PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS: DEBUNKING COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS
February 16, 2012
By Jack Wiggen
Guest blogger Jack Wiggen is a principal at the Wiggen Law Group in Durham, North Carolina, specializing in family and divorce law.
Just hearing the words “prenuptial agreement” sparks a range of emotions in people. Prenuptial agreements are often misrepresented as negatives by people who don’t understand them. There is a perception that spouses use these “unfair” agreements in a bitter divorce, to the detriment of the other spouse.
As a result of this ingrained negative perception, many people strongly object to any discussion related to a prenuptial agreement. However, prenuptial agreements can be a prudent planning device for any marriage.
Some of the most common objections to a prenuptial agreement include the following:
Prenuptial Agreements are Unfair
In order to be upheld by the family court, prenuptial agreements must be fair and equitable in the eyes of the law. In the eyes of the court, prenuptial agreements are specifically about fairness, not dictating an unevenly allocated settlement at the end of a marriage. To this end, “prenups” can take on some very interesting concepts in order to achieve this fairness, such as assigning a monetary worth to non-monetary activities (for stay-at-home spouses, for example). This element of a prenuptial agreement protects spouses who may have sacrificed a career to raise families.
Prenuptial Agreements Mean Spouses Don’t Trust Each Other
A prenuptial agreement can only be created in a trusting atmosphere where both parties disclose all of their assets and debts. This is one of the most intimate discussions a couple can have, and it requires that the couple decide how to manage their finances after marriage. Having an honest financial discussion prior to marriage can often avoid future arguments and can help you have a long and happy marriage. In this context, a prenuptial agreement can actually perform as a tool for better marriage and certainly not as an obstacle.
If We Divorce, We Will Be Reasonable
Even the most loving marriages can end poorly. A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can help avoid prolonged and expensive court room battles. Divorce lawyers often see this phenomenon—those who love each other the most passionately often turn on each other during divorce proceedings with equally great levels of passion. This is very unfortunate, but it’s very true. And while some people may think that divorce attorneys thrive on these protracted battle situations, we would much rather reach amicable, equitable results for our clients and see families move forward with as little damage as possible (especially when children are involved).
We Are Not Going to Get Divorced
Sadly, statistics show that this idea is not true for many couples. Everyone knows that divorce rates are high, definitely higher than anyone wants them to be, but people tend to have a “this won’t happen to us” attitude about divorce. No one, however, can see the future, and it’s wise to plan for the “worst-case scenario.” Prenuptial agreements can protect spouses not only for the worst-case scenario of divorce, but also for another worst-case situation—death of the other spouse.
A Prenuptial Agreement Will Always Be on My Mind
More likely than not, the opposite is true, that a prenuptial agreement, once fairly designed and executed with great advice, will never cross one’s mind. A prenuptial agreement, when properly laid out with everyone’s interest in mind, can provide peace of mind for both parties in a marriage. With decisions about assets and support made in advance, each spouse can relax just enjoy married life, knowing that their rights (and assets) are protected.
About Jack Wiggen
Jack Wiggen is a principal at the Wiggen Law Group in Durham, North Carolina, specializing in family and divorce law. A graduate of East Carolina University and the Law School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jack gives trusted counsel on a host of issues such as adoption, separation and divorce, child custody and support, and domestic violence. We appreciate the advice and service that Jack and his colleagues at Wiggen Law Group have delivered to Forrest Firm clients to help them with family law needs.