People used to think of prenuptial agreements as relatively crass. Some people even claimed that they mean an individual plans to fail in their marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth, which is why societal perceptions of these legal resources have changed dramatically in recent decades. Many people negotiate prenuptial agreements because they want to approach their marital relationship in good faith and have certainty that their spouse intends to do the same.
They hope to minimize their personal risks by securing specific protections and clarifying what may happen in a divorce. There are many different types of protection potentially available when someone negotiates a prenuptial agreement with their spouse.
Protection for certain assets
People may have resources that they do not want to risk when they marry. Maybe they already own their own home, or perhaps they have saved diligently throughout their professional life to fund a very robust retirement account. Individuals can protect their assets by designating them as separate property in a prenuptial agreement. Spouses can even protect assets that they may acquire in the future, such as an inheritance they anticipate receiving or a professional practice they intend to start once they finish graduate school.
Protection related to career sacrifices
There are economic benefits available if one spouse either works part-time or leaves the workforce entirely. They can manage household affairs and care for the family’s children. Outsourcing that type of labor can cost a huge amount of money, so a stay-at-home spouse can enhance the family’s standard of living and possibly save money at the same time. However, they make major personal sacrifices by leaving the workforce. They may have a very hard time supporting themselves if they ever divorce in the future. A prenuptial agreement can sometimes include specific terms for alimony or spousal support based on someone’s unpaid contributions to the family by staying home to raise children or provide other family support services.
Protection from misconduct
Spouses frequently add clauses in their contracts outlining prohibited behaviors or the expectations for conduct. For example, there may be provisions requiring discussions before completing large purchases during the marriage. People can also impose penalties for misconduct including infidelity. The right terms of the prenuptial agreement can either decrease the likelihood of certain types of misconduct or create consequences for those bad behaviors.
The terms included in a prenuptial agreement can pave the way for an uncontested divorce filing and protect people from the stress that often accompanies a litigated divorce. Taking the time to discuss the need for protection before marriage could help engaged couples better prepare for the realities of marriage and the possibility of divorce.