In this day and age having a prenuptial agreement set in place before you get married is no longer something that is solely reserved for the rich and famous. In fact this forward thinking proposal is becoming increasingly popular, particularly among millennials who as a much more career focused generation have an increased awareness of the importance of financial security and are also keen to have a ‘what if’ back up plan.
Critics may argue that prenuptial agreements are unromantic and not the making of a trusting relationship. And yet for some couples it is the exact opposite and can instead help to calm any of those pre-wedding jitters they may be experiencing. We take a look at the pros and cons of having a prenuptial agreement to help you decide whether this is the right option for you.
What Is A Prenuptial Agreement?
The very first record of a prenuptial agreement was over 2000 years ago, where Jewish law stated that the marriage contract (ketubah) must include details of what the man could provide for his wife should he die. This was later cemented in the US in 1848 when the Married Women’s Property Act came into force, whereby married women were entitled to inherit their husband’s estate. So the premise of a prenuptial agreement is nothing new, however the lines have become somewhat blurred in today’s society.
A prenuptial agreement (or a prenup as it is often referred) is a document that sets out terms and divides any assets that have been agreed by both parties should the marriage fail. Who knew you’d be planning your divorce before you’d even got married right? But it’s not as simple as that, because despite couples investing time and money into essentially signing their finances away (fairly and squarely and with mutual consent of course) as it currently stands, prenuptial agreements aren’t legally binding. Which begs the question, are they actually worth the paper they’re written on?
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Prenuptial Agreement?
Let’s focus on the positives here for a second and explore some of the benefits of having a prenuptial agreement. So let’s create a scenario:
A man and a woman get married, after a year they have children and the woman decides that she’s going to give up her job and become a stay at home mum. They’re fortunate, because the man earns more than enough for them to keep up their current lifestyle and they’ve both agreed that this feels right; that they both think it will be good for their children to have a parent at home with them during these early years. However, a few years down the line, the kids have started school, the woman feels like she has less to do at home, and the arguments start. The relationship starts to crack and before long there’s talk of divorce. The woman realises she’s got nothing, no job, no money, no house. And sure there’s divorce settlements, but things have turned nasty and the relationship has really soured, which isn’t great for the kids.
Now imagine how differently this could have been handled if a prenup had been in place. Imagine if this very scenario had been thought out and the couple had decided that it was probably a good idea to divide their assets, just in case heavens forbid something happened in the future. Because let’s face it nothing comes with a guarantee. Sure the divorce probably would have still happened, but it is far more likely to have been an amicable affair rather than the fraught angst ridden situation above.
There’s no getting away from the fact that it just seems so wrong to be thinking about worst case scenarios when you haven’t even walked down the aisle yet, but think of it is as an insurance policy. You don’t take out life insurance with the belief that you’ll definitely be involved in an accident, but it could happen and so you insure yourself against the possibility. In reality a prenup is no different; you don’t sign it believing your marriage is destined for divorce, but it might be.
A prenuptial agreement can work to protect both sides of the partnership. For example, if you own your own business you may decide that you don’t want it to be affected by a split and therefore agree that this should not be divided. Likewise there may be other assets, such as things you have inherited, or particular objects that have sentimental value to you, which you can agree to protect.
And looking at it from a completely different angle, what if your significant other has a tonne of debt, do you want the responsibility of that passed onto you should you separate? A prenuptial agreement can make sure your partner’s debt doesn’t follow you.
So whilst it may initially seem as though a prenup is for couples who don’t trust one another, you could argue that having one actually creates more trust because with all cards laid out on the table, there is literally nothing to hide.
Are There Any Downsides To Having A Prenuptial Agreement?
In a word, yes. Which is why you need to sit down together and have the conversation about whether this is really right for you. If one of you wants a prenup and one of you doesn’t then it could cause arguments, so it’s really important to stay calm and talk through the reasons why you want one and explain exactly how you feel, making sure you reassure your partner that this isn’t a question of not trusting them, this is about security for both of you. Do try and see it from your partner’s point of view however, as they may feel that it takes away from the romance of the event, which is a fair enough point, and it is their big day just as much as it is yours. It may help to treat it like a business transaction and grouping it together with the other wedding admin, for example the announcement of the banns and the signing of the registrar.
As we have already mentioned, prenups aren’t actually legally binding and so you can’t 100% rely on them. That being said, if both of you have signed documents stating certain terms then it will definitely help your case if it goes to court. The very act of putting a prenup in place should mean that both of you are willing to meet with those terms if it ever reaches that stage, but of course as with most things there are no guarantees.
It can be difficult to think about your wedding in a negative light, this should be a time of happiness and joy after all. And do you really want to be spending time thinking about it all going wrong, when what you actually want to focus on is choosing bridesmaids dresses and working out the seating plan?
While prenups aren’t legally binding, they do hold some clout in court, should it ever reach that point. Ultimately it is personal choice, but this is a partnership and so in order for this to work you both need to be in agreement that a prenup is right for you and your situation. If you have any worries, it is a conversation worth having, after all a good relationship is built on trust, openness and transparency and if having a prenup is enough to wash away some of those pre-wedding nerves, then I think you have your answer right there.