A prenuptial agreement (“prenup” for short) is a written contract created by two people before they are married. A prenup typically lists all of the property each person owns (as well as any debts) and specifies what each person’s property rights will be after the marriage. Protect your assets by allowing a prenup to help you establish the property and financial rights in the event of a divorce.

When to use a Prenuptial Agreement:

  • You are contemplating marriage and wish to explain rights and obligations of each person regarding property.
  • You own significant amounts of property.
  • You have previously been married.
  • You have children from a prior marriage.

The truth is, marriage is not only a romantic relationship, but also a sort of business relationship. This dual nature and purpose of marriage has led to the increased acknowledgment that a prenuptial agreement (also called a premarital agreement) can be useful to protect each spouse’s financial interests.

Contrary to popular opinion, prenups are not just for the rich. While prenups are often used to protect the assets of a wealthy fiancé, couples of more modest means are increasingly turning to them for their own purposes. Here are some reasons that some people want a prenup:

Pass separate property to children from prior marriages. A marrying couple with children from prior marriages may use a prenup to spell out what will happen to their property when they die, so that they can pass on separate property to their children and still provide for each other, if necessary. Without a prenup, a surviving spouse might have the right to claim a large portion of the other spouse’s property, leaving much less for the kids.

Clarify financial rights. Couples with or without children, wealthy or not, may simply want to clarify their financial rights and responsibilities during marriage.

Avoid arguments in case of divorce. Or they may want to avoid potential arguments if they ever divorce, by specifying in advance how their property will be divided, and whether or not either spouse will receive alimony. (A few states won’t allow a spouse to give up the right to alimony, however, and, in most others, a waiver of alimony will be scrutinized heavily and won’t be enforced if the spouse who is giving up alimony didn’t have a lawyer.)

Get protection from debts. Prenups can also be used to protect spouses from each other’s debts, and they may address a multitude of other issues as well.

If you and/or your future partner are considering a prenup, you may each need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. In fact, it’s crucial that each partner consult a different attorney (from different firms) to ensure the rights and interests of each are covered.