My girlfriend and I are planning to get married in July on the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in New York (yay!). We’ve toyed with the idea of getting a pre-nup, but we’re not sure if it’s necessary. We’re both pretty young and evenly matched as far as income and earning potential, but we’ve seen too many marriages end badly with squabbling over money. While we both hate thinking about the end of our relationship, we’d like to make sure that if that day comes, we don’t have to worry about bringing revenge and retaliation into the equation.
Prenuptial agreements are not just for the one-percenters! You’re definitely right to engage in a little planning now, so that if the day comes you don’t end up angrier or more hurt. You don’t even have to be married to have a prenup; people in civil unions, long-term marriage-free unions, and poly families can all sign prenups.
Prenups allow partners to take the hardest parts of a breakup off the table before they become a problem. A prenup will generally determine the division of assets and set spousal support at a specific level before a couple enters into a marriage, but they can’t answer questions concerning custody of children, child support, visitation, and so on.
Prenups have to be in writing, which means it’s probably best to see a lawyer. Among other things, each partner must make full disclosure of her assets and the agreement can’t be so unfair as to “shock the conscience” of the court when you submit it along with your divorce papers. They’re not a silver bullet: they don’t make divorce easy or answer all of the questions that emerge when a couple breaks up, but they can make a divorce or break up much easier.
You should also engage in some estate planning by getting a valid will or trust, a healthcare proxy, power of attorney and, in certain cases, a certificate of burial or cremation. I hope this is helpful—and good luck!
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*This column is not a consultation with an attorney and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with legal issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own attorney.