Prenups: Not romantic, but neither is battling over money when you're already heartbroken. Since the recession, more couples are opting for this once-taboo cherry on top of their proverbial wedding cake, says Sandra Schpoont, a New York matrimonial attorney and a member of the New York State Bar Association Family Law Section. Should you get one? What if you're already married...is it too late?
What's in a Prenup?
With their growing earning power and assets, more women are seeking prenups than ever. A prenuptial agreement is a contract that a couple signs before getting married to figure out finances in case of divorce. (Unmarried partners living together can sign a cohabitation agreement.) Prenups can cover:
- How to split finances
- Who gets to keep certain items
- How to divide a home fairly
- How debt gets divvied up
- Financial support for a spouse who gives up a career to raise kids
- How long a spouse and/or kids can stay in the house afterward
- Support payments including settlement or alimony
- Inheritance for kids from a previous marriage
Basically, anything that involves finances or possessions can enter a prenup. Schpoont remembers one client who aggressively fought for a "cheating clause"--whereby she'd be entitled to more if her husband cheated. The couple never made it to the aisle, though we applaud her pluck.
Here are the top myths about prenups:
Myth #1: Prenup Means Betting Against Your Marriage.
Schpoont doesn’t think that a prenup has to take away the romance. "Making decisions while in love usually leads to more peaceable results in the end." Schpoont has found that divorces with prenups often limit both the bad feelings and the legal fees. Nor does a prenup increase a relationship’s chances of divorce. If anything, prenups force both parties to talk openly about their finances from the get-go, which is a great thing.
Myth #2: Prenups Are Just For The Rich.
The perception that prenups are just a way for the wealthy to protect their assets is outdated. Couples with complicated assets such as business ownership or real estate, children from a previous marriage, or one spouse giving up a career to raise children can benefit from a prenup. In addition, divorces can get pricey and these agreements minimize painful and expensive fighting.
Myth #3: Once You’re Married, It’s Too Late.
Where there’s a pre, there’s a post. The only difference is when you sign the document. Wading the emotional waters of a financial contract may be trickier once you're married, but Schpoont says postnups can be helpful in certain cases, i.e. when a spouse starts a business with partners, or to clarify who owns a particular piece of property that is acquired. Since you’re already married, make sure you discuss the issue with open minds, as a couple. And if dragging out the lawyers seems too heavy-handed once you're married, having a signed document between you both is better than nothing.
Is A Prenup For You?
You should definitely consider one if:
- You make considerably more than your spouse.
- Your partner has a lot of debt and you don't.
- You have kids from a previous marriage.
- You envision leaving the workforce to care for the children.
You may not want to consider pushing for one if your spouse makes considerably more than you (particularly if you live in a community property state, which allocates assets 50/50 upon divorce), or if you are both young, with relatively few assets, and make around the same amount--it's not worth the attorneys' fees.
Bottom Line: Prenups are nothing to be afraid of, and you should consider them an opportunity to clearly lay out financial plans in case worse comes to worst. In any case, we hope you enjoy a healthy, robust marriage—and fully discussing money plans is a great way to get there.