Prenups for the Every (Wo)Man

by Stephanie A. Kocher

Kanye West may have been onto something when he had the club-goers shouting “We want prenup! (We want prenup!)” in 2009.  Now, we may not all be marrying the “gold digger” from his song, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider a prenuptial agreement with our soon-to-be spouse.  

Often times when you ask someone in the midst of planning their wedding whether they have considered a prenup (as it is more commonly called), you get shot down with an angry retort of “why would I need to do that?!” (I know, I’ve done it before.) For many, the idea of a prenup produces a volatile reaction. There is a preconceived notion that signing a prenup means an individual doesn’t trust their partner or that they don’t believe the marriage will last. While no one wants to think that their “forever” may not last, planning for all possible outcomes of any relationship is not only practical but responsible. Not every marriage lasts forever, and it is good practice to be prepared.  

A prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement can be a great way to save money in the event of a divorce. Often, by the time someone makes it to our offices, they harbor many different types of negative emotions towards their spouse. Logic and reasoning can fall by the wayside. Making decisions as to how you might want to split your property when you are thinking clearly, rather than emotionally can save thousands of dollars by avoiding potentially costly litigation.  

You don’t need to have $500,000 in the bank or three beachfront properties to have a prenup. Things the everyday couple might consider are how to plan for retirement in the event of a divorce. Will one spouse stay-at-home to raise the kids? If so, maybe you want to plan for how they will be compensated in the event of a split. You can also memorialize if either party will pay alimony and for how long and who will keep the marital home.  

Other things to consider are the family pets. In Pennsylvania, although we may call our pets our “fur babies,” they are seen as property in the eyes of the law. Have a discussion with your partner about who will take the pets in the event of a split. If neither of you can handle the pet on your own, do you have someone else in your family who will take responsibility for the animal? It is heartbreaking to see an animal returned to a shelter because their owners could not, or would not, care for them after a split.  

Also, take into account if there are children from a prior relationship. If so, you will want to protect any assets you plan to save for your children, such as savings or investments you have put aside for their college or property you plan to pass along to them. If you plan to have children with your spouse, you might want to protect those children from a possibly lengthy and contentious divorce.  

Add speaking with an attorney to your checklist as part of your wedding planning. If you are already married, consider talking with your spouse about a postnuptial agreement. As family law attorneys, we welcome the opportunity to help you plan a future for your family. Drafting an agreement does not need to be complicated or lengthy, and your attorney can tailor the agreement to your specific needs or requests (with limitations to ensure it complies with the law). Not every couple or household is the same, so it is important to talk to someone about how an agreement can work for your unique situation. 

Broaching this subject with your partner or spouse may be scary at first. But really, what is more romantic than a partner who tells you they want to potentially save you thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees should your relationship dissolve? Okay, so maybe that is just my idea of romance.  

You will probably need to find your own way to get past that initial fear in your partner. Maybe just remind them that as General Douglas MacArthur said, “[p]reparedness is the key to success and victory.” Explain to them that if you prepare for the worst now, you can set yourselves up for a long, successful, and happy life together. 

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