I’ve been talking to a lot of single/engaged people about prenuptial agreements, or prenups, and almost all of them think they don’t need one. Here are the two main reasons people give:
- “I’ll never get a divorce”
- “I don’t have enough money to need a prenup”
Are these people right? Should you get a prenup, or save the time and money?
It’s easy. Get a freaking prenup! Here’s why.
I’ll Never Get a Divorce
The first excuse is stupid. Just because you don’t want something to happen, doesn’t mean it won’t. That would be like saying, “I don’t need car insurance because I’ll never get in an accident.”
A marriage is an agreement between two people. It only takes one of them changing their mind to end it. You have no control over what your future spouse will do in the future.
Maybe that person will leave you, or maybe he or she will become batshait crazy and become a scientologist! Divorce could happen to anyone, so you should be prepared for it.
I Don’t Have Enough Money to Need a Prenup
This excuse is even worse. Prenups aren’t just for rich people. Just ask Chris Rock.
For those who didn’t watch the video, Mr. Rock says:
People think you gotta be rich to need a prenup, oh no! You got $20 million, your wife want 10, big deal! You ain’t starvin’. But if you make $30,000, and your wife want 15, you might have to kill her!
It’s funny because it’s true. Expect maybe the killing her part, but I think you get the point. When you don’t have a lot of money, you don’t have a lot of money to lose. You need every penny, and a prenup can protect your money.
Let’s go on a little journey and look at a few situations where a prenup might be useful for non-rich people.
Quitting Your Job to Raise Kids
Let’s say Jack and Jill both have nice paying jobs when they decide to get married. They also decide to have a kid. Once the kid is born Jack decides to be a stay at home dad (because he’s progressive like that) and Jill works to support the family financially.
If Jill decides she wants a divorce 5 years later, what happens to Jack? Not only has he missed out on five years of potential career advancement raising their kid, but his skills may have deteriorated to a point where he’s not even employable in his previous field. Jack made a sacrifice for his family, and now his wife doesn’t want the family to exist anymore. Should Jill have to pay Jack when she divorces him? If so, how much?
If you don’t have this discussion before marriage, then this decision is going to be left up to the judge in divorce court. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want Judge Judy making this kind of a decision for me based on the he said/she said between bitter ex-spouses. I’d rather have a reasonable conversation before marriage and sort this out with level heads.
When people bring debt into a marriage, typically ownership of the debt remains with the individual and is not transferred to the “household”. For example, student loans always remain with the individual who took them out. However, I’m sure there are tons of complicated, mind-numbing rules about different kinds of debt depending the type of debt and how it was acquired that only a lawyer has the expertise and patience to understand.
Without a prenup, your debt is at the mercy of local laws in the event of divorce or the death of your spouse. With a prenup, you can clearly define who owns what debt and ensure you are never financially responsible for your partner’s debt if tragedy or her high school boyfriend strikes.
If one person (or even both) has a significant amount of debt, I strongly encourage you to talk to a lawyer about a prenup before getting married.
Investments in Education
Here’s a pretty common situation that happens all the time.
Valerie and Victor get married. They move in together and come up with a big plan. Valerie, who already has her college degree and a nice job, will support their family financially while he goes to school. Then when Victor finishes college and gets a good job, they will have a two income household and be very financially secure.
Victor goes to college and gets his degree. All the while Valerie pays for their house, cars, food, and other costs of living. Maybe she even helps Victor with books and possibly tuition payments.
Now imagine Victor finds not only a great job but also a lady he fancies at work. He falls in love with this coworker and decides to leave Valerie.
She supported him financially because it was the right thing for her family, but Victor is ending their family. Should Valerie be entitled to 1/2 of living expenses during their marriage? Or maybe she deserves 1/2 of what Victor makes at his new job since his job is a result of her “investment”. Maybe she deserves nothing. Who knows?
Without a prenup, it’s up to the judge in divorce court. Would you really want to leave this huge decision up to some random judge, based on some state rules that you aren’t even aware of? My guess is no.
Get a prenup and figure this stuff out before it becomes a reality.
Get a Freaking Prenup
In conclusion, get a freaking prenup! According to this website you can get a lawyer to prepare your prenup for about $700. It’s worth it. And seriously, how can you argue with this song?
This article was featured in Carnival of Personal Finance #335: Get A Prenup Edition!