The ‘Do Over’: Prenuptial Agreements

In light of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Guardian has an interesting story this weekend about second marriages. If you are going to ‘do it again’, that is, get married a second time, one thing to help make your second marriage successful is a prenuptial agreement.

The Second Time Around

As the Guardian reports:

The National Center for Family and Marriage Research recently analyzed marriage and divorce data, and found that the overall divorce rate was greater for second marriages. In fact, the probability of divorce is around 50% for first marriages.

I never changed my name the first time, as my children already had their father’s surname and it never made me doubt my maternal status. But, with a second marriage, now there are three possible surnames in my family, the only one who shares mine is the dog, and I urgently want a merger.

The National Center for Family and Marriage Research also discovered that for second marriages, the divorce rate is more like 67%.

Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements aren’t just for people entering second marriages, they are important for any couple planning to marry. I have written extensively on prenuptial agreements.

A prenup can help keep your non-marital property yours. The property you brought into the marriage is yours – mostly. 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, you might be able to avoid this task, and save some money down the road.

Prenuptial agreements also help you to change the law. For example, 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 prenuptial agreements 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.

For second marriages, a prenup is an especially good idea. What some clients don’t realize is that going through a second, third, or fourth divorce can be more complicated than first-time divorces.

In multiple divorces, couples are older, and have less time to make up for losses. Also, couples are competing for dwindling resources. Child-support, alimony, and dividing up of the retirement accounts may still be pending, and there can be little left to divide in a second divorce.

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 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, you can add to the contract 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.

Second Marriages: The Do Over

The general view of a second wedding is that they’re a bit of a joke. Not a contemptible joke, more of a puzzled, “Why’s she getting married again? She must be one of those people who just enjoys getting married. Wait, they’re both divorced?

They’ll be at it again in a couple of years, to two completely different people. It’s probably an excuse to dress their children up in novelty costumes.

A hardcore of bystanders will infer from a previous marital breakdown that the person is flaky – for which see Germaine Greer’s not entirely disapproving comment about Meghan Markle: “I think she’ll bolt. She bolted before. She was out the door.”

Logically, it makes sense – people who don’t stick at things won’t stick at things – but statistically it doesn’t, as second marriages are more likely to last than first ones.

So in fact, there is nothing as deadly serious as a second marriage. The death-wish rubric which is somewhere between an anachronism and a metaphor in a first marriage is now completely literal: you will definitely be parted by death, because you definitely will not be parted any other way.

As a result, I observe the marriage of Prince Harry and Markle with a profound fellow feeling that I have never before had for a sleb-come-princess, and doubt I will have again.

You might presume that a second wedding is quite liberating, in that you can finally make authentic decisions and you don’t have to invite your relatives. In fact, the main liberation – and this might be more me than the Waleses – is that you don’t have any money.

We’re already getting married on a Wednesday afternoon because the council has a midweek special, in a dress I bought in a charity shop, and a suit he inherited from an uncle of eerily similar dimensions.

The Guardian article is here.