Wedding days are often preceded by deciding on flower arrangements and planning a romantic honeymoon. While those things are important and make your special occasion extraordinary and personal, there are also some important practical matters that engaged couples should consider. Among those matters, is the often debated prenuptial agreement. Some critics claim that a prenuptial agreement is not romantic and creates an easy way out of a marriage. However, people who have created a prenuptial agreement will tell you that they do not create the agreement with the goal of getting married and divorced and couples who divorce will tell you that they would have divorced with or without a prenuptial agreement.
Why is a Prenuptial Agreement Important?
If the existence of a prenuptial agreement does not factor into a couple’s decision to divorce, then why is it important? A prenuptial agreement is important for many reasons, including:
- Protection of Property: Couples can decide to protect certain property for themselves or for other family members in a prenuptial agreement. This can be done for any number of reasons and in any number of ways. It is most commonly seen when there are children from a prior marriage whom the biological parent wants to provide for or when there are substantial assets or important family heirlooms that a person wants to keep from a spouse in the event of a divorce.
- It May Reduce Arguments and Save Attorney Fees at the Time of a Divorce: When a couple decides to divorce, each spouse is typically represented by an attorney who helps the couple negotiate the division of property. An enforceable prenuptial agreement can eliminate many of the billing hours of divorce attorneys since the couple has already decided how to divide their property and possessions. In some cases, the spouses may also decide the issue of spousal support or alimony in a prenuptial agreement. While some issues may remain such as child custody and child support, deciding on many of the financial issues in a prenuptial agreement can lead to a faster and less expensive divorce then the couple otherwise would have been able to obtain.
- Separating Debt Liability: A prenuptial agreement can describe how the couple will be responsible for debts incurred prior the marriage. For example, if one spouse comes to the marriage with significant credit card debt then the prenuptial agreement could make that spouse responsible for the credit card debt that predated the marriage in the event of a divorce.
- Protection of a Family Business: A family business can be seen as a valuable asset during a divorce and, in the absence of a premarital agreement, a court could award some of your ownership rights in a family business to your soon to be ex spouse. Obviously, that can lead to a potentially uncomfortable situation and a business that is not solely a "family" business any longer. A prenuptial agreement can protect your ownership of the family business and prevent a court from awarding any part of the ownership to your ex spouse.
A prenuptial agreement allows a couple to determine how they want their property divided while they are still on good terms and without animosity. It is, therefore, important to consider a prenuptial agreement before getting married for all of the reasons described above.
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