Prepared for Anything: The Importance of Prenuptial Agreements

In the United States, nearly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. This statistic has come to seem more like a cliché than a sociological fact, but according to a recent report released by the National Marriage Project, this widely cited statistic is in fact accurate; for a couple marrying today, the lifetime probability of divorce or separation is between 40 and 50 percent. During a gripping recession, however, there is some good news.

As in previous economic downturns in the U.S., while the unemployment rate has risen, the divorce rate has fallen slightly. Experts have identified another trend. College-educated individuals in the U.S. are not only more likely to get married, but also more likely to stay married. In fact, if a couple makes on average $50,000 or more a year, the likelihood of divorce goes down by 30 percent. Greater financial security can increase the odds that the couple will stay together.

What can couples in lower income brackets do to increase their chances of staying together? Some marital experts suggest that prenuptial and postnuptial agreements may be a tool that all couples can use to gain better perspective about their marriage and set expectations for their financial future together.

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements bring to mind names like Donald Trump and Tiger Woods. But these marital planning tools are not only options for the super wealthy. All marriages could benefit from some frank discussions about finances and assets before the marriage. In fact, blue-collar men and women may stand to gain the most from prenuptial and postnuptial agreements as they are most significantly affected by events like recessions.
Protecting money and security is essential for anyone, no matter how much money there is to protect. Even if a couple is not fighting over millions of dollars and second vacation homes, the assets they do have are no less important for their individual futures. Leaving a marriage with an extra $20,000 and a vehicle can put an individual in a much better position after the divorce and may make a marital agreement well worth the effort. Additionally, if one party brings substantial debt into the marriage, the couple can plan for how they will divide the debt if the marriage ends.

Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements can offer more than just financial security. Discussing financial issues before or even during the marriage allows the couple to clear the air about their expectations for the financial aspects of the marriage. Couples may find that one spouse is a spender and one spouse is a saver. Or one spouse may want to combine financial accounts while the other prefers that each party maintain their own banking and investment accounts. One spouse may have substantial assets or debts that the other did not know about. By discussing these issues ahead of time, couples can avoid financial surprises and may be able to arrive at compromises that otherwise could threaten the marriage.

If you have questions about divorce, prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, contact a lawyer in your area. An experienced family law attorney can help you evaluate what options best fit your situation.