The Pros and Cons of Getting a Prenup

by Emily Guy Birken · 7 comments

It’s the start of wedding season! The scent of orange blossoms is in the air, best men are putting the finishing touches on their speeches, and brides and grooms are agreeing ahead of time what will happen to their assets in case of divorce…

Wait, what?

Admittedly, there is very little that is romantic about a prenuptial agreement. The very beginning of a marriage seems (in some ways) like a terrible time to spell out what will happen at the (possible) end of the relationship. However, there are some very sound financial and legal reasons for entering into a marriage with the protection of a prenuptial agreement. Here are some things to consider while you and your pookie are planning your wedding day.

Why You Might Want a Prenup

It’s important to remember first and foremost that couples entering into marriage with a prenuptial agreement don’t have any greater expectations of a divorce down the road. These couples merely tend to be practical, and recognize that marriage is about more than just the loving union of two people—it’s also about the union of financial assets and liabilities, families, and legal issues.

If either the bride or groom has children from a previous relationship, a prenup can help ensure their financial well-being in the event of divorce or death. Since each state has different laws regarding inheritance, it can be prudent for engaged couples to lay out in writing what they want to happen should life bring a rocky patch.

Similarly, if a bride or groom comes into a marriage with a well-established business, she or he might want to make sure to keep controlling interest in the event of a divorce. Or, if one member of the couple comes into the marriage with a great deal of debt (or a newly minted business), the prenup can help to protect the other spouse in the case of bad financial luck.

The stereotypical reason for a prenup is when either the bride or groom comes from family money. Though most of us aren’t lucky enough to be named Rockefeller (or married to one), many individuals do have family heirlooms, homes and other legacies that ought to stay “in the family” in the case of divorce or death.

Prenuptial agreements are a way for a couple to talk openly about their finances, families, legal issues, plans, hopes and dreams. In the starry-eyed and harmonious time before a wedding, it is an excellent idea to have an open conversation about these issues, so you really know what the person you’re marrying is like.

However…

Why You Might Not Want a Prenup

No matter how you slice it, starting a marriage with a prenup can make one or both members of the couple feel like there is a lack of trust. That’s a difficult emotional hurdle to get around.

It has been known to happen for one member of the couple to sign away more rights than is prudent, because it can be difficult to imagine getting to the point of divorce when you are in the midst of planning a wedding.

Prenuptial agreements also don’t necessarily predict the future. You may marry a starving artist whom you plan to support with your bustling law practice. Fifteen years later, when your artist has hit the big time, you might still have to pay support checks after the divorce because your prenuptial agreement assumed you would always make more money.

Finally, you may not think of everything that could come up in your prenuptial agreement—which means you could still end up fighting over something in a divorce proceeding.

When you get right down to it, prenuptial agreements are practical but unromantic. Whether or not you put things down in writing, each couple contemplating marriage should have a continuing dialogue about all of the issues a prenup might cover. If you can’t talk about these things without a lawyer present, you might want to call a relationship counselor first.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Red Clay says:

    When my wife & I got married at ages 23 & 22, we both had student loans & no assets & very little income or $$. We’d dated for 2.5 yrs & both knew the other’s finances. I don’ t see a need for a prenup in that situation. However, for a couple w/ debts or assets on one side, a prenup is a good idea. Or for a couple w/ children from a previous relationship, it’s a good thing.

  • khatlady says:

    When it comes to ending a marriage, the person you thought you knew so well has changed into a different person. What could have been simple and dignified turned very bitter and expensive. He tried to fight over everything. He even tried to with hold our son’s college tuition. A prenup would have cut a lot of that out and make a bad experience a little easier to go through.

  • When you have been burned once, prenups look pretty good. They are not needed if you don’t have large assets that would be problematic to lose. Sure it’s insulting for the receiver of the prenup, but if they still marry you it says a lot about their character and how they really feel.
    Prenups are a little security blanket that makes you feel in control. Hopefully they are never used but you are grateful to have them if the unthinkable happens.

  • I’m not married, but I don’t like the idea of a prenup. I have to admit, the older I get, the better of an idea it seems, and on a practical level I can appreciate the purpose, especially if one spouse is loaded and the other isn’t, but still, there’s just something about it that doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe this is a bit naive, but I feel as if I would know the person I’m going to marry and her character like the back of my hand and I wouldn’t actually end up marrying anyone who puts an emphasis on material things enough to want a prenup… then again, maybe I’ll change my tune when I’m rich and end up finding the right woman who doesn’t really have any of her own money, haha.

  • Adam says:

    People need to do what they think is in their best interest. My spouse and I don’t have a prenup, and glad happy about it. We do have an updated Will, which clearly articulates our wishes in the event of an untimely death.

  • KM says:

    As unromantic as they are, I think prenups are very important in today’s world of differences and complexities. Having a son from a previous relationship, I had to protect him as my first priority, so I like that you mentioned kids in your post. I had to make sure that my life insurance policies still go towards taking care of my child and that the house he lives in and is under my and my mom’s names does not get taken away from him. My car was my brother’s before he died, so it’s not something I would want to fight over in court and try to prove why it’s important to me. Likewise, I made sure to include that the mortgage is my responsibility so that my husband will not have to pay half of it in case of a divorce. Ultimately, it wasn’t about the money, but about protecting my family, existing and future.

  • No Debt MBA says:

    I’ve heard a prenump reframed as “I love you, but I can’t know what will happen in the future. I love you enough that I don’t want there to be unnecessary strife if we ever do divorce.” The divorce laws of your state should be considered when writing one because they may or may not trump the contract you write with your spouse.

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