As the wedding season is fast approaching in the Hart of Dixie, we thought that this might be a good time to include prenups in your wedding preparation list. “Prenup” is a word that’s usually seen as something negative.
Some people say prenups are just for the rich and famous, or for those who don’t really love each other, but prenups are good for everyone. As experienced divorce lawyers, we’ve seen the outcomes of going into a marriage with a prenup as well as without one. The outcomes are vastly different.
What Is a Prenup?
A prenup is a cool and short way to say “prenuptial agreement”. You might be wondering, what does it entail?
Before we go knee-deep into the subject, let’s get to the very basics: what is a prenup according to different dictionaries.
The prenup definition, according to Merriam Webster, is:
“An agreement made between two people before marrying that establishes rights to property and support in the event of divorce or death”.
On the other hand, Cambridge Dictionary says a prenup is:
“An official document signed by two people before they get married that says what will happen to their possessions and/or children if they divorce ”.
Basically, as its name suggests, a prenuptial agreement refers to the legal agreement made by two people before getting married. It establishes what both of them want to happen in case they die or if for some reason they are not together anymore in the future (either by choice or because of death). The legal document provides the wishes and the desires of the soon-to-be spouses are officially outlined.
The prenuptial agreement involves as many important issues as the couple wants to include:
- Child custody
- What to do with inheritances under different circumstances
- How to divide the assets (properties, money, and more)
- Even who gets the dogs or cats in case of a separation or a divorce
At The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates, we are well aware of the negative connotation around prenuptial agreements. The concept of prenups is usually misconceived as a negative way to start a marriage and is considered a “bad omen”. A lot of people think it’s even selfish and pessimistic to sign a paper thinking of what could happen in case things don’t work out on the marriage.
Nevertheless, we’ve seen that getting a prenuptial agreement is not a way to show a lack of trust in the other party, but to seek the benefit of both in case the marriage does not work as expected. Because, let’s face it: love is (usually) the foundation of a marriage, but sometimes life happens and couples grow apart and end up getting divorced. So we better be prepared, think forward, and put our wishes for our life together and also for when things get a bit more complicated. That’s basically the reason prenups exist.
Benefits Of Prenups
We handle prenups and we like working side by side with our clients. That’s why we have been able to acknowledge the positive impact it actually has on the couples who decide to take that step and officially outline their wishes before they get married.
Here are some of the benefits of getting a prenuptial agreement:
Reinforces Good Communication and Trust
It is a way to work on the couple’s communication and trust. It involves talking directly to one another and digging deeply into crucial issues that others prefer to ignore or to avoid. By having these talks, couples prove they have the ability to communicate and to come to terms, even in complicated situations. This improves the trust in each other. Knowing you can count on your partner and that you’re on the same page is important. Talking while you are happy and in the early stages of a relationship solves a lot of problems in the later stages of the relationship.
Prenups Make Future Legal Processes Easier
We know it may not be easy to talk about important issues that may arise in the future if the marriage doesn’t go as expected. “The divorce process can be emotionally and financially draining. However, couples can make a divorce less complicated by signing a prenup agreement before getting married”.
Dealing with divorce is a lot faster and less complicated if the handling process had been outlined on a prenup. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, prenups can save you much unnecessary emotional pain and money fighting over disputes you could have already resolved before they happened and spiraled out of control.
It takes more time, energy, and money to get to an agreement when the emotions of the events are heated. It’s just simpler in every way to set everything up before getting married, while both parties are more cold-minded and willing to work things through because of love and commitment. We see it as a way to prevent unnecessary disputes.
Gives Financial Protection to Both Parties
Prenuptial agreements are a way to protect the couple. It protects what belongs to each of them individually, as well as what they get to build together. For example, if one party has an inheritance possible, a prenup can be used to determine that the money inherited won’t be part of the mutual assets, and they can establish how the rest of the actual and future assets will be distributed.
Allow Transfer of Separate Assets to Children From a Previous Marriage
A married couple with children from previous marriages can use a prenup to state exactly what happens to their assets when they die. This makes it possible to transfer separate property to children from prior marriages and still meet the needs of a surviving spouse, if necessary.
In the absence of prenups, children from previous marriages may fail to get their rightful share. Prenups can prevent surviving spouses from taking a larger portion than they should and leaving very little to nothing for the children of the deceased spouse.
Prenups Protect Spouses From Debt Taken Individually
Couples can take debt on an individual capacity. In the event of a divorce, such debt can’t be charged to the other spouse in the absence of a prenup stating otherwise.
Eliminate Arguments During a Divorce
Arguments happen because of unresolved matters. If you already agree on what will happen in the event of a divorce, there is little room for arguments. Prenups decide critical things that are the basis of serious disagreements. If you already agree on how property will be shared, whether anyone will receive alimony, what children from previous marriages get, there is nothing left to argue about if you part ways.
What If I Don’t Have a Prenup?
If you don’t take steps to prepare a prenup in Alabama, the state’s laws will decide everything from who owns what property to what happens to property in case of death.
If you acquire property during the marriage, the state can decide in your spouse’s favor even if you paid for most or all of it.
The state can go as far as deciding what happens to a property you owned fully before marriage.
Since marriage is simply a contract between two individuals, like any contract, there are default property rights for every party to the contract. Unless there is a prenup clarifying issues or stating otherwise, both spouses have a right to own property gotten during the marriage. Generally, such property is divided equally between spouses in case of a divorce.
Also, it is expected that debt incurred during the marriage is shared in the absence of a prenup. What’s more, unless a prenup states otherwise, both spouses can manage and control marital property, which includes rights to sell or give away such property.
To avoid being subjected to “default” laws that will almost always “get it wrong” in a divorce where any form of property is involved, it is recommendable to rethink marriage without a prenup.
Quick Considerations Before Getting a Prenup
Prenups can be costly: If couples don’t agree on the terms in a prenup, they may require legal intervention to come to an agreement.
Prenups can be time-consuming: Unless couples agree on everything prior to signing a prenup, the process will take some time.
Prenups need to be reviewed regularly: A prenup should be reviewed regularly as circumstances change. Scenarios that warrant review include when a new child is born, when one spouse loses their job, etc. While a prenup can remain as it was first drafted, the longer it takes, the higher the odds of a court rendering it outdated.
Prenups can be unromantic: While prenups are prepared for all the right reasons, the process can be unromantic. Preparing a prenuptial agreement isn’t the same as planning a wedding or honeymoon, especially when there are differences.
Prenups can be unfair: Since prenups are drafted when a couple is in their “honeymoon” phase, they may be irrational. This is particularly the case if a serious legal team doesn’t take over the process and make the process as rational as it should be.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Absolutely! You aren’t obligated by Alabama law to hire a lawyer to draft a prenup. However, you should get legal help. In fact, it is “dangerous” to create a prenup without professional legal input. Attorneys offer some much-needed expertise. While prenups may not be legally binding, an attorney can help create a document that doesn’t have legal loopholes.
Our prenup attorneys guarantee to draft prenups that protect a client’s interest. Our attorneys also offer advice on ensuring your prenup stays valid. Lastly, we give our clients the best chance of their prenups being considered in court.
Prenups Are All About Balance & Honesty
We can definitely say that more than legal documents people sign before getting married, prenuptial agreements are a solid way to come into marriage by being honest and trying to do what’s best for both. It’s an act of love and mutual care.
If you need a prenup in Alabama, we are excited about the opportunity to help you with the planning.