Till Death Do You Part, But Only With A Prenup: How To Set The Record Straight Before Marriage

Marriage is a beautiful thing, and while you want to believe it's going to last forever, you still may need to protect yourself and your assets from the possibility of divorce in the future. With things like inheritances, future earnings, intellectual property, past debt, and other complicating factors joining in on your vows, it's usually best for everyone involved in a neat and tidy document sets the bounds for dispersion, in the unfortunate event the marriage doesn't last.

1. Talk About The Prenup With Your Fiancé

It's important to bring the possibility of a prenuptial agreement up with your partner long before the wedding bells ring. For many, the document is a simple matter of asset distribution in a legal relationship, but to others, it's deemed as an insult to the faith two people have in each other when they tie the knot. You could mention a prenup casually or formally, depending on the anticipated reaction of your fiancé; however, if you don't bring it up early enough with clear intent, it could become a sticking point in the relationship or even an obstacle to moving forward together. Don't spring a prenup on your future husband or wife when you're rehearsing the walk down the aisle; instead, give the document the transparency and priority it should have.

Think about what you own now, as individuals and what you might want to happen to these things in an unclear or disputed breakup:

  • Real estate
  • A business owned wholly or partly.
  • Large amounts of savings and earnings.
  • Retirement benefits.
  • Previous spouses and/or children from a previous relationship.

2. Narrow Down Specifics On Paper

Both of you should jot down the assets (real estate, retirement funds, obligations to children from previous relationships, heirloom pieces, etc.) that are most important and valuable to you. While you're both going to bring something to the marriage, there are still things that belong to one of you or the other that won't be considered jointly owned in the future. There may be certain ways you'll want to handle future income and assets, too, along with bringing up the possibility of an eventual divorce and how that separation of people and property should go. While in some ways putting together a prenup feels negative, it's imperative that you're both completely honest with each other and yourselves as you put the document together. Once all is said and done, you can forget about the legalities you've drawn up and simply enjoy the marital bliss.

3. Visit Separate Attorneys

It's wise for each of you to have your own attorneys representing you when the prenup is formalized, as future courts may scrutinize the document differently if you have a joint attorney. Separate lawyers will each act according to the best interest of you and your soon-to-be spouse, which ultimately serves the purpose of creating the prenup to begin with. While legal proceedings during your courtship may dampen the romance, you're actually creating a solid and reasonable foundation for the relationship. Once the ink is dry on the agreement, you could always go out for a cozy dinner or do something else to conjure up the emotional glow of your unity.

4. Modify The Agreement After Marriage, If Needed

As life brings changes to you as a couple and individuals, you may need to either modify your prenup or have a post-nuptial agreement drawn up. The prenup can be changed, provided both of you agree to the changes, but you'll need to have the lawyers hammer out the details and formalize the process, first. Certain states, however, may automatically null and void your prenup once children are born into the marriage, unless you and your spouse make the necessary updates yourselves. Since having children usually results in alimony payments in the event of a divorce, your marital paperwork will need to reflect the changes in your lives.

5. Live Happily Ever After, Hopefully

As daunting and tedious as prenups and postnups may be, hopefully, you'll never need to have them enforced. Don't let a prenup ever be the basis for an argument in your marriage, as that will likely lead to resentment and creating a wedge between you. If you work out all of the details beforehand and accept the terms mutually, the prenup should just be a precautionary document that does nothing more than gather dust as you and your spouse lead a fruitful and loving life together.

On the other hand, if the relationship does eventually fall apart, each of you should contact the lawyers you've been working with thus far to begin the process of legally separating and dividing assets. Especially if the paperwork has kept up with the events of the marriage, a prenup can actually help a divorce move quicker and with less pain and punishment for everyone involved.

Get in touch with a family law firm such as Stoddard Law Firm for more information.