Prenuptial agreements are, quite possibly, the most misunderstood of family law issues. Some think of them as something only for the rich and famous with famously large assets to protect. Others believe a prenuptial agreement highlights trust issues and signals the demise of a relationship before it is even been legally cemented.
In reality, prenuptial agreements are often drafted between the non-famous and not famously rich. In fact, they are typically a sound idea for anyone with even small but independently obtained assets to consider. And with divorce rates approaching 50% in our country, prenuptial agreements may be something you and your spouse-to-be might seriously consider.
Potential inheritance, joint debt, retirement funds, all of these are taken into account when you develop a prenuptial agreement. It is not just a list of this is mine and that is yours but rather a cohesive plan of how you will handle a divorce, should it happen.
Here is a quick list of questions you might ask yourself to see whether or not you might need a prenuptial agreement:
- Are you an owner or partial owner of a business?
- Do you have separate assets?
- Do you have separate debt?
- Do you have kids, either together or from a previous relationship?
- Are you in line to receive an inheritance?
- Do you have assets you would want to protect, such as family heirlooms?
- Do you anticipate needing to financially support elderly relatives in the future?
- Does one or the other of you own a house or property?
- Do you have separate retirement funds?
- Are you a same-sex couple in a state that does not recognize gay marriage?
- Are you concerned about your different money-spending or money-saving habits?
Drafting a prenuptial agreement does not mean you are planning for a divorce, as the stigma indicates. Instead, it is a method of protecting yourself just in case the unthinkable happens. With our clients, we liken it to wearing a helmet when you ride your bike. You are not planning to get into an accident, but sometimes life happens, and you want to be protected.
So what are you being protected from?
In Colorado, a divorcing couple’s assets and debts may be considered joint property. The courts will decide an equitable division of both. With a prenuptial agreement, you can decide ahead of time which pre-marriage assets and debts will be considered as individual rather than joint. It may prevent you from having to pay your spouse’s student loans for the next 20 years. Or it may protect your business assets from being divided between the two of you.
Prenuptial agreements are not for everyone. But if you or your partner believe one is in your best interests, based on individually held assets or other factors, speaking with a lawyer about the pros and cons of such a legal document is highly beneficial.
Prenuptial agreements are not an indication that you do not trust someone, and they are not an admission of defeat before the marriage has even begun. Instead, they are an open acknowledgment that life happens, and sometimes things do not go as planned.
Divorce, no matter the circumstances leading up to it, is an emotionally stressful time. A thoughtful, well-crafted prenuptial agreement has the power to protect both of you during what can be a potentially contentious situation.