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Planning a Wedding? Don’t Forget the Prenup

Couples who are in love and planning their wedding often get caught up in the romance of it all. The last thing they want to think about is divorce. But the reality is that despite the rate of divorce declining over the past several years, couples still have a 40 percent chance of divorcing. That percentage is even higher for second and subsequent marriages.

By the time a couple has made the decision to end their marriage, there is often acrimony and hostility and it can be difficult for them to negotiate a divorce settlement and come to an agreement on how the marital estate should be divided. This is why many Rhode Island family lawyers recommend engaged couples add signing a prenuptial agreement to their wedding to-do list.

What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement, also referred to as a premarital agreement or a prenup, is a legal contract signed by two people before they wed that becomes legally enforceable once the marriage takes place. The prenup lists all of the assets and property each spouse-to-be owns, as well as all of their individual debt. The agreement then specifies what each spouse’s rights to the asset or property are and which spouse is responsible for which debt.

At one time, it was thought that prenups were only necessary for the wealthy, but that has changed dramatically over the years. Today, many couples from all walks of life make the smart decision to sign a prenuptial agreement before they say “I do.”

Why Do We Need a Prenup?

Protecting assets is one of the most common reasons why couples have a prenuptial agreement. This includes any real estate, businesses, and investment accounts. For example, if one spouse has owned a home for years before the marriage, building a large amount of equity, and that property will be the marital home, without a prenup, the home (with all its equity) would become part of the marital estate in a divorce and the other spouse could be entitled to a share of the property.

Spouses who have children from prior relationships also use prenups to protect and ensure any assets and property they wish to leave their children when they pass remain separate from the marital estate.

A prenuptial agreement can also protect a spouse from the other spouse’s debt. This is especially true with the astronomical amount of student debt that many people are saddled with. A prenup can be used to help absolve one spouse from the other spouse’s debt should the marriage end in divorce.

Prenups can also address alimony payments in the event of a divorce, however, the agreement cannot create an undue hardship for either the paying spouse or the receiving spouse.

Although spousal support can be determined in a prenup, child custody and child support cannot. Those issues fall under a separate area of Rhode Island marital law and are not allowed in a premarital agreement.

Drafting a Prenup

Couples who make the decision to have a prenuptial agreement should not wait until the last minute to sign the contract. It is critical that there be transparency from the beginning of this process, with both sides making full financial disclosures in order for the agreement to be legally binding. This also gives both parties plenty of time before the wedding to go over the terms of the agreement and the financial disclosures.

If one spouse is rushed into signing the agreement too close to the actual wedding ceremony, he or she can use the rushed signing as grounds for challenging the validity of the prenup later on should there be a divorce.

In some situations, a couple who have already married without a prenuptial agreement may decide they should have one in place. In these cases, an attorney can help draft a postnuptial agreement.

Call Our Office Today

If you are planning a wedding and are considering asking your future spouse to sign a prenuptial agreement, or you have been asked to sign a prenuptial agreement, you need to ensure that the agreement addresses all your concerns and protects your needs. Before you commit to a prenuptial agreement, discuss the terms of the agreement with a Rhode family law attorney with experience dealing with prenuptial agreements. For more information, call Kirshenbaum Law Associates at 401-467-5300 for a confidential consultation.