Prenuptial contracts make marital decisions before the couple’s wedding. They go by many names. You can call them marital agreements, prenuptial agreements, marital contracts, and so on. There is also more than one kind of marital agreement. You can write a postnuptial contract after you are already married.
Marital agreements are often concerned with money. TV and movies often portray these contracts as protecting the richer of the two in a marriage. Premarital agreements are indeed used this way. A wealthy partner can protect their assets should the marriage end.
However, anyone can benefit from a martial contract. It can be used to make financial decisions, but it can do much more.
Protecting Everyone’s Assets
Florida operates on an “equitable division” model. In a divorce, courts grant property according to what they believe is fair. Anything that is purchased during the marriage is considered marital property. In theory, you could purchase something with your own money, completely independent from your spouse, and still lose it in a divorce. The same applies to your savings. Courts can be convinced that your partner deserves a portion, regardless of their actual contribution.
A prenuptial contract can designate exactly who owns what property. Think of your hobbies. Maybe you are an avid comic book collector, and your spouse loves buying vintage vinyl records. It’s possible that, in a divorce, these collections become a source of dispute. Either partner could attempt to gain the other’s valuables. A prenup can avoid all that. You can stipulate exactly which property will always belong to whom, regardless of when it was purchased.
The same is true for individual finances. In our modern times, many are uncomfortable with sharing their income with someone else. Legally, this is what happens in a marriage. The law assumes that all income acquired during the marriage is shared. A marital contract can designate that all earned income will belong only to the earner. You can even factor shared expenses into your plan, making anything that isn’t directly shared belong solely to each person. Whatever model works for you, you can put it in writing, making it official.
Deciding How Money Is Spent
At some point, you will probably share your income in a marriage. Both of you, for example, may contribute to the groceries, bills, kids, and so on. Many couples enter their marriage without a spending plan. They try to manage their finances as they go along, continually making and breaking new rules. By now, most of us know that money is often a source of strife in marriages, and a lack of planning contributes to this fighting.
Before you say, “I do,” you can create a legally binding document that directs how money is spent. Couples can get creative when making these decisions. Perhaps they decide how much each person contributes to the overall household income. Jackie makes 55% of the money. Johnny makes 45%, so they split the expenses accordingly. Jackie pays for 55% of the shared bills, and Johnny covers the rest. There are limitless possibilities for sharing spending.
Making these decisions now removes confusion during the marriage. Each person knows exactly how much responsibility they have for the bills, and they don’t need reminding later.
Planning Your Savings
When it comes to savings, you can put money away for virtually anything: vacations, college funds, emergencies, retirement, etc. With a marital contract, you can decide exactly how to manage your savings. You can determine how much money goes into savings, when, and for what purpose.
This can be especially helpful when putting money aside for the children. You can create a specific fund that benefits only the kids, and neither spouse can touch it.
For financially savvy couples, you can use a prenup to make investments decisions, too. Again, you can build the contract in such a way that spouses cannot dip into the investment without meeting rigid qualifications.
Making Non-Financial Decisions
Money is a big part of what marital contracts cover. However, you may be surprised to learn that they can manage the marriage in other ways. Anything that is important to your relationship can be included. Here are some examples of decisions you can make using a prenup.
Managing the Home
Like money, managing jobs can cause strife in a marriage. One person may hate cleaning, and the other hates dealing with the bills. If you know which job roles are best suited for each person, consider designating them now, and put it in writing. Doing so can help keep peace in the home. Everyone knows their duties and expectations, and there’s no need to argue about it. You can even build in penalties for a partner who ignores their responsibilities.
Raising the Children
We all have unique strengths and weaknesses in child-rearing. Perhaps one parent is a better educator, and the other is good with discipline. Maybe your life experience makes you stronger in a certain area. For example, if you are a nurse, you should probably oversee the child’s healthcare decisions. With a prenup, you can assign certain roles to each parent. You can grant decision-making power over specific areas of the child’s life.
Planning for the End of a Marriage
For now, the divorce rate is dropping across the nation. This is encouraging news for anyone considering tying the knot. However, these rates fluctuate constantly. Not long ago, it was as high as 50%.
Thinking about a potential divorce can be upsetting. You want this marriage to last, or you wouldn’t even attempt it. However, you must face the reality that divorce is common. Try as they might, some people cannot resolve differences that build over time. No one is immune. Using a prenup to create a divorce plan may not be romantic, but it is practical. You can decide now how to handle property division, spousal support, child custody, child support, and so on.
Rather than seeing this plan as depressing, you can view it as freeing. Divorce is such a stressful time of life. A large part of that stress comes from uncertainty. There are so many fears about what you will keep, what you will lose, when you will see the kids, and more. With a plan in place, you don’t need to worry about any of that. If, heaven forbid, the marriage must end, you will have peace of mind, knowing exactly what happens next.
This plan can also benefit your freedom and mental health. Because of the fear of the unknown, many people remain stuck in unhealthy, unhappy marriages. By creating a divorce plan now, you will not feel forced to stay if the marriage grows toxic.
Fortunately, marital contracts can be altered. If your plan isn’t working, you are not stuck with it.
In this article, we’ve discouraged “making it up as you go.” Doing so leads to constant trial-and-error, which leads to breaking and remaking rules, setting people up for failure. Rewriting a contract is not like that. It takes time and money. You must renegotiate all the terms within the original agreement, and you don’t want to do that again unless absolutely necessary.
Focusing on the Relationship
A prenuptial contract allows you to focus on what’s most important, the relationship. This is its ultimate benefit. It allows you to bypass many things that normally cause strife in a relationship. This helps you stay focused on what brought you together in the first place.
For help creating a prenuptial or postnuptial contract, contact our office for a free consultation. We can help guide you and iron out any wrinkles in your plan. Our number is (407) 315-2006, and you can reach us online.