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I was having dinner with friends a few weeks back and, as it always does, the conversation turned to prenuptials agreements. Everyone loves talking about what they get for a settlement if they divorce. One of the wives mused about getting their private island as part of her settlement. Her husband stated that he was keeping their personal plane and their four beach houses. Okay, this didn’t actually happen. More than likely, someone actually told a joke with a prenuptial as the punch line.
Prenuptials are actually much more common than you might think. Some changes in society have likely made them more popular for average, middle class couples, who don’t have private islands, multiple summer homes, or personal planes:
1. Women have more education, better jobs, and more money entering marriage;
2. People are getting married later in life, so they are more likely to have accumulated some personal assets or, potentially, debt; and
3. The prominence of children from previous marriages and relationships.
When does it make sense to have a prenuptial agreement? Any time that you have something valuable in your life, whether it be children, house, business, or other assets.
A Prenuptial Agreement is merely a contract that couples sign before they are married and is enforced if you get a divorce (although some terms included can direct behavior during marriage). Couples who have a prenuptial agreement and later divorce typically have quicker and less expensive divorces, because the terms of separation are already defined and known.
To be valid and enforceable, a prenuptial must be conscionable and made after full financial disclosure by both parties DeMatteo v. DeMatteo, 436 Mass. 18 (2002); however, the court may determine that even if a prenuptual agreement was fair when executed, a “second look” at the agreement might make it unenforceable at the time of divorce Kelcourse v. Kelcourse, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 33 (2015). For that reason, it is even more important to be accurate when making financial disclosures prior to making the agreement and to satisfy all other criteria which would make it valid and enforceable.
The greatest things about prenuptials is that they force a couple to discuss some important issues before they get married. Too many people really do not know much about their future spouse’s finances before they get married. They may know that the person drives an expensive, shiny car and what they do for work, but not much else. Was the car paid for in cash or with a loan? Can the spouse even afford that car without sacrificing other, more essential, things? How much does the future spouse earn annually? Does that person have unearned income also? Is there an expectation of future inheritance? Does that person have debt and how significant is it? Once those discussions are over, couples actually find them selves closer and are more prepared for a honest, successful marriage.