Weddings are the time when love is in bloom, spirits are high, and couples are looking forward to a wonderful future together. Common conversations could include discussing how and where to live, children, who will take out the trash (maybe not at first, but it sneaks in there!), and all sorts of topics related to merging lives – and even households. Less common are the conversations that contemplate a marriage not working out. Who would get what in the event of a divorce?
“Couples don’t get married with the intention of breaking up,” says Roxana Maddahi of Elite Daily. However, not all marriages last forever, and sometimes financial matters can create pre-separation angst or add to post-separation difficulties and sadness. A prenuptial agreement might be part of the answer, even though talking about one may not make for an easy conversation.
According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, almost 70 percent of engaged couples do not want to discuss money, but a study by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts found that money issues or arguments account for 22-percent of all divorces! If you’re going to share life, you should definitely talk about money and financial matters, not just before the wedding, but throughout your marriage.
Reasons to have a pre-marriage financial talk (and to put your agreements in writing) are many. PrenuptialAgreements.org suggests eight cases when it can be especially important to have a prenuptial agreement:
- You are much wealthier than your partner.
- You earn much more than your partner.
- You are remarrying.
- Your partner has a high debt load.
- You own part of a business.
- To prevent your spouse from overturning your estate plan.
- You are much poorer than your partner.
- You plan to quit your job to raise children.
It's ok to have a professional help guide the conversation.
Is it awkward to have a prenup discussion when a relationship is going well? You bet! But with a bit of preparation, and these tips from James J. Sexton’s blog in The Huffington Post, it’s possible to have the conversation in a respectful way. If it becomes too difficult a discussion to have, consider working with a third party – a professional who can guide the conversation.
All states have statutory and case law relating to prenuptial agreements. In 2014, Colorado approved a new Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act designed to address varying standards for prenuptial agreements that have led to uncertainty about enforcement as couples move around the country. Some of the key points include:
- The agreement must be in writing.
- You must both voluntarily consent to the agreement’s terms.
- Both of you must have access to legal counsel.
- There must be adequate financial disclosure, including income and assets.
- There are limitations on modifying or waiving maintenance and payment of attorney’s fees in the event of a divorce.
The Act also discusses unenforceable terms (such as those that adversely affect a child’s right to support, or those that limit remedies available to victims of domestic violence), as well as identifying what happens at the death of a spouse.
Ensure a final agreement that serves each of you well.
Your agreement may be as narrow or as broad as you both desire. One of the keys is that it cannot be one-sided. Both of you must be involved and in agreement to the terms. No duress allowed! Competent legal and financial counsel are important to ensuring a final agreement that serves each of you well.
Marriage is about love and relationship, and also about partnering in life, which includes dealing with your finances together. Having a good discussion and developing a mutually agreed upon prenuptial arrangement may be a positive step in developing a life-long, rock-solid marriage.
At M.J. Smith & Associates, we’re ready to help you structure your finances for a lifetime of well-being, whether you’re planning marriage or not. Contact us for a complimentary, no-obligation review of your financial situation. It would be our privilege to serve you.
Opinions expressed are those of Drew Harper and are not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information herein has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. Links are being provided for informational purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. and its advisors do not provide legal advice, legal matters should be discussed with a legal professional.