If the prospect of bringing up a prenuptial agreement with your fiancé makes your skin crawl, you’re not alone. Many people feel uncomfortable about broaching the topic of a prenuptial agreement with their prospective spouse, but the reality is prenuptial agreements are becoming more and more common, especially amongst millennials. According to a Harris poll reported by The New Yorker, 40% of people between the ages of 18-34 who were married or engaged reported signing a prenup.
Many people are realizing that prenuptial agreements do not have to represent a cynical or pessimistic approach to marriage. Nor are they a luxury reserved for the wealthy. Instead, couples are realizing that prenuptial agreements can in fact help them be better prepared for the challenges of marriage while at the same time giving them an alternative to California’s one-size fits all laws that dictate how a couple divides their assets if and when their marriage ends in divorce or death.
Know the Alternative
It’s important to understand that not signing a prenuptial agreement doesn’t mean you and your spouse aren’t entering into a legal and financial agreement when you get married. By getting married and residing in the state of California, you are de facto agreeing to abide by the laws governing marriage and divorce in California, unless you sign a prenuptial agreement. If you sign a prenup, you and your spouse get to decide the terms of that contract. If you don’t, you should recognize your marriage is itself still a binding legal and financial contract.
Communication Is Everything
In a marriage, communication is everything. You and your spouse will need to learn to talk through issues big and small – from who does the dishes after dinner to whether to buy a new car to whether to send your child to public or private school. Many of these topics will likely include a financial element, and many people find it very difficult to talk about money – even and sometimes especially with their spouse.
Learning to talk about money – respectfully, calmly, and productively – can make or break a marriage. A prenuptial agreement begins the work of discussing your financial issues together in an honest, forthright, and forward-thinking way.
In order for a prenuptial agreement to be considered legally valid in California, you and your future spouse are required to provide a full financial disclosure to each other. This means you will need to provide each other with a full accounting of all your assets and debts. This kind of mutual transparency is meant to ensure the stipulations you agree to in the prenup were entered into with your eyes wide open and the prenup is therefore fair and reasonable.
By freely and openly disclosing your financial situation – warts and all – to your fiancé, you enter into the marriage with a real sense of where each of you stand individually and together. This kind of honesty builds a foundation of trust on which your future marriage can rely.
Many people fall in love and get married but have only a vague sense of what their spouse’s financial values are before the wedding. For some couples, the only financial conversations they have before their wedding are about their wedding. Those conversations can give you a hint of your fiancé’s financial values, but the only way to know for sure is to have ongoing and honest conversations about how you both handle money.
Does your spouse make a budget every month and spend only what that budget allows? Or do they spend till the money from their monthly paycheck runs out? Do they like to lease a new car every few years or do they only buy used cars? Do they overspend their income via credit cards on a regular basis or are they inveterate savers?
These questions are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how your respective financial values can impact the way you both make financial decisions during your marriage. If you and your spouse have very different values – for instance, if you are a spender and they are a saver, this doesn’t mean your marriage is destined to fail. Instead, it merely means you’ll need to learn to communicate, compromise, and find common ground.
At the same time, a prenup can be set up to protect each of you so if, as in the previous example, you are a spender and have significant credit card debt whereas they are a saver and have significant savings, you can each decide how you’d like those assets and debts to be handled both during and after your marriage rather than leaving those decisions up to the discretion of California family and probate courts.
One of the primary purposes of a prenuptial agreement is to make plans for the future. Some couples only include provisions pertaining to the possibility of divorce, including:
- Alimony or spousal support
- Property division, including assets and debts
- Protecting family businesses or properties
These plans can be completely customized to your needs and desires. So, for instance, if your spouse plans to pause or delay their career to take care of your future children, you can determine financial provisions you both feel are fair to compensate for that time and any lost earning potential in case of divorce. A prenuptial agreement can also lay out provisions for future and existing children.
A prenup can also include provisions that determine how assets, debts, expenses, and other financial issues will be handled during the marriage. Finally, it can provide clarity about how each of you would like your estate handled in case of death.
By discussing and writing down these plans, you and your fiancé will begin the process of establishing a shared financial future. How that future looks is up to you, but by beginning this process early you will be better poised to continue doing so during your marriage.
How Burch Shepard Family Law Group Can Help
Signing a prenuptial agreement can be a profound way of caring for yourself and your spouse. By taking control of your own futures and designing a custom agreement, you will both be better prepared for all possible futures.
However, California law has strict requirements when it comes to the validity of prenuptial agreements, and it is important that you consult an experienced family law attorney who can advise you about how to ensure your prenuptial agreement will hold up in court, if necessary.
At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, our attorneys have over 100 years of collective experience that we bring to each and every one of our client’s cases. Whether you need an attorney to draft an agreement from scratch or you prefer to have an attorney review your pre-drafted prenuptial agreement, we are committed to bringing both our knowledge and sensitivity to your unique situation.If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, contact us online or call us at (949) 565-4158 to schedule an initial consultation.