The Changing Attitude Towards Prenuptial Agreements

Ivana Trump’s cameo in The First Wives Club (c) Paramount 1996

The prenuptial agreement long carried with it a connotation which was repulsive to young couples just starting out on the adventure called marriage. However, now as couples are getting married later and bring more equal assets to the marriage, they see the document as a wise move. Why might a prenuptial agreement be a wise move? Here are several reasons.

Huge Disparity in Assets Once you marry someone you have chosen to link yourself to another human being in a way that will impact your economic future. You can potentially be put on the hook for their debts but you might also be entitled to their assets. In the stereotypical scenario the young gorgeous gold digger marries the millionaire with missing teeth and stray hairs on his head. Logically she was not in it for love but perhaps he was not either. Although New York Law does put certain limits on maintenance (formerly known as “alimony”) and what is deemed to be a marital asset, based on for example the length of the marriage; the mutual contribution to the ‘economic partnership;’ comingling of previously separate assets, among other factors, it is always possible lose more than you bargained for. Litigation can be unpredictable and the involvement of lawyers can add a great deal of expense—we are not charity workers after all.  Without a prenuptial agreement one must prove certain elements a trial. However, with a prenuptial agreement in place, which was executed in the proper way, much of this hassel is removed.

Protecting Your Children Although New York Law states that child support paid for the children of your prior marriage comes as a priority before maintenance and equitable distribution paid to the next spouse (division of marital assets), the costs of a divorce can be so devastating to one’s finances that they may not recover. As a result your children suffer the consequences of your poor choices. You may not be able to provide each and every opportunity to them that you were able to before. Therefore a prenuptial agreement is a wise move to make sure that your loved ones don’t come along for the rough ride. I once heard a comedian talk about his formerly rich father and his gold digger mother. It was not his mother that caused him the most grief but his father who lost all his money by continuing to choose the wrong partners.

Protecting Your Parent’s Assets As parents get older they may consider placing their assets in joint name with their adult children. New York Law deems that to be a separate premarital asset but try to prove that. If you bring your family to your parents home and your new spouse decided they want to help with the renovations, the spouse may try to argue that it is a marital asset they contributed to. Is that fair to your parents?

Realism Having taken college level statistics, I’m not sure I completely believe the staggering statistic that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Some of those marriage might be second and third marriages after all. Nevertheless we can agree that the divorce rate has not been decreasing over the years. What better time to decide how to divide up assets than when you are in a frame of mind that you both love and care for each other rather than when you are nursing wounds from being cheated on? I have heard several stories of parents who put assets in the name of their child and his new spouse expecting the marriage to last the 30-50 years that their marriage has gone for. Unfortunately, that is not the trend nowadays. It is time that couples stop being so repulsed at the idea of a prenuptial agreement. In order to have a valid prenuptial agreement the parties must display all assets and liabilities to the other party so you are not being hoodwinked. They can also have a termination deadline called a ‘sunset provision’ and can be modified later if the parties desire. Not every couple may need a prenuptial agreement but when it makes sense it can bring alot of benefit including but not limited to peace of mind.