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Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. Blog

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pre-Nups Are Not Just For the Rich and Famous

Pre-Nups Are Not Just For the Rich and Famous

When celebrity couples get divorced, one of the things the gossip columns are sure to mention is whether the couple has a pre-nuptial agreement in place. We saw this play out most recently when it was announced that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are splitting up after getting married a little more than a year ago. It turns out they did not sign a pre-nup, which is sort of shocking for a celebrity couple in this day and age, but is actually quite normal for most couples. This is unfortunate in two ways.

First, not having a pre-nuptial agreement in place means Depp and Heard’s divorce is more likely to be messy. We are already seeing this play out for Depp and Heard as accusations of abuse fly, but it is true for non-celebrities as well. Couples with a pre or post-nuptial agreement in place have less contentious divorces because most if not all of the financial decisions have already been made, leaving only custody disputes to be resolved.

Second, it is unfortunate that celebrities not having a pre-nup is rather shocking, but normal people not having one is, well, normal. It perpetuates the myth that pre-nups are only for the rich and famous.

Normal people’s divorces aren’t typically fodder for gossip columnists, so we just don’t hear about the benefits that normal people reap from having a pre or post-nuptial agreement in place.

If you do hear about the benefits of an agreement, it is probably from someone who is getting divorced. But that only tells part of the story. Pre and post nuptial agreements are valuable tools for people who never get divorced as well as those who do.

First and foremost, they require a couple to have an honest and open discussion about finances. This is a conversation that most couples don’t have unless they go through marriage counseling or bankruptcy. That is insane considering money troubles are one of the top reasons couples get divorced.

Talking about finances does not just mean talking about assets, it also means talking about debt. The age people get married at continues to increase in the United States, which means that spouses are more likely bringing debt to the marriage. Do you know how much credit card debt your future spouse has? Does your future spouse know how much you owe on your student loans? Are you going to help each other pay those debts off? These are questions today’s couples need to be asking one another. The answers are something that can be incorporated into a marital agreement.

Kids are another good reason to craft a martial agreement even if you never get divorced. If you have child before you get married, especially if your future spouse is not the child’s biological parent, it is a good idea to make clear what the legal relationship between the child and all the adults in his or her life is. Laying this all out forces you to confront things you may never have thought of before. For example, will child support payments from the child’s other parent decrease when you marry the parent who has custody?

Life is messy, so creating a pre or post-nuptial agreement is not going to solve all of the problems you may encounter during your marriage, but it can go a long way toward providing some peace of mind.


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