriages later in life than they once did (think mid- to late-20s as opposed to late teens). In this extra time as single people, young men and women are establishing themselves professionally and earning their own assets. A prenuptial agreement can be a mutually beneficial tool for protecting those assets if divorce ever becomes necessary.
Are prenuptial agreements unromantic? Do they doom marriages?
Prenuptial agreements are unromantic, but no more so than the other practical aspects of married life: finances, health insurance and mortgage payments, to name a few. No one wants to think about the nuts and bolts of marriage while still in that head-in-the-clouds phase of the relationship. But it is important to do so, and prenuptial agreements could actually strengthen a future marriage because they force couples to have these difficult conversations.
Many marriages succeed or fail based on how couples navigate differences in their approaches to fundamental aspects of adult life. Are you a spender or a saver? Do you believe budgeting is important? How many kids do you want? Should one spouse be a stay-at-home parent or will both spouses work outside the home?
To be sure, these are sometimes difficult and uncomfortable subjects to broach. But many would argue that it is ultimately better to do so ahead of getting married.
What to know if you’re considering a prenup
Prenuptial agreements need to be introduced well in advance of the wedding, they need to be fair to both spouses and each spouse needs to have adequate time to consider the provisions and discuss them with his or her own attorney. If these conditions are not met, it could both cause significant relationship friction and make the prenuptial agreement harder to enforce (if it was ever challenged).
To learn more about prenuptial agreements and to get the process started, please contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.