With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love is in the air… So might be your thoughts about marriage. After all, what could be more romantic than promising to share the rest of your life with the one you love?
How about making sure your marriage is built to last?
A prenup is a document that outlines how you and your spouse will distribute money and assets in the event of a divorce. It can also describe plans for how you will handle child custody issues for your children if you have any. A prenup can also address any issues having to do with a previous marriage or children and what will happen to inheritance. Quite simply, a prenup can encompass any issues you and your future spouse want it to.
Sound romantic? Probably not based on the above description. But, in actuality, a prenup can be one of the most romantic overtures you can make to a future spouse because what it actually says to them is: “I love you so much that I really want our marriage to work.”
A prenuptial agreement can help your wish become a reality, though no document, not even a prenup, can divorce-proof your marriage. If that were the case, I would most certainly have to find a new career.
If you don’t want to take my word for how valuable a prenup can be for your marriage, check out the reasons below.
Prenups require you to plan for the future.
As you think about what you want your prenuptial agreement to cover, you and your spouse will have no choice but to ask broader questions about what you expect from your upcoming marriage, now, next year, and many years down the road. What are your dreams, goals, and aspirations? What are your plans — concerning career, children, retirement, and more? How do you envision your lives, separately and as a couple?
When you begin to think about the answers to these questions, both alone and as you discuss them together, you have an opportunity to build a deeper and more real bond with each other. Nothing screams romance like planning the rest of your life with someone else. Prenups merely serve as a contingency plan should the marriage not work out, which, at that time, 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.
Here are some examples of what a prenup can cover:
- Child custody
- Division of property (separate property vs. marital property)
- Obligations to a prior spouse/children
Without a prenup in place, Alabama courts will follow the rules of equitable distribution. That means a court will distribute property based on what it considers fair, which doesn’t have to mean equal. A court will determine how to distribute property based on the following criteria:
- The length of the marriage,
- What each spouse’s monetary and non-monetary contribution was to the marriage,
- Each spouse’s ability to support themselves after divorce, and
- Whether either spouse was abusive or committed adultery during the marriage
The more inclusive a prenup is, the less you will leave up to the court and, by that, chance.
Prenups require you to be open and transparent.
Talking about money and finances can be complicated and intimidating. What’s worse is keeping secrets from your spouse and having them revealed later.
By creating a prenup, you and your future spouse will have the chance to talk openly about your existing finances, which will help you know what you’re getting into by marrying them. So, in a way, the prenup kills two birds with one stone. First, you get to sort out your finances now, before the marriage, and create a solid foundation on which to build your marriage. And second, know what you can expect if the marriage doesn’t work out.
Once your issues are out in the open, your lawyer can create your prenup. For a prenup to be valid in Alabama, it must be:
- In writing
- Entered into voluntarily by both parties, and
- Fully disclose all of each spouse’s assets and liabilities
Transparency builds trust, which is a necessary building block in any successful marriage. If you feel you can’t trust your partner, it’s probably wise to put your marriage plans on hold — temporarily or permanently.
The prenup conversation doesn’t need to be unpleasant, nor should it be.
When you imagine the conversation you have with your future spouse about a financial contract, you may imagine a formal, cold legal conversation, perhaps even imagining a court scene in a divorce movie. But the conversation doesn’t need to be like that. Consider having that conversation over a cup of coffee, lunch, even a candlelit dinner.
The point is to couch it positively. You plan to spend the rest of your life together with the person you love, and a prenup is only one part of that plan. Also, you don’t need to have the prenup conversation in one exchange. You can have the conversation in increments. When it feels like the conversation is becoming too much, take a break.
As long as you complete your prenup far enough away from the marriage date, so a court won’t construe that one party coerced the other into signing without having the chance to have their counsel review it, take as much time as you need. Like the song lyrics say, “You can’t hurry love.”