Before or after the wedding, New York law allows a couple to enter into their own contract setting forth the financial terms of their marriage as they choose.
Parents with means often encourage their children to obtain a prenuptial agreement to protect future gifts from the family or interests in family businesses from being shared in the event of divorce. Couples entering a second marriage often elect to execute a prenuptial agreement to allow each spouse to make provision for the children of a prior marriage, and to reassure all concerned that the marriage is motivated by something other than money.
Every couple—with or without substantial current assets—should consider having a prenuptial agreement. Young people, particularly, often spend more time planning their weddings than their marriages, and mature couples often are quite set in their financial ways. You cannot live happily ever after if you don’t understand each other’s attitudes toward money; negotiating a prenuptial agreement with the guidance of experienced lawyers can help you gain insight into yourself and your future spouse.
The purpose of an agreement is not to gain a financial advantage in the event of divorce, but to provide certainty, so that in the unfortunate event the marriage does not work out, a couple can part ways promptly and amicably, without costly and intrusive discovery and without the acrimony that can arise in adversarial proceedings—especially important if there are children. If you need to cooperate after your divorce in caring for your children, making decisions for them, celebrating their successes, and coping with their crises, it is best that the divorce itself not exacerbate an already difficult relationship.
Many people wonder why anyone who is about to get married would think about what would happen if they got divorced. They may assume what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. However, this is not exactly the law in New York. Our lawyers have experience drafting and negotiating prenuptial agreements, and have helped clients decide whether a prenuptial agreement is right for them.
Why are prenuptial agreements becoming more popular?
A prenuptial agreement, also called a premarital agreement or contract, is a contract that allows a couple to decide what will become property of the marriage and what will remain each person’s separate property. It typically lists the property owned by each person as well as their debts, and specifies what each person’s property rights will be after marriage.
Prenuptial agreements are becoming more popular for a number of reasons. More people are getting married later in life, and this means that they have likely acquired more assets and debt before getting married. In addition, more people have children from prior relationships when they get married. Prenuptial contracts allow couples to negotiate these often-tricky situations beforehand.
When a prenuptial agreement might be a good idea
Prenuptial agreements are not just for wealthy people who want to protect their assets. Anyone getting married can have separate property and sometimes there are good reasons to keep it that way:
- If one spouse brings much greater financial assets and property into the marriage than the other
- If one spouse gives up a well-paying job or career in order to stay at home with children or to follow the other spouse to a new geographic location
- If one spouse is part of a family business
- If one spouse or both spouses have children from prior marriages
- If the spouses have different investment and retirement goals due to age disparity or philosophical reasons.
Money problems are one of the primary causes of divorce in New York. Discussing each person’s assets and debts ahead of time can prevent disputes from occurring later on.