I have wanted to write this blog for quite sometime now. I know marriage and divorce is a sensitive subject for a lot of people. I want to preface this blog by stating that I am an unmarried women so my only first-hand knowledge of marriage is by watching my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, and friends that are in loving marriages grounded in trust and mutual respect. However, as an attorney who practices matrimonial law, I do have some first-hand experience with divorces.
More often than not, marriages end with couples fighting over money and assets. Nobody ties the knot believing that the two of them will be sitting in a courtroom one day bickering over the division of property. I used to be completely against prenuptial agreements — afterall, how does a marriage succeed if it begins with each person thinking about the end? Signing a contract with your loved one before you get married certainly doesn’t seem romantic… or is it?
I happen to be a huge fan of Suze Orman (don’t judge me). I don’t agree with everything that she says but overall I think she is very empowering for woman to get control over their financial lives. Last February for Valentine’s Day, she encouraged couples to get prenuptial agreements and talk about money while they were still in love.
This got me thinking about how we need to change the way we look at prenups. It forces couples to become financially naked with one another before they tie the knot. Finances are the number 1 cause of divorce so starting a marriage with financial transparency seems like a great start to a wonderful life together. Furthermore, I don’t think there is anything more loving to do for another person than to tell them that no matter what happens down the road – for better or worse – I will be there for you financially speaking and ensure you have your needs provided for.
Last week, I was listing to Cristen and Molly on “Stuff Mom Never Told You” talk about prenups. They came up with a great airplane analogy that is worth noting. In essence, they said that nobody plans for a plane to crash but we still go over where the safety devices are located before the plane takes off. They drew the analogy that prenups are deciding “[w]hat’s going to be fair to you and fair to me in case this airplane crashes.”
A few months ago, somebody asked me on Facebook whether a soon-to-be ex-wife could really take half the cows after the divorce. The answer to that question isn’t so simple as the law differs from state-to-state (e.g., community property vs. equitable distribution). However, this reminded me how complicated divorces can be with farm and ranch families with each spouse coming to the marriage with different assets and contributions to the family agriculture business. A prenuptial agreement helps to ensure that each person clearly understands what will happen “if the plane crashes.” It is romantic to make your significant other feel safe and financially secure…even if one day you find that you want to throw straw bales at the other person and want to move on with your life with another person. It is hard for both people to think they might one day lose the livestock animals they fed on Christmas morning year in and year out, the land they (and their children) have grown to love, the combine or tractor that their family saved for years to purchase, or the family farm dog that slept on the back porch because the relationship with their spouse has become unsalvageable.
Divorces can be sad and a little scary. I recently had a consultation with a potential client in tears who had no idea what was going to happen to her and her children in the future. I cannot imagine going through that kind of heartache and starting over without knowing that bills will be paid for. Let’s pray that I will never have to experience that (and you don’t either). However, divorce is an unfortunate reality that many married couples have to deal with. The best time to talk about the “what ifs” is before the relationship is severely damaged.
If you are considering drafting a prenuptial agreement please make sure each of you retain separate counsel and sign the document long before the wedding day. Otherwise, there is risk that a judge may invalidate the contract. Matrimonial law is state specific so be sure to talk to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. I know this might seem like an unnecessary expense leading up to the wedding; however, fighting over assets in court down the road will be much more expensive. It will help make a very painful experience in life a little more manageable.
Aren’t these two a beautiful Texas couple? Let’s hope they have a long and wonderful life together with their Longhorn cattle and cotton fields. I cannot take credit for these amazing pictures. They were taken by Stephane Lamaire Photography and I found them here.
Great post Cari! Prenups are a difficult subject. However, after taking family law, it’s a conversation I’d encourage every couple to have.
Cari, I really enjoyed this post. Since I got married earlier this year, I found it very informative. Thank you for sharing this with us!
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(stumbled) – found this blog argument to be true for either person in a marriage. Whether it be Ky, NY, IA, IL or WI, the farm business and the children’s life can be shattered by the divorce action.
I know it is what i will consider in the future, however as you state, each state has different laws regarding it.
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Great Blog on Prenups, I agree they can be romantic, making a life plan while you are still in love, but at the same time maintaining your own financial responsibility throughout your life. My mum told me always to keep some money for myself in a separate account. Naturally the same did not apply to the ‘provider’! But that was nearly 100 years ago and young women like my daughter have considerable assets to preserve. Lovely site.
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