A Prenup: Good or Bad Idea?

by TTMK on July 23, 2012 · 8 comments

It’s often sensationalized in the news: Celebrity M and Celebrity W are getting a divorce, and people want to know who’s getting the kids and who’s making out better financially in the split.  Sad that this is so captivating to many folks, but people seem to wonder or simply assume that somebody might be getting money out the deal that they didn’t earn.

Well, this type of situation doesn’t just happen with celebrities. With divorce rates so high in the United States, the splitting of marital assets can be a big part of the decoupling process.  Money can be a great thing, but it can also be a big point of contention in relationships.  However, by getting a prenuptial agreement, some of these issues can be addressed right away.

A big part of this is money that is brought into a relationship. When people get a prenup, it’s often the case that they keep for themselves what they brought into the marriage.  Of course, one might want to pay attention to the appropriate laws to determine how commingling assets impacts this. In theory, one might target.  That being said, if handled the right way, the intent is often to protect one’s premarital assets in the event that the relationship doesn’t work out.

However, I wonder how prenups impact the efforts of people operating as a true partnership.  If a couple is marrying and intending to be husband and wife for the rest of their lives, as responsible for one another, does having money legally separate really fit into this “couples” framework? In other words, are prenups bad for a marriage?

My viewpoint on this – or at least what I could think of as I write this – is that there are 4 reasons to get a prenup:

1) Big difference in net worth. I don’t mean $100,000 versus $30,000.  I’m talking about serious differences.

2) Children from a prior relationship. If either or the people have children from a prior relationship that they need to care for, either with support or simply savings, it makes sense to make sure that their needs are protected.

3) A business.  If one person owns a business or part of one, it might make sense to have a prenup.

4) Significant debt.  If one person has a lot of debt, and the other one doesn’t, it can make sense to have a prenup. It doesn’t seem fair to saddle somebody with debt that they had nothing to do with, at least in the event of a relationship not working out.

To me, these are sensible enough reasons as to why one should consider a prenup, as long as both people agree and nobody is forced into signing one.  There could be other reasons, too. Given the high divorce rate in this country, it makes sense to at least consider the odds, as much as we don’t want to think that way.  One can consider sources like LegalZoom for a variety of types of information.

However, in most other situations, I’m not a fan of prenups.  Unless there is a truly compelling reason, or there are vast differences in the situations of the two people (along the lines of what I noted above), a prenup seems to be an unnecessary negative factor in bring into a marriage.

My Questions for You

What do you think of prenups?

Are you uniformly against them, completely for them, or more situational in your views as I am?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Edward Antrobus July 23, 2012 at 6:32 am

A former spouse isn’t liable for debt incurred before marriage, so #4 doesn’t really apply.

My biggest complaint about pre-nups is they basically create the expectation that the relationship isn’t going to last. If you think that, don’t get married!

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Smart Military Money July 23, 2012 at 9:28 am

I’m with Edward. A prenup anticipates relationship failure to me. If a conversation about prenups must happen, the couple needs to rethink their relationship.

If you’re getting married, you’re agreeing to sacrifice and share. Couples need to acknowledge and accept that. They also need to realize marriage should be a lifelong commitment. If you tack on a prenup, you might as well add a question mark to the three little words and say “I love you?”

-Christian L.

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Emily @ evolvingPF July 23, 2012 at 7:56 am

I think it’s situational. Even if you’re like me and believe that death is the only way out of your marriage, sometimes we have to be realistic and look at the statistics and realize that we can’t necessarily control our future selves – the “sometimes” being the situations that you mentioned. Since my husband and I had no appreciable assets (or debts) when we got married or anything else on your list AND we believe our marriage is for life (and took the steps we could do “better our odds”), we didn’t consider a prenup.

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Kathleen @ Frugal Portland July 23, 2012 at 9:50 am

This is why I’m 30 and have never been married! I think a prenup is a good idea, a sound idea, and one I wouldn’t bother with myself. But if he brings it up? Sure, I’ll sign something.

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SavvyFinancialLatina July 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm

When we got married, we basically had nothing to begin with. So, no need for a prenup! 🙂

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Andrea @SoOverThis July 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I like your criteria for prenups and they match up with what I think. In certain situations, I think they make complete sense. For most “normal” people though, are they necessary? Not really. I think it seems glamorous because people see them on TV and think that makes their marriage more modern/exciting or something.

If I ever got remarried (which is impossible because I don’t date), I would want a prenup simply because of my son. I would want ZERO confusion where he is concerned.

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SB @ One Cent At A Time July 25, 2012 at 6:39 am

I am neutral on this. if couples mutually agree to having prenup then where’s the harm in having a prenup. Otherwise, I don’t agree to prenups for the reasons Edward pointed out.

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LifeInTransition July 26, 2012 at 10:44 am

My husband and I didn’t have any major assets prior to getting married to there was no need for a pre-nup. I think for majority of people they are not necessary, but I understand that there are certain situations that would warrant one. I’ve had some distant relatives who didn’t want a pre-nup, but signed one since their parents would not approve of the union without one.

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