Marriage these days is nothing like those of prior generations.  Over 1/3 of women these days outearn their husbands, and over 75% of couples have a two-income household.  As everyone has become painfully aware of the divorce rates (along with the financial and legal entanglements that arise from these unions) prenuptial agreements have consistently been trending upwards over the past two decades– not just with the trust fund babies or second marriages.

Working with couples about to marry, here are some key points I ask them to consider:

  1. Property– what do you want to keep as separate versus what will you be building together?  For many, there may not be much at the moment, but perhaps there are intellectual property rights, the expectation of an inheritance or interest in a future business that they need to protect.
  2. Spousal Support– do you think each person should be self-supporting and that a full waiver of alimony is appropriate? Or maybe we can just minimize the exposure for each party by setting up some caps in terms of the amount and/or duration in the event someone might need financial assistance in the future if the couple parts ways.
  3. Managing Expenses– while sharing a home together, what are the expectations with respect to how much each person will contribute? Many people these days maintain separate accounts, but fund one joint account in proportion to their incomes to cover agreed-to expenses for housing, food, and travel.
  4. House– in the event of a split, who should be the one to move out and after how much notice?  How will we determine if a buyout is feasible, and if not how long before the home gets listed for sale?
  5. Dispute Resolution– should someone want to terminate the marriage, in the event of a legal dispute wouldn’t you want a provision that requires mediation, arbitration or the Collaborative Process before anyone goes to court?  These forms of alternate dispute resolution not only save time and money, but also are completely confidential.

Ultimately, the entire drafting process for a prenup can usually be done quickly and for far less than the cost of your entire catering bill.  Furthermore, unlike a wedding which is over in a day, the final product is a durable, thoughtful contract that protects you both indefinitely until death or divorce.  A truly loving partner will work with you to find a mutually agreeable solution to any financial concerns you may have.  And for those who ran out of time to do this before saying “I do” there’s still hope if you want to enter into a postnuptial agreement.

I’m all for taking that leap of faith when you find your forever person, but I also think it’s important to make sure you have a parachute or safety net to break your fall in case things go sideways. Unfortunately, it happens to the best of us.

Regina A. DeMeo