As a couple anticipates marriage, they spend considerable time planning for the wedding day and dreaming of their future. But many fail to realize that they also need a candid discussion of how to merge their economic as well as their emotional lives.
Among the best gifts the bride and groom can receive is a thorough and objective assessment of their financial and personal goals. This may or may not include a prenuptial agreement, or “prenup” for short. The words alone can evoke powerful emotions: It seems inconsistent to say, “I love you; I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and, oh, by the way, would you mind signing this prenuptial agreement?” In fact, the process can be an opportunity to stimulate a healthy conversation about lifestyle, roles, and financial obligations.
A delicate balance exists between preserving a good relationship and protecting yourself legally in the event of a divorce. That’s why it is important to work with a family lawyer who has extensive experience in defining the financial results desired while preserving a loving relationship.
Oftentimes, in cases where family wealth or business ownership is involved, an attorney can help protect assets owned before marriage. A prenup may not be necessary. More often it is working professionals who should consider such an agreement. This is especially true if they anticipate having children with one spouse staying home to raise them.
A long-standing myth says that prenuptial agreements are designed only to protect wealth. The fact is these agreements can also be crafted to account for lost-earnings potential and retirement savings.
For example, one of the more important goals of the prenup is to recognize the contribution of the stay-at-home parent, male or female. A 2005 study found that women who choose to stay home, even for just three years, lose 37% of their earning power. The impact of this fact can be neutralized by a plan providing ongoing financial support through maintenance if the marriage ends in divorce. Laws vary from state to state, but without a well-drafted prenuptial agreement, a judge, not you, determines the outcome based on legal argument. That could force the stay-at-home spouse back to work.
With more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, having a candid discussion with an attorney on important issues before the exchange of vows is one of the best gifts a couple can give themselves.