There are few legal concepts more commonly misconstrued than the prenuptial agreement. Many people believe that suggesting a prenuptial contract is a sign that one or both partners lack faith that the marriage will last. However, the reality is that a prenuptial agreement can provide firmer footing for newlyweds and encourage them to have deep, honest communication about their goals and expectations for the marriage. Prenuptial agreements are also essential considerations for high-net-worth individuals and people who have financial commitments from previous marriages.
Every marriage is unique, and a prenuptial agreement may not be appropriate for every marrying couple. However, there are clear benefits to these contracts that no one should ignore. Find an experienced St. Louis, MO divorce attorney for more specific advice for your unique situation, but review some of the following reasons why you should strongly consider a prenuptial agreement for your impending marriage.
Protect Your Children from Previous Marriages
Property distribution laws in Missouri are quite clear, and it is vital to be proactive if you have children from a previous marriage. A prenuptial agreement can allow you to clearly outline who receives your separate property in the event of divorce or your death, including children from a previous marriage. In effect, you can stipulate inheritance for your children from previous marriages without the interference of your new partner. Without a prenuptial contract, it is very possible that your new spouse could obtain a large share of your property upon your death or after divorce, leaving your children from a prior marriage with very little.
Protect Yourself from Debts
Money problems are one of the leading causes of divorce in the US. If you and your fiancé have separate debts, developing a prenuptial contract could allow each of you to protect yourselves. Before marriage, both parties will need to complete a financial disclosure statement that lists all assets and debts. The prenuptial contract can then ensure that you will not be responsible for your spouse’s poor financial decisions in the future, nor will you be liable for debts they held prior to your marriage.
Outline Financial Responsibilities Within Your Marriage
A marriage is a partnership, meaning that you both have certain responsibilities to ensure the marriage lasts. A prenuptial agreement can specify each of your financial responsibilities going forward. For example, your prenup can outline which of you will be responsible for paying certain bills or managing certain assets. This portion of your prenuptial contract can potentially eliminate a significant amount of confusion and reduce the chances of financial arguments in the future.
Protect Family Heirlooms
One of the most common areas of contention in probate proceedings is the right to claim family heirlooms. Without a prenuptial contract in place, it is possible for your spouse to retain family heirlooms and other family property that you would prefer to leave to another relative. If you want to ensure family property stays in your family after your death, a prenuptial agreement is one of the best ways to ensure your spouse cannot control its distribution. It is also wise to align all your beneficiary designations for other property with the stipulations you plan to include in your prenuptial contract.
Develop a Spousal Support Agreement in Advance
In most marriages, one spouse earns more income than the other. A prenuptial contract can potentially eliminate a great deal of uncertainty and ensure the spouses know exactly where they stand should they ever decide to divorce. If you earn significantly more than your future spouse, you can include limitations on spousal support if the two of you decide to divorce later. If you do not stipulate spousal support in your prenuptial contract, the decision falls to a family court judge who may award a significantly higher amount of support.
Foster Stronger Communication at the Beginning of Your Marriage
One of the most often overlooked benefits of a prenuptial agreement is the fact that the process of creating one can be incredibly constructive for a marrying couple. Creating a prenuptial contract forces the couple to have honest conversations about their expectations and goals. This process can be difficult in some ways but ultimately helps both spouses approach the marriage with more security and confidence. Many couples who complete prenuptial contracts find that the process brought them closer together and allowed them to have difficult conversations to ward off potential arguments that may have taken place later.
Things to Remember About Prenuptial Contracts
There are many clear benefits to exploring prenuptial contracts as you prepare to marry but remember that you are not creating a complete set of rules and regulations for your marriage. There are some issues that you cannot negotiate through a prenuptial agreement. For example, you cannot outline daily household tasks in your prenuptial contract and will need to negotiate dishwashing and other chores privately. You also cannot stipulate sexual relations in your prenuptial contract. Perhaps most importantly, you may not include any clearly illegal terms or conditions within your final prenuptial contract.
Other family court issues are not available for settlement via a prenuptial agreement. For example, it is impossible to outline child custody and child support rights in a prenuptial contract. The family court has the only authority to settle these issues and must do so in alignment with the best interests of the children involved. Additionally, the court will need to review your prenuptial agreement and the elements contained within before determining custody and support for your children.
Contact a St. Louis, MO Family Law Attorney
Developing a prenuptial contract may be one of the most constructive things you ever do as you prepare to marry, but you should not expect to navigate this process entirely on your own. If you believe a prenuptial contract would align with your best interests, find an experienced St. Louis family law attorney who can help you determine the best approach to the situation. Your attorney can help you procure the documentation you will need and assist you in approaching the issue with greater confidence.