If you’re planning to get engaged or are recently engaged, a prenuptial agreement might be a question.

Before we get into the legal stuff, I want to say congratulations to you and your significant other! This is such an exciting time in your lives and you should both enjoy the wonderful moments that come with your relationship and taking the next step toward marriage. As part of preparing for that, many couples choose to learn more about a prenuptial agreement (prenup for short) prior to tying the knot. A prenup is also referred to as an antenuptial agreement or premarital agreement. These agreements are drafted by an attorney or mediator with a focus in family law. AN|R Law Offices, a mediation and collaborative law firm, is experienced in creating, drafting, and executing these agreements.

Believe me, I completely understand that a prenup may sound a little intimidating at first, especially given its stigma in movies and pop culture. Before we dive into what a prenup is and who it might benefit, let’s explain what it is not.

A prenup is not:

  • An agreement only for rich or famous people
  • An agreement only for people who have been married before
  • An agreement only for people with children
  • An agreement only for people who plan to get divorced
  • An agreement only for people who don’t really love their significant other

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, I’d like you to reset any prior negative assumption or stereotype you may have about prenups. So, that said, let’s talk about what a prenup is.

A prenup is:

  • An agreement that protects you and your spouse in the event of divorce
  • An agreement that is created with love, respect, and understanding
  • An agreement that establishes a plan for fair financial division
  • An agreement that determines the process for potential separation or divorce

To get a little more detailed, a prenup is a document that serves as a written contract that a couple agrees to before a marriage or civil union. This agreement allows couples to discuss legal rights and finances prior to their marriage and what would happen in the event of a divorce. This document would lay out how assets would be divided including property, retirement benefits, investments, and savings accounts. It could also cover the right to seek alimony with agreed upon terms. Sometimes, prenups can also address what would happen in the event of spouse’s death and the surviving spouse’s rights and claims. In the United States, a prenup is recognized by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

These types of documents can be extremely beneficial for many couples. As a collaborative family law attorney, I tell my prenup clients that it’s best to talk about these difficult topics while they are of sound mind and happy in their relationship. Typically, a prenuptial agreement is recommended for one partner who has more assets, property, or value than the other or when one or both partners have significant investments. These agreements can also benefit couples who plan to have children or even pets. Oftentimes, pet ownership can be just as difficult to decide as custody of children. I recommend that couples also include the type of divorce process they would plan to use if they eventually consider divorce. I practice collaborative law which is a divorce process that keeps couples and families out of the courtroom. This is a method that’s proven to be healthier for all involved which is why many couples choose to have a collaborative divorce process written into their prenuptial agreement.

Additionally, in the United States, a prenup can protect some spouses during the marriage in the case of bankruptcy. In the event that one spouse has significant student loan debt or credit card debt, a prenup can also protect the other spouse from acquiring that debt. Speaking of, more debt is being brought into marriages than ever before, especially in the millennial age bracket. That could be one reason why prenups are also becoming increasingly common for many couples, especially as people are getting married later in life. Some already have property and assets that they want to protect, others may have student loan debt. According to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), more millennials are signing prenups before getting married. The president of AAML, Joslin Davis, said in a news release that members of the millennial generation are particularly choosing prenups as the best option to cover separate property holdings, business interests, anticipated family inheritances and potential alimony claims.

The survey found that 62 percent of the lawyers polled saw an increase in the total number of clients who are seeking prenups. As a divorce attorney who handles many premarital agreements, I can attest to these numbers in the Eastern North Carolina market. In addition, these statistics also point to how millennials interpret marriage. As researched in my book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, children of divorce are approaching marriage differently. Millions of millennials are children of divorce and they want to protect themselves and their soon-to-be spouses from the pain and process of a potential divorce. It’s not that they don’t believe in marriage, it’s that they know what could happen based on what their parents experienced.

If you are considering a conversation with your partner about a prenuptial agreement, here are some suggestions for approaching this delicate and sensitive topic.

  • Be open, empathetic, and understanding
  • Set aside a specific time to talk and allow time to discuss
  • Explain why it is a consideration
  • Share how it will also benefit them
  • Offer to pay for legal fees on their behalf

A conversation about a prenup should start early considering the time it could take to discuss, draft, and finalize an agreement. Some couples begin talking about it before they even get engaged. The agreement must be finalized prior to marriage. In the event that a married couple wishes they would have gotten a prenuptial agreement, they have the option of a postnuptial (postnup) agreement. These documents are similar to a prenuptial agreement; however, it is only for couples who are already married or have already entered a civil union. Some couples prefer postnups because the stress of wedding planning is out of the way they don’t want to determine division prior to marriage. Some couples who have gotten postnups also say it was easier for them to have these conversations after they already settled into their married life and marital routines. Another common reason for a postnup is to protect funds earned during the marriage. This can range from income from owning a successful business to receiving a large inheritance.

To learn more about prenuptial agreements and/or postnuptial agreements, reach out to the knowledgeable legal staff at AN|R Law Offices. With locations in Greenville, Raleigh, and Beaufort, my team and I are able to provide you and your spouse with superior service. During this exciting time of your lives, don’t let the conversation of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement cause unnecessary stress or anxiety on your relationship. AN|R Law has experience in executing these agreements with the utmost care and concern to protect both you and your spouse while maintaining understanding and respect.