Prenuptial agreements are widely misunderstood, probably because they’re often only discussed in the context of the extremely wealthy, such as when celebrities get married or divorced. In reality, though, every couple can benefit from having a prenup, and this stodgy legal document is evolving to keep up with the needs of today’s couples.
If you’re preparing to get married, it’s worth considering whether you and your partner would like to draw up a prenuptial agreement. Along with other discussions about how you want to handle finances that you should have before you get married, talking through whether to pursue a prenuptial agreement and want to include in it can help you grow closer as a couple and understand each other more fully.
Address Your Debt
One of the most pressing issues facing young people today is student debt, with many simultaneously wrangling a significant amount of credit card debt. With that in mind, it’s important to include clauses in your prenup that protect you from taking on your partner’s debt. Especially if you have much less debt than your partner, you don’t want to divorce and find yourself responsible for tens of thousands of dollars of your ex’s debt.
Plan For Your Pets
Many couples get pets together before they actually tie the knot, but even if your pets don’t come along until after you’re married, it’s worth thinking about what will happen to them as you draw up your prenuptial agreement. Will one of you keep your pet? Will it depend on your living situation or income at the time of separation? There’s no one right answer, but it’s important to make a plan for pet custody because the issue can become remarkably fraught.
As much as people joke about being pet parents (and many are quite serious about that relationship) or refer to their pets as children, it’s important to note that although you can predetermine pet custody in a prenuptial agreement, the same isn’t true for your actual human children. In fact, according to divorce lawyer Rowdy Williams, “You’re not permitted to include future child support or custody arrangements in a pre-marital agreement for obvious reasons – it’s too sensitive and important of an issue to decide without all the facts. Those arrangements have to be made in the best interest of the child, not based on negotiations that happened before they were born.”
Though you may not be able to make arrangements for your children in a pre-nuptial agreement, there’s an important parallel issue that has arisen due to modern technology: the disposition of embryos created during fertility agreements. So, although you can’t know in advance if you’ll even have frozen embryos in the event of a divorce, it’s important to remember that this entire process is about projecting into the future and considering what might happen. As such, you should decide if they’ll be split, divided, destroyed, or donated in the event of a divorce because this is an issue that couples have been known to go to the mat over.
Get Separate Lawyers
One of the most important principles underlying pre-nuptial agreements is that they need to be fair, and while different couples will approach that idea in different ways, the goal is for cooler heads to prevail over the animosity of divorce proceedings.
That’s why you and your partner should have separate lawyers represent you when drawing up your prenup. Even though you aren’t actively in conflict with each other, it’s important to work with someone who is explicitly invested in your well-being, rather than trying to play both sides.
Prenuptial agreements can’t cover every situation that comes up in the course of a divorce, since neither lawyers or their clients can see the future, they can make the divorce process that much easier and more amicable. By drawing up a prenup, you and your partner have the opportunity to ask the hard questions of each other while still feeling secure.
Your future selves will thank you for it.