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Should I Get a Prenuptial?

Monday, 03 Jan 2011 12:49 PM

Thinking of getting married? You might want to consider a prenuptial agreement. Although it appears that a prenuptial agreement takes the romance and trust out of planning a marriage, the fact remains that one in three of all first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, as well as 50% of the second or third marriages.

You can think of a prenuptial agreement as an insurance policy that you hope you will never need, but you have it in place to help you deal with the situation, should it arise. Marriage is not just an emotional and physical union, but is also a financial union. The discussions that arise from a prenuptial agreement actually help in the financial wellbeing of a marriage.
A prenuptial or premarital agreement is an important legal document; it is a contract that two people sign before getting married. Its purpose is to define their rights and benefits, and to settle questions of property division, alimony, and/or inheritance, if the marriage ends because of death, separation, or divorce. 

The terms of this contract may also decide who should be penalized and how, if one party commits adultery. Guardianship of children may also be included. This contract must be in writing and contain a full disclosure of assets before the marriage. It should be signed by both the husband and wife. In most states, this agreement is acknowledged as if it were a deed. It allows the signers to protect assets that they had acquired prior to their marriage. Without such an agreement, state law determines these matters, and assets could end up being divided in a manner that may be unacceptable to both parties. An agreement simply allows the couple to follow their own rules, in as much detail as they wish.

The prenuptial agreement is used largely by individuals who are marrying for the second time and have assets from a previous marriage, which they want to preserve for their children from that marriage.
Another large category includes individuals marrying for the first time who have assets that they do not want to lose in the event of a divorce. In addition, some individuals may want to limit the amount and duration of support that one party can receive from the other.
The cost of a prenuptial agreement is an average of $700 to 800, if prepared by an attorney. This cost may increase if an appraiser has to be hired to value a business, real estate, or other assets. It may also increase if you are in a hurry to get it done. The legal fees are usually paid for by the wealthier partner, or may be split between both parties. The rights of children and future children cannot be protected by a prenuptial agreement. The court will always make a decision concerning support, custody, and visitation, depending on the best interests of the child at the time of divorce.
The validity and enforceability of prenuptial agreements will be governed by state law, and thus will vary from state to state.

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