Some people may hear the words “prenuptial agreement” and think they’re the sort of thing only very wealthy people need to concern themselves with. The fact is many couples can benefit from these arrangements, for a variety of reasons.
One of the biggest factors is simple demographics: studies have long shown that the average age of marriage has been steadily rising in this country over the past generations (the current national average of 28 years old for a woman’s first marriage is up almost ten whole years from where it was in the 1950’s.) The Millennial generation particularly, for a variety of cultural and economic reasons, has been shown to enter into marriage much later than even these trends suggest. On top of this trend, divorce and remarriage have become increasingly common, with around 40% of divorced people eventually remarrying (including a whopping 67% of those ages 55 to 64.)
Add all of these factors together and what you get is a population that is, more than ever before, entering into marriage having already accumulated assets, as opposed to the traditional idea of a young couple starting their life together fresh. Today’s couples seeking to get married are much more likely than even a decade ago to be coming into the marriage having already accumulated their own property, vehicles, savings/401K, etc. So, this leads us to four of the most common questions we hear about Prenuptial Agreements, starting with the most basic one:
Do I Need a Prenuptial Agreement?
If you and your spouse-to-be are coming into the marriage with property and other assets (or debts, for that matter), it’s probably a good idea to have a basic agreement spelled out for how those will be handled in the event of separation and even during the marriage. It’s not as fun as planning a fantastic honeymoon together, but having these issues settled, transparently and on paper, can do a world of good for setting you and your partner at ease about difficult financial questions that can come up later.
This is particularly important for people who are remarrying and already are carrying with them financial arrangements and children from a previous marriage. Without an arrangement, all assets can potentially be split in ways determined by state law. With a prenuptial agreement you can set aside assets meant for, say, your biological children or not have to worry about being saddled with debt your partner brought into the marriage.
What Gets Covered by a Prenuptial Agreement?
A lot of things can be covered by a prenuptial agreement. Primarily this is used to catalogue the assets and debts each spouse is bringing into the marriage and how those will be handled during the marriage and in the event of a divorce. This can extend to expectations of how certain expenses will be handled during the marriage, and how assets jointly accumulated throughout the marriage will be split. In addition, future conditions of alimony can be set at this time.
Is Child Custody or Child Support Covered by a Prenuptial Agreement?
Absolutely not. In the event of a divorce the terms of child support and custody will be determined by a judge, evaluating the best circumstances for the children at the time of separation. This is not something that can be decided in advance by the parties involved.
Is a Prenuptial Agreement Ironclad?
Not necessarily – there are some situations where a judge may invalidate a prenuptial agreement, but those tend to be related to fairly extenuating circumstances. A severe change in lifestyle, say if one spouse lost a job while the other received a lucrative promotion, does not invalidate the terms of a prenuptial agreement. However, a judge can potentially invalidate an agreement if they find that it was created fraudulently (if, for instance, a spouse was hiding assets), signed under threat of harm or duress, or if a spouse is incapacitated and unable to fulfill their terms of the agreement. Otherwise, however, you should expect the terms of a prenuptial agreement to remain intact.
Need help with setting up your prenuptial agreement or divorcing and you need assistance navigating the process? Reach out to us today. At Debranski & Associates we’ve got years of experience assisting husbands and wives with everything from uncontested divorces to jury trials, and we’re here to help you.