Fairytale wedding dresses, tear-jerking wedding vows, and miraculously blissful honeymoons. When it comes to marriage, these ideas might immediately come to mind for every hopeless romantic. The elephant in the room that many couples aren’t looking forward to dealing with? Prenups (cue a dramatic sound effect).
Talking to the love of your life about how to split your money in the event of a divorce? Yeah, that doesn’t sound so romantic. But there’s no way around it if you want to protect your assets if your relationship goes sour.
So when should you get a prenup? And when is the least awkward time to bring it up? Don’t worry; we’ll answer these questions and break down how prenups work. We also asked our social media followers to chime in with their thoughts on prenups!
In This Article
What is a prenup?
In a nutshell, a prenup – or prenuptial agreement – settles financial matters in the event of a divorce. You and your partner sign the prenup before walking down the aisle. You might wonder: doesn’t this agreement doom the marriage from the start? It might make more sense if you think of prenups as insurance for your marriage.
No matter how badly we wish a marriage could be as simple as a kindergarten Ring Pop proposal, it’s still an official legal contract that’s pretty dang serious. When you tie the knot with your lover, you’re promising to stay together for life and tackle weighty financial decisions as a team.
So, what if you want to protect your hard-earned money when it comes time to divide assets during a divorce? This is where a prenup comes to the rescue.
Definition of a prenup
We often hear about prenup agreements in messy celebrity divorce cases. But what exactly are these documents?
According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell, a prenup is a written contract between a couple that outlines their financial responsibility and rights so that, if they were ever to break up, things wouldn’t get too nasty. A prenup can help you avoid boiling with rage in court and fighting about who gets to keep the keys to the 3 million dollar Malibu beach house.
“Protect the bag at all costs” – $atrerubiia
How much does a prenup cost?
Prenups aren’t only for multi-millionaires dripping with money and decked out bling-bling jewelry. Depending on your situation, prenups might only cost in the low four figures to draft with a lawyer. According to Yahoo Finance, the average cost for a valid prenup that will hold up in court is anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. Of course, the more complicated your finances are, the more you might have to pay out of pocket.
How does a prenup work?
A prenup is a premarital safeguard that can protect both of you if your dreamy wedding ends in a not-so-happily-ever-after divorce. For example, according to Fox Business, if one spouse has significant debt, a prenup can ensure that the other spouse isn’t responsible for these things if the marriage ends. You can also use a prenup to protect inheritances, businesses, and other property.
According to Divorce Net, without a prenup, the state laws will determine how to divide your assets. And going to court can quickly drain your bank account and take up a good chunk of your time. But with a prenup in place, you and your spouse can agree on how to handle finances and property ahead of time, which can save you a lot of headaches and unnecessary hassle down the road if you split.
What do prenups protect?
According to FindLaw, here’s what prenups can protect and cover:
- Retirement funds and money accumulated before marriage
- Obligations to pay your spouse’s debts
- Management of joint bank accounts
- Rights of ownership in insurance policies
- Property division
- Entitlement to spousal support
- Provisions for children from previous marriages
- Marital responsibilities (ex: who manages the household bills)
And here’s what it can’t include according to state laws:
- Provisions detailing anything that’s illegal
- Child support or custody issues (since the court has the final say in this)
- Random non-financial issues (Ex: who throws out the trash on Sundays)
Prenup pros and cons
Before taking the plunge and signing a prenup, consider advantages and drawbacks of this binding contract.
- Reduces the cost of divorce
If you and your spouse have already agreed on how to divide your assets in your prenup, you could avoid hiring an expensive divorce attorney. According to a survey conducted by Nolo about divorce costs, you can expect to shell out over 10 grand in attorney fees for full-scope service!
A relationship can be costly if it ends in divorce and you don’t have a prenup. Imagine: with this huge chunk of change, you could be treating yourself to your own ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ journey in Europe to celebrate your newfound freedom after divorce.
- Offers financial protection
According to the New York City Bar Association, when there’s a prenup in place, you can protect yourself from your spouse’s debts. For example, if your partner went back to school during your marriage and racked up a crippling amount of student loan debt that would take a million years to pay back, Uncle Sam won’t hold you accountable for that as long as it’s clearly specified in the prenup. Hooray!
“They are a responsible choice. It’s protection for the both of y’all and their children.” $Jakeya41Brown
- Facilitates conversations about money
If you’ve never had the big money talk with your partner before, the process of drafting a prenup can initiate this conversation. By getting everything out in the open from the beginning, you and your spouse can avoid potential conflict down the road. And if things do go south, at least you’ll have a plan for what to do with your finances.
- Can create tension
Prenups aren’t exactly the sexiest thing to talk about with your partner. For some couples, the very idea of a prenup implies that they’re doomed for failure. Some people might even see it as an icky and calculating way to start a marriage.
