While marriage is an incredible union and planning a wedding is a thrilling experience, there are many legal considerations for a couple to think about before getting married. Taking the time to learn about the legal requirements and consequences of marriage can save future headaches and heartache. It is easy to get swept up in the romance and emotion of planning a wedding, but it is equally important to understand any and all legal and financial nuances.
Basic Marriage and Ceremony Requirements
Each state has certain laws pertaining to marriage, and it is important to familiarize yourself with your states laws. It is also crucial to separate the religious and personal traditions of a ceremony, which have little bearing on the law, from those that do have a legal impact. For example, a marriage may not be valid unless a certain official performs it.
Prenuptial agreements can be awkward legal considerations. Few people want to think about the potential for divorce before even getting married. However, this agreement can serve as one of the most important legal documents for any marriage. It can create a sense of security, stability and trust that the relationship might lack otherwise.
The Financial Impacts of Marriage
Marriage is far more than just a traditional commitment of love and support to another person. It comes with a long list of legal and financial impacts, rights and responsibilities that couples often do not fully consider before jumping into a marriage. One of the greatest financial changes is the creation of marital property and the distinction between this property and individual property. A spouse who wishes to keep some property or assets separate from their partner will want to fully understand what they need to do to ensure this. It can be very easy to mix personal with marital property. For example, if a person has a savings or retirement account and they allow their spouse to deposit money into it, that entire account may become marital property.
Impact on Children and Inheritance
A marriage can have a major impact on children from previous marriages, and can affect inheritance. Often a new spouse becomes automatically entitled to an estate unless specific assets are set aside in wills or trusts. This often leaves stepchildren left out if new children are born into the marriage, and the ensuing legal battles can tear families apart.
Legal considerations can be complicated and confusing. A family law attorney may be able to help a potential spouse investigate the unique impacts of marriage on their lives. It is important to do this early rather than try to fix problems created after the marriage.
Marriage is a contract. It is a binding agreement between parties, with legally obligating terms. Whether we explicitly acknowledge that fact or not, the fact remains. A prenuptial agreement is the surest way to protect yourself and your family from unnecessary future hardship.
A prenuptial agreement is not a forecast for failure. Rather, in today’s world, it should be viewed as a part of the matrimony process – as necessary as the ceremony and with a potentially more lasting impact. Prenupts are important for all involved, providing protection and benefits in many different ways, especially for blended families.
Here are four reasons why you should consider a prenuptial agreement before saying “I do.”
Reduce Stress and Conflict
Divorce is one of the most stressful, emotional, and complicated time in anyone’s life. A prenuptial agreement can help reduce the burden and tension associated with divorce negotiations. It may not be able to cover every aspect of your divorce, but a well-documented prenuptial agreement will address major assets and act as a guide for a smooth transition.
A good prenuptial agreement lays everything out, so both parties have realistic expectations going in, and there are fewer surprises in a divorce trial. With less to argue about, there is no need to go into a long, drawn-out divorce case that lasts for months and costs you dearly in legal fees – not to mention time.
Protect the Future of Your Children
A prenuptial agreement will help ensure the money you are allocating for your children’s future – such as college funds – will go to your children and not your spouse, or your spouse’s future children. Many households today have children from current and previous marriages. You will want to protect your children’s future in these complicated cases.
Keep Your Property from Being Court Distributed
If you do not have a prenuptial agreement, and there are properties and assets to divide (and disagreements over how the division should unfold), the court will become the decider in the divorce. When you have a prenuptial agreement, you don’t have to worry about who will get what, as you’ve already stipulated the terms.
There are many reasons couples consider prenuptial agreements before getting married. As Anne Russell discusses in her feature in the Nashville Business Journal, the most common reason for prenuptial agreements is to alleviate causes of family disputes, contentions about property, and especially allowances to the wife (or husband), should the marriage end.
It is important to remember that prenuptial agreements are not a prediction for failure, but a safety net to serve as a safe harbor in case of difficult times.