A contract between engaged parties before they get married. Typically, prenups are used to protect the assets of one of the parties, especially when one of them has a large income stream (actors, rock stars, and financiers all qualify), or when one is supporting the other through school. A prenuptial agreement will typically specify which assets are not joint, what form and size alimony will take, and often custody arrangements, as well. Prenuptials can also be used to enforce activities during the marriage, including what religious institutions children will attend, and how monthly bills will be managed.

One of the more intriguing prenuptial agreements was between [William Hurt and Heidi Henderson. Having met each other in alcohol rehab, the prenup specified that Hurt's alimony payments would be increased if he started drinking again post-divorce, while they would be reduced if she started again.

I guess these things were once thought of only as the purview of the rich and the famous and that normal working people like you and me had no need for them. After all, the affluent amongst us had their own interests to protect and to see a lifetime of work flushed down the toilet into the waiting hands of a gold digger on the whims of a judge or divorce attorney just didn’t seem fair.

But then again, most of us commoners don’t marry for money. We think our vows will last forever and that the day that we’ve discovered our soul mate ranks right up there as one of the best days of our lives. If we are lucky, we are blinded by a love that indeed will last forever.

But times change and the truth of the matter is these days almost half of all marriages end in divorce and while some folks might think that agreeing to a prenup is somewhat fatalistic, there’s another school of thought that those folks that do sign along the dotted line are just being pragmatic.

What does that mean?

Well, for starters it means that more and more of us so called common folk are trying to peer into the future and make certain considerations should are marriage fall by the wayside and that prenuptial agreements, once rare among the masses, are now gaining in popularity.

Since every circumstance is different and each state has its own thoughts and laws about how property should be divided when the time comes to part ways, I’ve tried to leave it pretty general terms. I’m no lawyer but I’ve been taken to the cleaners by one so I would suggest you and your spouse (if you’re even considering a prenup) to get someone objective involved from the start. Should your days in the sun come to an end and the time has come to end your relationship, it might eliminate a lot of the bitterness and acrimony that goes hand in hand with that sort of thing.

A lot, not all…

Show me the money!

I’m guessing that the subject of money and the handling of it thereof have caused more divorces than any amount of infidelity or extramarital activities combined. Since each state has its own take on how marital assets are to be divided, you might be able to get a jump on them by deciding beforehand what is “community property” and who gets to keep what.

On the other side of the coin, some people also either enter into or accumulate a mountain of debt during their marriage. By agreeing beforehand about who is to pay what, you may be able to keep your creditors at bay should one of you die or default on your obligations.

Will somebody please think of the children!

Let’s suppose that you have children from a previous marriage and you think your next one might also turn sour. After all, you have the benefit of experience behind you and rather than argue over who is entitled to what you figure that you can decide all of that beforehand. By entering into a prenup, you may be able to provide for little Johnny or little Suzie in the event that the relationship falls apart entirely and that your money grubbing ex will not take your offspring’s fair share of the spoils.

The family jewels

Over time, we’ve all probably had things passed down to us. Maybe it was a formal process like an inheritance or maybe it was just something more informal like somebody slipping grandma’s wedding ring into your hands. Maybe it was that special set of dishes or anything else that once held sentimental value to you and your side of the family. All of those things can be split up beforehand by identifying them and specifying who is to get what should the time come when things fall apart. After all, something that has been in your family for hundreds of years should probably stay there.

You want me to do what?

So far, I’ve tried to address what happens to stuff after things fall apart. But in a prenup, you can also try and define what you your partners’ roles while you’re both still together. Here’s a small list to get you started.

  • Are we going to file joint or separate tax returns?
  • Who’s going to pay which household expenses and how are they going to pay them?
  • Are we going to maintain joint bank accounts or are we going to keep the monies separate?
  • What if we start up a business and/or decide to buy a house?
  • Silly little things like how much life insurance you’re going to both have?
  • Tuition – both for either of you or for any children that might happen to come along?

    Based on your individual circumstances, I’m sure there are a myriad of other considerations that you have to keep in mind. Those are just some of the heavy hitters.

    Of course there are some other matters that just can’t be defined in a prenuptial agreement. Tangible things such as child support, child custody and/or visitation rights or future alimony payments are usually left up to the courts and the laws of the individual states to decide. Over the years, the courts have also decided that if certain terms in the prenuptial agreement favored one spouse over the other, the agreement itself was the cause for the divorce and it could be ruled null and void.

    One of the main things that prenuptial agreements can’t enforce is when it comes to making rules about non-financial matters. Things like who is going to take out the garbage, do the laundry, dishes, cooking, etc, etc, etc, are usually left out of the agreement for obvious reasons.

    In my minds eye, I’m guessing that deciding those sorta things is pretty much unenforceable in the first place and lets face it, marriage is tough enough as it is.

    Personal Opinion

    I dunno. The practical side of me says that I guess on one hand it’d be nice to have all your ducks in a row before you enter into a marriage. On the other hand, the more romantic side of me says to hell with that and you’re just setting yourself up to fail.

    Call me a dreamer but when push comes to shove, the romantic side will win every time.

    One last thing, this is written as it applies here in the states. Noders from other countries probably have their own rules when it comes to prenups. I encourage you to enlighten us.



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