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The Prenuptial Agreements, Why or Why Not?

Updated on January 21, 2012

I have never been a Jim Carrey fan (I hated his Ace Ventura series), but there's one scene in his movie Liar, Liar which I always love to watch. This was in a courtroom where he, despite not being able to tell a lie, won the case by proving that the prenuptial agreement signed by his client was null and void (his client was a minor when she signed the agreement). That scene drove home the point that such agreements are not all the time effective. Still, more and more couples-to-be are drawing up or are being advised (especially by family / divorce lawyers) to draw up and to sign such prenuptial agreements.

Prenuptial agreements are agreements signed by two parties who intend to marry each other. Despite the negative connotations attached to this type of agreements, they provide certain (very significant) advantages to the two parties involved. But then again, there are always two sides of the coin or in this case, they also have their disadvantages.

Advantage # 1 Prenuptial Agreements Protect…Everything

Prenuptial agreements serve to protect a lot of things. They protect your children from your former marriage, since you can always specify how your properties will be distributed (now, now children, your stepfather-to-be / stepmother-to-be will not get everything, don’t you worry). They can also protect your properties or assets (from greedy hands?) just in case you die prematurely. This includes the final disposal of such properties. If you have a business, the prenuptial agreement will help protect that business (which will make your partners, other stockholders breathe a sigh of relief) since you can also specify that your spouse will not gain any interest on that business even after your death. Lastly, it protects you from your partner-to-be’s creditors (who are just waiting to latch on to your assets) by ensuring that your properties are separated and kept that way even after your divorce and/or death.

Advantage # 2 They Help Avoid Costly Divorces

Thinking already of divorce? Paranoid? No, just being realistic and sure. These agreements will help you avoid a very expensive divorce proceeding since the distribution of assets will be laid down on paper and will be binding on both sides. Many prenuptial agreements have ensured that the two married people (who are about to get ‘unmarried’) do not undergo a messy (and expensive!) divorce just to be free from each other.

Advantage # 3 They Help Achieve Understanding and Respect

Think prenuptial agreements are one-sided and serve only to protect the rich partner in the marriage? Not really. Prenuptial agreements are actually a platform of understanding between the soon-to-be bride and groom since the two will be able to reach mutually agreeable provisions that are advantageous to them both.

Prenuptial agreements are also a sign of respect for one another. If you have this drawn up, you are basically making your wishes and objectives known to your soon-to-be husband or wife in a mild, non-humiliating, respectful manner.

Advantage # 4 It Provides a Back-up Plan

Although you would want to be married to your husband or wife for the rest of your lives, there is no guarantee that such will really be the case. Prenuptial agreements provide back-up plans just in case the best plans go awry. If and when you want to get out of your marriage, having this agreement provides peace of mind to both parties and a fallback just in case you decide to really get that divorce.

Of course, prenuptial agreements are not perfect and may also have the following disadvantages:

Disadvantage # 1 It Can Take the Romance Out of the Marriage

Okay, you’re in Cloud Nine because of all the preparations for the romantic wedding of your dreams. Suddenly your fiancé presents you, of all things, a draft prenuptial agreement! Talk about getting your feet back on the ground. There are those who do not want to sign or even to talk about these agreements because they conjure images of divorces, separations, property divisions, etc., etc. Not a good way to start a marriage, isn’t it?

Disadvantage # 2 Wrong Timing

Corollary to the fact that the prenuptial agreement may take away the romance, the bride or the groom or both may not feel that it (prior the wedding) is the right time to discuss the agreements and everything that goes in it. Plus it adds stress and anxiety, as if the couple-to-be is not already stressed out from all those wedding preparations. And it can add a feeling of unpleasantness towards the whole thing, which may (God forbid!) even lead to the wedding not pushing through at all.

Disadvantage # 3 It Connotes a Lack of Trust

So true. How will you feel if your partner-to-be presents you with this prenuptial agreement that says you can’t take part of his or her property if you get a divorce or if he or she dies? You get the feeling that he or she doesn’t trust you, right? And lack of trust (brought about by that agreement) is a very poor way to start any marriage.

Disadvantage # 4 It’s a Cultural Thing

Prenuptial agreements may actually be frowned upon in some cultures (especially where divorce is not an option) that value marriages and subscribe to the happy-ever-after theory of marriage. That’s why in some parts of the world, this type of agreement is just starting to gain ground (and may sometimes even be frowned upon).

Sometimes, these disadvantages far outweigh the advantages (at least in the couple’s minds) that the couple decides not to sign any agreement at all. But you have to agree, prenuptial agreements are here to stay. Even if, as a couple, you are still in a romantic, you-and-me-against-the-world type of mood, you still have to think things through and you have to be realistic about it. Getting a prenuptial agreement may not be the most romantic thing you can do, but, in every angle, it is certainly one of the wisest thing to do. In the long run, it gives the couple a peace of mind not readily achievable because they know that, whatever happens, they will always have this agreement to look back into.

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