Prenuptial Agreements: Myths and Facts
Magazines about weddings often contain articles about potentially contentious issues that couples should discuss early in their marriage, or even before taking their marriage vows. Almost everyone, from magazine editors in the wedding industry to your long-married elderly aunt can agree that you can avoid many conflicts if you and your spouse can agree as early as possible on a game plan regarding issues, such as which holidays to spend with which relatives and what dollar amount qualifies a purchase as major enough to require discussing it with the other spouse before swiping the credit card. No one will call you cynical if you agree before your wedding day that, in odd-numbered years, the couple will spend Thanksgiving with the husband’s parents and Christmas with the wife’s parents, and the other way around in even-numbered years.
Why, then, do prenuptial agreements have such a bad reputation? Most people have only heard about prenuptial agreements in the tabloid news, but there is much more to this type of legal document than simply a plot point in a lurid celebrity drama. If you are considering entering into a prenuptial agreement before marriage, an Orlando prenuptial agreement lawyer can help answer your questions about them.
MYTH: Only Very Wealthy People Have Prenuptial Agreements
FACT: While prenuptial agreements are still the exception rather than the rule, they are not just for billionaires and celebrities. Three percent of married and engaged couples have a prenuptial agreement. Therefore, even if everyone in the top one percent of household income had a prenup, they would still account for only one-third of all prenuptial agreements. A news story published in Refinery 29 shows that prenuptial agreements are increasingly popular among people younger than 35.
MYTH: The Only Reason to Get a Prenup Is to Keep Your Spouse from Claiming Your Property
FACT: Prenuptial agreements are not just about keeping your assets separate, even though they do specify which assets belong to the couple jointly and which ones belong to just one spouse. Some couples choose to sign a prenuptial agreement because they do not want one spouse to become liable for the other’s debt if the couple divorces. In other words, if your fiancé is getting cold feet about marrying you because you borrowed tens of thousands of dollars to get a Ph.D. in art history or because you still have debts left over from your failed career as a professional poker player, a prenuptial agreement might help put his mind, or his parents’ minds, at ease. In more cynical terms, a prenup does not always mean that you are a gold digger; it could mean that you want to show that your spouse is not a chump.
MYTH: Prenuptial Agreements Only Matter If the Couple Divorces
FACT: Most prenuptial agreements specify what will happen to the couple’s assets and debts if the couple divorces. Some of them also state decisions that the couple has made about what will happen if one spouse dies or becomes permanently disabled. Specifically, if one spouse has children from a previous marriage, the prenuptial agreement may specify what the new spouse will inherit and what the children from the first marriage will inherit. The prenuptial agreement could spare the family a long and costly legal battle, plus years of bitter feelings.
MYTH: No Provision Is Too Crazy for a Prenuptial Agreement
FACT: Couples can specify almost anything in a prenuptial agreement. They can include provisions about who gets certain pieces of property that do not seem valuable to anyone except the couple. Some topics are off-limits for prenuptial agreements, though. For example, a prenuptial agreement is not the place to make decisions about child custody and visitation or about the religious education of the couple’s children. Likewise, if a court determines that a provision of the agreement, even if it is about property, is unconscionable, meaning that it is unfair, the court can refuse to enforce that provision. Courts tend to reject prenuptial agreements that arrange for the spouse who had much less wealth before the marriage to leave the marriage with as little wealth as before the couple got married. They see this as an abuse of power by the wealthier spouse, and it goes against Florida’s doctrine of equitable distribution. Equitable distribution means that the courts divide the assets between the spouses according to what is fair.
Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. About Prenuptial Agreements
Prenuptial agreements are for couples who have already thought seriously about potentially difficult financial decisions. Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. in Orlando, Florida for a consultation if you are thinking of signing a prenuptial agreement.