Is a prenuptial agreement right for you?

More couples are turning to prenups

When two people get married, it's usually an occasion to celebrate.

Unfortunately, that celebration doesn't always last. It is estimated that 40 percent of marriages in the United States eventually end in divorce.

When a couple gets divorced, things can get messy.

"Divorces can become incredibly complicated with all the elements involved, including children, housing, and money," says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV . "When a marriage ends, it often becomes a game of who gets what, and prenuptial agreements allow parties to craft the end result with some certainty."

For that reason, prenuptial agreements, or "prenups," are becoming more popular. If you decide to draw up a prenuptial agreement, you will be part of a growing trend. A recent poll showed three-quarters of U.S. divorce lawyers reported an increase in prenups over the last five years.

A prenup is a contract entered into prior to marriage that includes provisions for certain things in the event of death or a divorce. Those provisions can include:

  • Division of property
  • Spousal support
  • Terms for asset forfeitures in case of adultery
  • Guardianship

Prenups are not for everyone. For example, a couple entering their first marriage in their early twenties may not have a reason to draw up a prenup. However, there are certain situations in which a prenup can be of great value.

"If one of you has substantial assets prior to getting married, a prenup makes a lot of sense," explains Sweet . "Also, if you have children from a previous marriage, you should consider a prenup even if the children are grown because the agreement can ease the tension between your new spouse and your children."

There are many advantages to preparing a prenuptial agreement with a divorce lawyer.

The parties will use a disciplined process to examine their options and make decisions with regard to such topics as property division, support, co-mingling, paying bills and beneficiary designations. The laws governing many of these issues vary from state to state.

"Many couples mistakenly think they understand their rights should they eventually get divorced, and those false assumptions can cause a lot of grief and cost a lot of money down the road," says Sweet .

Another issue with prenuptial agreements is the stigma attached to them.

Many people consider a mate selfish or distrustful if he or she asks for a prenup, but experts say it is prudent and wise to consider these issues as responsible adults. The prenuptial agreement process might reveal that you and your mate have different expectations about what will happen in the event of a divorce.

"It's important to understand those differences before the marriage rather than discovering them after the fact," suggests Sweet .

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