A prenuptial agreement, or “prenup,” is a documented discussion that decides many issues well before the wedding in case a marriage ends in divorce. Issues about distribution of property or support can be decided when emotions aren’t running high like when a couple is actually dealing with the sadness of a divorce. Divorce is simpler and less expensive when some of the decisions are made in advance. Without one, sometimes the Texas family court can decide everything and that may not seem fair. Prenups can also be created in conjunction with estate planning to address how one spouse is treated when the other passes away.
Like any difficult conversation, there is a right way and a wrong way to broach the subject. Do it right, and you’ll have a meaningful, intelligent conversation that will lead to a properly drafted and executed agreement that protects both parties. Done incorrectly, you could cause a strain in the relationship—or end the engagement entirely.
Talk Early And Often
Bring up the subject long before wedding planning begins. It’s difficult to know how your intended spouse will react to a prenup question until you mention it. But there is no point in being any less than honest about your concerns. Surprisingly your intended may also welcome dealing with these issues for their own peace of mind.
If you can’t have honest and productive discussions with the person you’re planning to marry, problems with money could permeate your entire marriage—leading to a divorce anyway. Texas is a “community property” state, so everything acquired during the marriage period is considered “marital property” unless it’s set out as separate property ahead of time.
Ironically, productive prenup discussions have the potential for creating a stronger marriage, because you know immediately if you and your intended are on the same page.
Your Financial Future
A prenup can also prevent you from becoming responsible for your partner’s debts. This is true whether (or not) you know about them or you are a signatory. Even if your finances are kept separate, and you never have joint accounts, credit card debt and other accounts are still considered marital debt. A prenuptial conversation can allow for conversation in a non judgmental way so again neither party has to be embarrassed by their accumulated debt and can work out a plan to address the debt moving forward.
It is always important to spend considerable time discussing your financial future before the wedding. Discussing both assets and debts is a critical part of your combined financial outlook and can be planned for accordingly, including if a marriage ends in divorce.
There should be plenty of time between the prenup discussion and the wedding day. The earlier you begin the discussion, the better. Waiting too close to the wedding may also render the prenup null and void in Texas. It may also lead the other person to believe they can’t trust you.
Even if your fiancé may not bring significant assets to the marriage, a prenup gives him or her some leverage in the marriage and in the event of a divorce.
It’s important to understand that the prenup isn’t a one-sided contract to ensure that you get the better end of the deal in a divorce. Working with an experienced attorney, you can come up with a draft prenup, review it carefully, make any adjustments, and then sign a final agreement when you are sure both of you are fully aware and understand all the terms and conditions. That’s why both of you should have your own legal counsel to ensure that both sides are fairly represented. A prenup is a collaborative effort between two people, not a competition. Without one, a divorce has the potential to turn into a competition for who will get the most and that is when the process gets mired down in bickering and further unhappiness.
Who Should Have A Prenup
The short answer is anyone who’s considering getting married. This goes for same-sex couples too, who will face the same issues as a traditional married couple and the same experience if they later divorce.
Despite the predominant view, prenuptial agreements are not just for brides and grooms from affluent, high-wealth families. They’re for any couple contemplating marriage who would like to protect themselves in the event of a divorce. These contracts are increasingly popular among millennials, who have seen the effects of contentious divorce on previous generations.
What To Discuss And Include
Prenups should contain pertinent information as it relates to both parties now and in the future. It’s especially important if one or both of you come from a wealthy family so that property and assets can be protected from the divorce. But even if you don’t, a prenup should cover topics such as:
• Spousal support
• Assets intended for children
• Personal property you want set aside as separate property that won’t be part of the property division
• Bank accounts, credit cards accounts, retirement accounts and other financial subjects
• Real estate
One hot topic is the future custody of family pets. If you adopt a pet during your marriage, who assumes responsibility? What if both want to keep the pet? This “custody arrangement” can be as contentious as the one for children, so add it to be sure.
And if you didn’t get the prenup done prior to the wedding, you can always to a postnuptial agreement, which is the same thing but signed after the wedding.
Prenup? Let Wendy L. Hart Help
Part of your wedding planning should include a prenuptial agreement. Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney with experience assisting people throughout Tarrant County who need help in marriage and family legal matters. From a prenuptial agreement to wills and estate planning, Wendy can help with many family law issues.
Visit our Mansfield office at 2363 HWY 287 N, Suite 108, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336. We’re ready to help.