African couple meet with notary or lawyer discuss prenuptial agreementWeddings are a joyous occasion, but just like the best weddings require lots of planning before the big day, they should also require couples to make a solid plan for whatever the future may hold. One important step in planning for the future, especially for couples marrying after starting their careers, is to consider having a prenuptial agreement drafted and signed prior to the wedding.

A prenup is an agreement between two people who are engaged to be married. The agreement, when done correctly, outlines how assets and liabilities will be divided if the marriage ends in divorce at any point in time in the future. While many people think prenups are only suitable for wealthy couples, in today’s world, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Having a prenup can benefit everyone—from those who own businesses to those who are coming into the marriage with sizeable indebtedness, such as large student loan debts. In this article, I’ll give a simple overview of the many benefits couples can enjoy by having a prenup drafted and signed before the big day.


Financial Peace of Mind for Both Parties

While some might think that just bringing up the topic of a prenup during an engagement might be anxiety-inducing, most agreements actually offer peace of mind to both parties involved once they are drafted and signed. This type of agreement allows both people to enter into marriage with the clear understanding that their assets will remain separate, or to clearly outline what will happen to pre-marital assets in the event of divorce. This means that each person will know exactly what they are entitled to if the worst should happen, giving them financial security and peace of mind.

Even if one party is wealthier than the other, a prenup helps ensure that all parties receive full and clear disclosure of each other’s financial situation and that they will each receive fair treatment during asset division proceedings in case of divorce. This can make planning for the future much easier for both parties involved, as well as their families. Furthermore, couples can use a prenup as an opportunity to discuss their individual financial expectations for the marriage and their desires for future earning capacity and/or career ambition before entering into marriage. This is the best way to ensure there aren’t any surprises down the road when things get tough or when future career paths take a different direction than originally discussed.


Protection From Pre-Marital Debts

By having a well-drafted and properly executed prenuptial agreement, future spouses also help protect each other from the existing debts of their betrothed and, potentially, their future debts depending on how the agreement is drafted and what is enforceable under their state’s laws. If you know your partner might have significant debt they are bringing into the marriage, such as student loan debt or credit card debt, then you could potentially be liable for repaying it in case of your partner’s death or divorce (depending on the asset and debt division laws in your state).

A well-planned prenuptial agreement may help protect you from being held responsible for repaying these debts by clearly outlining which party is responsible for paying them off should something unforeseen happen. In the best cases, having a prenuptial agreement means both parties are protecting each other from being stuck with financial obligations they didn’t help create in the event the marriage ends unexpectedly.


Making Hard Decisions When Things are the Happiest

Finally, by working out the details of a prenup before the wedding, you’re essentially making some of the hardest decisions (who gets what if a divorce happens) when you’re the most in love with the other person. In theory, and in my experience of working with engaged couples negotiating these agreements, making hard decisions when you’re most in love with the other person usually means the decisions are easier to make. It also tends to mean that everyone is making their decisions based on what’s best for both parties – not just for themselves.

If divorce occurs later and there’s no prenuptial agreement, all of the property, asset, and debt division decisions must be made when each party is either angry at, has been hurt by, or is completely distrustful of the other spouse. Trying to get couples to make tough decisions that aren’t based, at least in part, on retaliation or hard feelings at that point in time is nearly impossible, not to mention very expensive.

Having a prenuptial agreement in place can be seen as an investment in your marriage and its future. You’re essentially taking the time to plan for all possible scenarios that might happen down the road, so you don’t have to make hard decisions when things are toughest. It’s an incredibly responsible way of ensuring both parties get fair treatment in the event of divorce, and it can be a great way for couples to start their new lives together on an equal footing.


Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, there are many benefits associated with having a valid and enforceable prenuptial agreement before entering into marriage from providing peace of mind and protecting individuals from each other’s debts to potentially making it easier to make hard decisions when it’s more than likely the easiest to make them. These reasons are just a few that make this type of agreement an important document for engaged couples everywhere to consider getting one prepared prior to marriage regardless of their financial situation or background. Ultimately, getting married is one of life’s biggest commitments, and just like having a well-executed plan will make the wedding day go off without a hitch, having an effective, well-drafted prenuptial agreement in place will only further ensure that both parties remain financially secure throughout their relationship no matter what life throws at them in the future!

If you and your future spouse are considering having a prenuptial agreement drafted, don’t make any decisions about how to proceed before talking with a trusted attorney in your area. Your agreement, even if drafted and signed before your wedding date, will be subject to your state’s marriage and divorce laws. Without discussing your situation with an attorney prior to your wedding, your agreement may not be what you each want or what is most beneficial to your future. If you’re in South Carolina, it’s important to contact an experienced family court attorney like J. Benjamin Stevens today to discuss your specific situation.  Even if you aren’t in South Carolina, Ben Stevens is happy to offer referrals to a well-qualified attorney located in your state.

Ben Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and he is a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has represented parties in all matters of family law, such as prenuptial agreements, divorce, separation, alimony, and child custody, across South Carolina for over twenty-five years. If you or someone you know is facing a child custody or visitation case, contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or to schedule a consultation.


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