Getting married on Valentine’s Day has become a popular romantic tradition. Increasingly, however, couples are walking down the aisle with more than just rings and lumps in their throats.
Many also have premarital agreements, formerly known as prenuptial agreements. Indeed, 63 percent of attorneys reported that they saw an increase in couples seeking premarital agreements, according to a study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Despite the growing popularity, premarital agreements still elicit many misconceptions and negative attitudes. While they may not seem romantic, premarital agreements can provide significant benefits for marrying couples – in terms of financial security and the overall well-being of their relationship.
What is a premarital agreement?
A premarital agreement is a contract made before marriage and in contemplation of the marriage possibly ending. Premarital agreements may cover a broad range of issues, such as division of assets and liabilities, alimony, and, to a limited extent, attorney’s fees. However, the terms of premarital agreements also may be limited to a specific subject, such as ownership of a family business.
The agreement gives those entering into a marriage greater control over the financial outcome when their marriage ends. Without a premarital agreement, the result of a divorce depends on numerous factors. Changing laws, the quality of legal representation, and even the views of a judge can impact what happens. In death, premarital agreements can direct the terms of wills.
Who gets premarital agreements?
Many expect that premarital agreements are for wealthy fiancés trying to protect family fortunes. Realistically, couples sign premarital agreements for more diverse reasons.
Couples who marry later in life might use premarital agreements to protect assets and wealth they previously accumulated. Others use them to assure children from prior marriages will inherit as designated in wills.
One should carefully consider the intended goals of a premarital agreement. Is it to protect a particular asset, such as a family business or gift? Or is it to reduce the financial insecurity for both partners after a potential divorce? Whatever the case, each person should be well informed and not feel pressured to sign.
How does one approach a prenup?
The most difficult part of a premarital agreement usually isn’t the legal aspect. Rather, the difficulty is broaching the subject with a prospective spouse. Those considering a premarital agreement should discuss and pursue it far in advance of the wedding.
One of the most common questions about premarital agreements is whether the agreement will withstand a challenge in court. A well-prepared premarital agreement should be as valid and enforceable as any other written contract. Because premarital agreements are complex and often have peculiar requirements, one should consult an attorney who has the appropriate skills and experience. While many lawyers can do a competent job, the most reliably qualified are those who are board certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar.
Remember, marriage is not only an intimate romantic relationship, but also an intimate financial relationship. The success of these relationships is impossible to predict and, thus, includes risk. A little planning at the beginning certainly can reduce some of the uncertainties.
Lawrence Datz is a partner at Datz & Datz, P.A. with more than 30 years of family law experience. He is board certified in marital and family law, a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a master in the Florida Family Law Inn of Court.