Is a Prenuptial Agreement a Plan for Divorce?
For decades, the divorce rate in the United States has been at the 50 per cent level. Surprisingly, the rate has actually decreased over the years. The overall divorce rate is now closer to 45 percent than 50 percent. In the 1970s, 65 percent of marriages made it to the 15-year anniversary mark. Now over 70 percent of marriages last at least that long.
One influence on that improved number might be the advent of prenuptial agreements between marrying parties. Because people are getting married at an older age now, they tend to have acquired more assets to bring to the marriage than their younger counterparts had three decades ago. Faced with having to sign a document that states the new spouse has no rights to the current assets of the betrothed can be intimidating. Engagements get called off and wedding are cancelled because some people see the prenuptial agreement as a precursor to a divorce. But is that a fair assessment? Do prenuptial agreements eventually lead to divorce? Are they good or bad or just plain ugly?
When asked in a recent poll whether prenuptial agreements impacted marriage in a negative way, 86 marital experts out of 100 said no. Regardless of those numbers, most people considering marriage still want to know whether a prenup is good for the relationship or does it foretell an eventual divorce. Every issue has two sides, prenups included. Here are several arguments, pro and con, to consider when evaluating prenups and divorces.
Money. Let’s face it: money and finances are the number one reason behind divorces. Putting money and financial issues up for discussion before couples marry is a healthy thing. A signed prenup solidifies and protects each individual’s pre-marriage assets against an attack by a divorcing spouse.
Conversely, young people who haven’t had time to acquire any assets of note tend to feel offended with a prenup. This could lead to bitterness and suspicion later on.
Children. In the event of death or a divorce, the care of any children should come first. A prenup can spell out all the details of their care beforehand.
On the other hand, prenup agreements can lead to costly litigation fees if the settlement terms are heavily weighed too heavily for one party. Lawyers are more than willing to fight to have a lopsided settlement modified.
Trust. You’re both in love with each other. You’ve finally found your soul mate. You trust each other emphatically. Then he or she whips out a prenuptial agreement for you to sign. What happens to that trust now?
If explained honestly and carefully as to the whys and wherefores of the prenup, most people will sign and move on. Even with an explanation, some people will be hurt, and the trust could be destroyed beyond repair.
Inheritance. We’ve all read the horror stories of young, beautiful gold-diggers wedding men fifty years older than themselves while the poor old guy was practically on his deathbed. And when the will is read, the million-dollar estate goes to the new bride rather than the children of the deceased.
Where there is a large estate involved, and it was an asset of one of the parties before a marriage with a line of heirs already in existence, it’s hard to argue that a prenup agreement isn’t fair. Prenups aren’t just about protecting your assets in the case of divorce. They’re also about dispensing the assets fairly to rightful heirs after a death.
Honest and open. People who are in love often say they can talk about anything with each other. Openly discussing a prenup gives them an opportunity to test that statement and prove their honest belief in one another.
On the other hand, an open discussion might be useless if the terms of the prenup are misunderstood. If in doubt of the facts as presented, the parties should consult a lawyer for clarification
In the end, there is no right or wrong to a prenuptial agreement. Differing circumstances require specific actions. In actuality, prenups are by far the exception rather than the rule. People tend to follow their heart and trust their instincts when it comes to love and marriage. With a hint of caution, that’s probably the right path to follow.