Many married people enter into the most important contract of their lives – marriage — without a basic understanding of the obligations and commitments they are undertaking. The simple fact is that every person who gets married is entering into a prenuptial agreement, but on terms that are imposed on them by state law.
A former client suggested there should be a small bathroom next to the marriage license bureau and couples should be required to wallpaper the bathroom together—without fighting—in order to qualify for a marriage license. Another thinks there should be a check-the-box form when you apply for a marriage license that requires you to acknowledge your understanding that every dollar you earn is only one-half yours; you have no control over your partner’s spending; you may have to pay alimony for the rest of your life; you may have to pay child support; you may see your children only half the time, or less; you will have to prove what assets you brought to the marriage (even if it’s decades later); and it may cost you tens of thousands of dollars to get divorced, even if it’s not what you want.
How many couples who successfully complete the wallpapering exercise and check-the-box form would still want to be married? Should we make it more difficult to get married or would it be better to do more to educate people as to the legal obligations and undertakings that marriage entails? However you might answer these questions, defining the legal relationship with your spouse is within your control through a contract known as a premarital agreement.
Years ago, it was mostly parents who were pushing their children to have a prenuptial agreement in order to protect the inheritance they planned to leave those children. Now there are just as many adult children who are pushing their elderly parents to have one, due to the extraordinary impact of remarriage on estate planning. A prenuptial agreement is a couple’s opportunity to establish the terms of their financial partnership. Whether adult children are trying to protect their inheritance, parents are trying to protect their children from prior relationships, or parties are trying to protect assets they are bringing into the marriage, the prenuptial agreement process is an excellent opportunity for partners to make sure they agree upon important financial and lifestyle issues.