“If you love someone, signing one shouldn’t matter” – $Jennifer-Stanley-23
- It might not be legally binding in some cases
Though most prenups hold up in court, some might not be legally binding. According to Forbes, here are some examples of why this could happen: The agreement was fraudulent, and someone wasn’t transparent about their assets; one person was forced by the other to sign the contract; the agreement includes provisions that are just outright unfair and absurd.
Should I get a prenup?
If there’s one somewhat positive lesson you can take away from Jeff Bezos’ whopping 38 billion dollar divorce, it’s to pick up the pen and sign the prenup — and most experts would agree with that.
But wait! Since there’s always an exception to everything, is there a situation where you might want to let fate take its course and ditch the idea of a prenup? Most definitely. Here are some scenarios:
- You simply can’t afford a competent attorney
You don’t want to skimp on cost and expertise when hiring an attorney to draft your prenup. At the end of the day, you get what you paid for. A poorly-drafted prenup might not hold up in court and even cause more harm than good.
It might make sense to skip the prenup if you don’t have the budget to put towards a valid agreement and would rather use it to pay for your wedding cost. You could always draft a postnup if you change your mind after marriage.
- You want to let the state laws do the work
According to Investopedia, in all but nine states in the U.S. (we’ll cover this in more detail later), courts will try to achieve a fair allocation of your property instead of splitting everything 50/50. So if both of you don’t mind hashing things out in court when you can’t agree on your own, a prenup might not be necessary.
- There’s nothing to protect
If you and your partner don’t ever intend on increasing your income, having children, or starting a business, you can probably ditch the prenup. Of course, life is wild and unpredictable, so you never know if someday you will do a complete 180. Don’t worry, that’s what a postnup is for!
When should I bring up a prenup?
We get it — bringing up a prenup to your partner is like asking your friends when they’re ready to leave the party. It’s not the vibe! But even if it’s uncomfortable to talk about splitting assets if you get a divorce, you need to bring it up eventually.
So when does it make the most sense to broach the topic of prenups in your relationship? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because every relationship is different. In general, you’ll want to say something at least a few months ahead of your wedding date since negotiating the terms of the prenup can take several weeks.
If you’re just in the beginning dating phase, bringing up a prenup might not be necessary (unless you’re both 100% sure that the relationship will lead to marriage).
Ultimately, you need to have this discussion, no matter how cringe-y it might feel. But think about it this way: once you get your prenups out of the way, you can embark on your wedded journey together without worrying about how a nasty divorce could bankrupt you. Heartbroken and bankrupt? Worse combo than pineapple and pizza (sorry to all the pineapple pizza fanatics out there)!
Can you get a prenup after marriage?
What if you were too overwhelmed with pre-wedding anxiety that you totally forgot to sign a prenup before exchanging wedding vows? Is there still hope? The answer is yes, thank goodness! You can still sign a prenup after marriage. Technically, it would be called a “postnup.’”
According to Investopedia, a postnup, or postnuptial agreement, could achieve the same goals as a prenup — protect your financial well-being if a separation were to happen. But you should note this one caveat: Once you’ve been in a marriage for some time, it can be difficult to separate marital and non-marital assets.
For example, let’s say you bought a house at 34 and started paying your mortgage on your own. Then, you met the love of your life and got married at 35. Wanting to alleviate some of your financial burdens, your partner decided to pitch in for your mortgage payments.
Now fast forward five years later. You both figure it’s time to sign a postnup. How will you divide the property if you get a divorce since your partner contributed to its value?
Sorting out money and assets during a marriage can give you a headache. Post-nuptial agreement lawyers can hold your hand through the process and answer your questions along the way.
What happens if I don’t get a prenup?
Let’s say you and your partner agreed not to sign a prenup or a postnup. What happens if you end up signing your name on the dotted line of a divorce paper? How would your assets be divided? Well, if you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on your own, the court might have to step in to divide your possessions.
This process could look quite different depending on the state in which you live. States like Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin divide marital property and debt based on community property distribution. The state will most likely split your bank accounts, retirement savings, real estate, and almost everything you acquired during the marriage (with some exceptions) near 50/50 if your marriage dissolves. If you live in one of these states — and plan on getting insanely rich during your marriage — don’t forget to sign a prenup to protect that hard-earned cash.
Other states take a different approach and divvy up assets by distributing all marital property fairly and equitably. “Equitable” doesn’t mean you get half and your spouse gets half. The judge will still consider your earnings, financial needs, spending habits, and other factors to determine how big your piece of the pie is.
Prenups get a bad rap. People think they’re pessimistic, unsexy, and a romance-killer. But we believe prenups can be pretty helpful! They help jumpstart conversations about money (which can be challenging to discuss) and help relieve tension about finances later on in a relationship. And who doesn’t want that? Plus, if you ever get divorced, a prenup can save you a lot of time, energy, and money.
“It’s fine as long as it’s fair to both parties” – $TaviaDay
So whether you’re planning to get married soon or just starting to explore that idea, go ahead and consider drafting a prenup! It might be the best decision you ever make — apart from getting married to your lovely soulmate!