Planning makes everything better. When you try to make decisions last minute, you tend to leave out important details. Attempting to solve something while you are doing it leads to mistakes.
The same is true for a marriage. Marriage is, of course, about love. It is the union of two people who have chosen to become family and share their lives until death. It is a beautiful concept. It is also a pragmatic partnership. Many aspects of marriage include day-to-day life with no romantic overtones. Money, careers, plans, the house, the cars – these are also a big part of marriage.
Today, more people are creating marital agreements before entering matrimony. Legally, these are known as prenuptial agreements or prenuptial contracts. If they are created during the marriage, they are postnuptial agreements or contracts. There is a lot of negative connotations around “prenups,” and these days, many lawyers are foregoing the terminology altogether. In truth, these agreements can benefit everyone in the family.
Benefits of Marital Agreements
It is a common misconception that marital agreements are designed only to protect one wealthy partner. In truth, marital agreements can benefit everyone, from the modest to the millionaire.
Marital agreements can set aside money for the children. They can stipulate that this money is untouchable by either adult.
Through a marital agreement, you can designate property that, no matter what happens, will always be “yours.” Imagine two people – one collects vinyl records, the other baseball cards – get married. In a marital agreement, you can protect your collection, making sure it will always belong to just you. It cannot be lost in a divorce or sold during the marriage without your permission. This can also apply to items acquired during the marriage. You can agree, for example, that any new records or baseball cards will be part of the overall collection. People often use property designation to protect gifts from within the marriage as well. If your sweetheart buys you a ring, you can make sure it will always belong to you.
Studies have consistently shown that money is one of the most argued topics in a marriage. A marital agreement could potentially resolve financial disagreements before the marriage begins. Couples can predetermine how money will be spent and distributed. Once in writing, the contract determines how the couple will handle their money from then on. This can save much strife in the future.
For example, many couples operate under a percentage-based system. They look at the combined income in the home and calculate who contributes what percent of that income. For instance, Jim and Jane’s combined income is $75,000 per year. Jim makes $33,750 per year, which is 45% of the total. Jane makes $41,250, 55% of the total. For any shared expenses – electricity, utilities, groceries, etc. – they split the cost along those percentage lines. Jim pays 45% of the light bill, and Jane pays 55%. The beauty of such a system is that it consistently remains relevant. No matter whose income increases or decreases, Jim and Jane will always know how to handle the bills. A system like this could be outlined in a marital agreement.
What Can You Decide in a Marital Agreement?
As discussed, you can make decisions on personal property. Any assets or finances can be assigned to just one party in a marital agreement, but it can do even more. You can also choose who has obligations to said property. For example, if you buy a home together, you can designate one person to pay the mortgage while the other pays for maintenance and renovations. One person can be given the right to sell or rent certain property, and the money received can be distributed however you choose.
You can plan ahead for what to do if the marriage should end in divorce, avoiding future legal woes. For example, you can predetermine how to handle spousal support. There are several different laws that can govern a divorce, and you can choose now which will be used if needed. This can be particularly beneficial for same-sex marriages, as the legalities involved can become quite complicated.
Child Support and Custody
A marital agreement cannot be used to predetermine issues of child support or child custody. These decisions are made by courts in the best interest of the child. It is not possible to predict where the marriage will be if, in the future, it ends in divorce. One partner could be making far more money than the other, who used to be the breadwinner. For this reason, child custody and support decisions are made at the time of the marriage’s dissolution. Even when a divorce is uncontested, a courtroom will review the custody plan and finalize it.
Why You Should Seek a Lawyer
Legal professionals are there to help protect you and keep you from making mistakes. Under certain conditions, a judge could nullify a marital agreement.
Judges can invalidate martial contracts if they believe:
- One party was coerced into signing the agreement.
- One party misrepresented themselves when entering the agreement.
- The contract overly benefits one party.
Creating a marital agreement with the help of an experienced lawyer can keep nullification at bay. Attorneys can confirm that both parties are entering into the agreement willingly. Through investigation, they can verify that each party is honest about their identity and finances. Finally, they can work with the couple to help make sure everyone is benefitting from the contract.
Alternative Divorce Solutions wants to help you and your partner start your new life together. For help with marital agreements, call 949-368-2121 or contact us online.