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Family Ties: Should I Sign a Prenup?

Family Ties: Should I Sign a Prenup?

Relationships: My Fiance Wants Me to Sign a Prenup? Should I Agree?


Q: My fiancé is divorced, and in his legal divorce agreement, he was “cleaned out” by his ex-wife. Afraid that this could happen again, he wants us to have a prenuptial agreement. This does not feel good to me. It is as if he does not have confidence that our marriage will last. Should I agree to a prenuptial?
People who have been married before are more likely to consider a prenuptial agreement, which is a legal contract entered into by two people before they get married. Prenuptial agreements (also known as premarital agreements or prenups) commonly include agreements about the division of property and any rights to spousal support in the event of separation/divorce or death.            

Some people feel that a prenuptial agreement destroys the romance, conveys mistrust, and reflects pessimism about the future of the marriage. Another point of view is that the process of talking about what would be a fair division of property and spousal support in the event of divorce can potentially increase the intimacy and trust between two people who plan to get married. With about half of remarriages ending in divorce, a prenup may be a smart financial decision. From this point of view, prenuptial agreements are like insurance policies that offer protection in the event something goes wrong.

Even if the prenup appears primarily to protect your fiancé’s assets, it can also protect your assets and can protect you both against a costly legal battle, if divorce was to occur. It is certainly appropriate for you to share your feelings about a prenup with your fiancé. One option is for you and your fiancé to discuss the particulars of what a prenup between you might specify. But If the process of discussing a prenup brings you closer and you feel that the agreements your fiancé suggests including in the prenup are fair, your feelings about proceeding with a prenuptial agreement might change.   

Prenuptial agreements are recognized in all 50 states, but states vary in their laws regarding prenups. It is advisable to consult with an attorney in developing a prenuptial agreement; indeed, you and your fiancé should have separate legal counsel to make sure that each of your interests is represented. Prenuptial agreements should be made well before the wedding date; otherwise, you might feel pressure signing on the dotted line.

Do not sign any agreement if it does not see fair to you or if you feel coerced into signing it. One option you might consider is having a sunset clause in your agreement that states that the prenup agreement is valid for a specified number of years, and then it must be renegotiated. In sum, whether you end up agreeing to a prenup or not, discussing a prenuptial agreement can be a valuable experience for you and your fiancé to  learn about each other’s values, sense of fairness, and ability to negotiate with each other.    

Caroline Schacht has a master’s degree in home economics and another in sociology. She has been trained as a divorce mediator and a teacher at East Carolina University, specializing in courtship and marriage classes. She is the co-author of several textbooks, including "Choices in Relationships and Understanding Social Problems." She can be reached a cschacht@suddenlink.net.

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