Valerie J. Botter

Creative solutions for family transitions.

Prenuptial Agreements

by Valerie J. Botter

How do we prepare for marriage? Marriage is a financial partnership, and most of us don’t think to get legal advice about the implications before we say “I do.” What questions would we ask if we did?

  • Will my fiancé’s debts become mine after we marry?
  • How will we share responsibility for household bills?
  • Should we combine all of our earnings and savings into joint accounts or keep them separate?
  • If my husband doesn’t report his business income truthfully on our joint income tax returns, will I be responsible for his taxes?
  • If I inherit money from my parents, will my wife be entitled to half of it if she and I divorce?

And even if you ask these questions and are satisfied with the answers, what happens if you move to another state on a temporary or permanent basis? Do some of the answers change? Divorce laws are different from state to state.

Prenuptial agreements (also called premarital agreements) are not one of the more romantic tasks associated with wedding planning, but for some families are essential. If you have dependent children and plan to marry someone who is not that child’s parent, that you should consider entering into a prenuptial agreement to ensure that you can provide for your children in the event of divorce. Other instances where a prenuptial agreement is useful include when there is a significant disparity of income or assets between the parties and when one party has a particular asset that he or she wishes to segregate and protect (such as a family business or anticipated inheritance). By contrast, when a young couple gets married, if they have modest income and assets and plan to have children together, it typically doesn’t make sense to sign a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements address financial issues between the parties in the event of divorce or death.  If after divorce or death, there is no agreement on an issue addressed by the prenuptial agreement, the Court will determine the prenuptial agreement’s validity and enforceability. There are certain requirements that need to be met in order for a Court to enforce a prenuptial agreement.  Accordingly, you should seek a qualified divorce and family law attorney to advise you and draft a prenuptial agreement.  And don’t wait until the last minute to start working on a prenuptial agreement. These agreements take time and thought and there is nothing more stressful than rushing to sign a prenuptial agreement right before the wedding. Get started at least 4 months before the wedding date, ideally earlier.

Marriage is a partnership and the financial aspects of marriage are akin to a business partnership. Getting legal advice and thinking through financial issues with your fiancé before the marriage can help prepare the two in the event of divorce.  More importantly, it can prepare you for a long, successful marriage.

July 2014

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