Should I Obtain a Premarital Agreement?

A sad fact of modern American life is that not all marriages last. In fact, about forty to fifty percent of marriages now end in divorce. It may not be pleasant to think about this possibility. However, before a person does get married, he or she should consider taking certain precautions in case a divorce does happen. One such precaution is making a premarital agreement.

Premarital agreements are sometimes referred to as prenuptial agreements. A premarital agreement is a legal contract that a couple enters into before getting married. In short, premarital agreements are made to determine what happens to certain assets if the marriage were to suddenly end. This could include if the marriage were to end with one of the spouse's deaths. However, more often, a premarital agreement is made to guard against the possibility of divorce.

A premarital agreement could, for example, stipulate that a spouse is only entitled to a predetermined amount of money and assets as part of a divorce settlement. Other money and assets that a spouse may bring into the marriage will be agreed to not be given to the other spouse in the event of a divorce.

Premarital agreements can cover other scenarios as well. For example, a premarital agreement may include certain financial penalties for a spouse if that spouse was discovered to have been cheating during the marriage. The premarital agreement may also specify what happens to any children. It could outline wishes for custody as well as how much child support should be paid by the other spouse.

Couples make such agreements because they are usually upheld by most divorce courts. There can be certain limitations however. For example, laws regarding the amount of child support that should be paid by a parent may override what is written in a premarital agreement.

The premarital agreement may also be ignored by certain courts if the judge believes that one spouse was coerced into signing the document. The legal term for such a situation is a contract of adhesion. However, if both spouses willingly agreed to the contract, it will more than likely be enforced by the court even if the agreement seems rather one-sided as far as the spouse it benefits most.

Due to these facts, there are many very good reasons for a person to enter into a premarital agreement with his or her spouse before marriage. This is especially the case for spouses that come into a marriage with a large amount of assets compared to the other spouse. Another common reason is that the other spouse may have a high amount of debt. A person may not want to have to use his or her assets to pay off this debt in the event of a divorce.

For these reasons, obtaining such an agreement is a form of insurance to protect a personís assets in the event the marriage does not go as planned. Without such an agreement, it is likely that a person will lose a lot more of their money and property after a divorce settlement.

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  • Alan S. Rosenthal

    “ Success is a series of obstacles conquered.”