I’m a divorced woman and a divorce lawyer who still believes in love, romance, and lifelong relationships.
I also think every person who chooses to legally marry needs a prenuptial agreement. Why?
Here are three of many reasons.
1. Understanding each others’ intrinsic values is critical. If you don’t see eye-to-eye on the important issues, you can choose not to get legally married.
To draft a prenuptial agreement, a couple must ask and answer difficult questions. Most of the questions revolve around finances, but the answers reveal more than a person’s views about money.
Below are four telling real-life answers given to the following questions that spouses’ asked and answered during their conversations about prenuptial agreements.
Will you or I pay spousal support if we legally separate or get divorced?
Yes. If our marriage ends, I’ll give you $1 million for each year of our marriage.
No. I’m not going to support you if we separate or divorce.
If you earn more than I do, I would like you to pay monthly spousal support equal to one-half of your net income for a period equal to one-half of the length of our marriage, and vice-versa.
If I leave my career to become a stay at home mom, and we separate or get divorced, I would like you to pay spousal support until our youngest child graduates from high school, and I return to work earning $10,000 gross monthly or more. If I don’t leave my career for kids, I’m healthy, and earn an income similar to yours, I won’t need your support. But, if our income differs significantly, whoever earns more should pay the other one-half of the difference for one-half of the length of the marriage.
2. A marriage with wedding licenses and certificates issued by the government is more than a romantic gesture. It’s a legally binding contract governed by state laws.
A legal marriage is a civil contract that carries with it, duties and obligations that you don’t ordinarily owe to others unless you’re a parent or business partner. If you marry without signing a prenuptial agreement and subsequently separate or divorce, the fate of your family, finances, and future is in the hands of the government –unless you and your spouse can agree otherwise.
Being legally married doesn’t force a person to remain married, but it can compel a person to support or be financially liable for the acts of alcoholics, gamblers, abusers, impulsive and irresponsible spouses, or the like. An aging spouse with a fixed income who chooses to dissolve a marriage can be ordered to support an infirm spouse indefinitely. A spouse who diligently managed his/her money and promptly paid taxes can be subject to tax liens and collection agencies as a result of the other spouse’s negligence or malfeasance. And the list of risks and potential liability goes on and on.
3. Too many men and women are emotionally and financially decimated when they separate or divorce.
Over the last 22 years as a divorce attorney, I’ve seen the heartbreak and devastation intelligent men and women face because they got married without first signing a prenuptial agreement. Most, had no intention of getting divorced, loved and trusted their spouses implicitly, and did their best to preserve and prosper in their marriages. I’d love to spare you financial harm in the event you separate or divorce.
If you’re thinking about marriage, I encourage you to:
- Understand the laws that will govern your marriage and in the event, separation or divorce
- Sign a mutually agreeable and desirable prenuptial agreement
- Be lovingly protective of your well being before and during marriage
- Choose not to marry someone who has disparate values and beliefs
If you’re already married and didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement, all may not be lost. You can still make legally enforceable agreements with your honey, and in California, make them legally binding in a post-nuptial agreement.
If you and your spouse aren’t on the same page and/or your spouse won’t sign a post-nuptial agreement, take heed. Speak with an attorney asap to learn ways to preserve and protect your finances, family, and future within the marriage or through legal separation or divorce.