What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement, probably familiar to you as a “prenup” is a written agreement made prior your marriage to determine how property would be split in the event of a divorce. Property is, critically, not limited to the marital home or shared vehicles. It can include savings, investments, and retirement plans. Most if not all divorces will deal with the issue of property division, and if couples cannot agree or have no prenup to fall back on, the job of division will be handed to the court.
Taking these matters to court can be costly and often end with neither party feeling fully satisfied with the outcome. Prenups have the distinct advantage of saving time and money on litigation while also allowing couples to tailor the division of assets to their specific situation.

When do you need a prenuptial agreement?

While it’s obvious for wealthy individuals to look into having a prenup written prior to marriage, it’s not often considered by couples without a significant number of assets. This is generally due to a misunderstanding of what prenups are meant to achieve. They don’t only protect the wealth of one party, instead they make sure that property is fairly and equitably divided.
Take, for example, a parent who quits their job to stay home and care for their children. This person will give up opportunities like promotions, job offers, and a more employable resume, in order to care for their family. Prenups can guarantee that in the event of a divorce, that individual can receive some financial assistance from their spouse, as they will likely have a harder time finding employment.
Couples don’t need to be wealthy to have a prenuptial agreement, nor is it a sign of distrust. Instead it allows for couples to decide what is best for themselves and their spouses without the heat and resentment of a potential divorce.

How much will a prenup cost?

An attorney will charge by the hour for drafting a prenup. The cost will vary, depending on where you live and how complicated your finances currently are. The expected cost of a prenup is between $1200 for a relatively straight forward write up, to $2400 for a more complicated agreement.
It is not generally advised for couples to attempt to draft their own DIY prenups. Prenups will only be accepted by courts under very specific grounds. It is, after all, a legal document, and it’s difficult to enforce without the proper language and procedure. Couples often can get out of prenups by claiming they didn’t consult with an attorney, so drafting one on your own can be anything from a waste of time to downright detrimental to divorce proceedings.

What can be included in a prenup?

Originally, prenups were intended to take care of property and finances, but these days they’ve expanded their scope. The most popular new addition is deciding in advance who will get to keep the family pets. Celebrities have gotten slightly more creative, with financial penalties for things like infidelity and weight gain.

What absolutely cannot be considered is child custody. Custody is determined based on what is best for the child, and this will still need to be decided either by mutual agreement or in court.

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