Is “Prenup” a Four-Letter Word?

Interesting view on prenuptial agreements: He traded his passion for stability, whereas I followed my passion at the expense of stability. Should I be entitled to his money?

The New York Times is running an article which deals heavily with the personal feelings involved in discussing, negotiating and signing a prenuptial agreement. The article has some great moments.

On the corner of my lawyer’s desk was a red button marked “No.” It was the type you might find in a display of gag gifts, next to the Whoopee cushions and boxing nun action figures.

I wanted to get married then, but Matt held back. Marriage scared him more than having a child together, and a big part of his fear was financial. He said he wanted us to sign a prenup.

I cringed but ultimately agreed, believing it was the only way forward.

He said he would pay all of the lawyers’ fees and make it as easy as possible. It sounded simple. The reality, however — especially having to confess every detail of my sketchy financial history to this lawyer — was nothing short of awful.

Florida Prenups

They may sound “awful” to some, but the reality is different. Prenuptial agreements are a subject I’ve written about before. Prenuptial agreements can be extremely important if you are thinking of marrying again, and they are not just for the ultra-rich.

You can limit what’s in a prenup. Some prenups can simply state what assets each party has brought into the marriage, and what assets each party will take away if the marriage ends.

Or, if there is a disparity in incomes, as in the New York Times article, you can add to the prenup how much the lower-income spouse will receive. Also, if you have children from previous marriages, you can also provide some protection for an inheritance.

Here are a few reasons why:

Keeps Your Non-Marital Property Non-Marital.

The property you brought into the marriage is yours. But over time it is common for people to start mixing things up.

Inheritance funds get deposited into joint accounts, properties get transferred into joint names…and all for good reason. Unfortunately, tracing commingled property is expensive, and hard to prove. But, if you put it in writing at the beginning, which is the main idea for a prenup, you can avoid this task and save some money down the road.

You Can Change the Law.

Right now in Florida, there has been an ongoing debate about alimony. When you go to court, a judge has to follow state law regarding alimony.

However, through a prenuptial agreement you can modify Florida’s legal standards for awarding alimony, in addition to modifying what the current law says about the amount of support and the duration of the alimony period.

Avoid Expensive Divorces.

Let’s face it, divorce can be expensive, and the cases don’t end quickly. A prenuptial agreement can simplify things by resolving issues ahead of time, way before the divorce is even filed.

Once you have entered a prenup spelling out what happens in the event of a divorce, the case becomes a lot more cheaper, simpler and faster to resolve.

Protects Your Children’s Inheritance.

A prenuptial agreement, or “prenup” for short, protect property from falling into the hands of the new spouse, often seen by children from earlier marriages as a “gold digger.”

An agreement helps assure your children that any inheritance is protected, and they don’t need to resent the new spouse.

It is important to be aware of all of the consequences of marriage, and do what planning you can to avoid complications and costs in advance by entering into a prenup.

Negotiating the Prenup

Back at the Times article on the prenup: “on paper, I had approximately $3,500 in savings, no retirement account and a four-year-old Toyota Yaris with a Blue Book value of $8,000, on which I still owed $4,000.”

Humbled cannot begin to describe how I felt. More like demoralized, demolished and desperate.

My lawyer asked if I had read the document carefully and understood the terms. I numbly nodded, but I was lying. I hadn’t read it. I didn’t understand the terms.

Money, Matt often said, was what people fought about most and what broke up relationships and marriages. True to form, we had been fighting about money since we started dating, our arguments complicated by the vastly different ways we had chosen to live our lives.

The lawyer looked up, winked and pushed the “No” button, filling his office with mechanized cries: “No way!” “I don’t think so!” “Nope!”

Finally, for several thousand more dollars in fees, my lawyer negotiated with Matt’s lawyer to change language in the prenup that Matt had never asked to be included so that when we sold the house we didn’t yet own, I would get my fair share.

Two years later, I don’t even know where we put our prenuptial agreement, and I hope I never need to know.

The New York Times article is here.