The word often brings up negative connotations and emotions in the relationship realm. But, should it? Often, we hear of rich celebrities who have to split away from their fortune due to divorce, but prenups are not just for the rich and famous.
Kanye West’s famous lyrics “Cause when she leave yo a– she gon’ leave with half” had many men rethinking their marriage game plan. Okay, maybe we can’t blame Yeezy for this completely. However, the fact still remains that 40 to 50 percent of all first-time marriages end in divorce, and now more than ever women are the breadwinners in the family. So, maybe “prenup” isn’t such a bad word after all.
We spoke with matrimonial lawyers, financial experts and authors to get the scoop on prenuptial agreements and believe that by then end, you may decide signing the dotted line is a good idea for both your romantic and financial future.
Terry Savage, co-author of the The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, or Moving On!, believes that the widely held perspective on prenups must change.
“Instead of a prenup agreement being a blueprint for divorce, we feel a prenup agreement is a blueprint for living together,” Savage said. The “we” Savage is referring to are her co-authors, Judge Michele Lowrance and relationship expert/divorce attorney Gemma Allen.
“We believe people would have a better chance of making their relationships work if, instead of planning for the wedding and knowing what they will name their first kid, people would have a serious conversation about personal finances and their attitudes about money,” said the Chicago based best-selling author. In addition to being a best-selling author, Savage is an Emmy-award winning financial expert who certainly knows a thing or two about money.
So does Chris Camper,32, an eligible bachelor in Detroit who decided not to draw up a prenuptial agreement during his previous five-year marriage, but says the next time around he certainly will.
Camper is a top litigation attorney in Detroit and while he and his ex-wife didn’t struggle over funds specifically, a more “mature” Camper realizes loves isn’t always enough to hold a marriage together overall.
“Being relatively young and ambitious in marriage you really don’t think there will be an end. In my perspective, we would be married, I’d get rich and that would be that. But being older, experienced, and knowing that love does not conquer all and the person that you may be engaged to may not be the same person if it’s time to end it are all reasons I would get a prenup in the future.”
Camper admitted he doesn’t regret not getting a prenup during his first marriage, “I was broke when I got married. I was broke when I got a divorce, but this time will be different.”
We often hear middle class men claiming they would not say “I do” without a prenup and you may have asked yourself do these men really have anything worth taking?
Savage said it’s not all about the income or assets, there are also liabilities and many other details one must consider that makes the agreement worth it — no matter your economic class.
Atlanta-based family lawyer Cherese Clark agreed. Clark is a highly-rated partner at Clark, Lowery and Lumpkin Attorney’s At Law and is listed as one of the top 40 under 40 Lawyers by the National Black Lawyers.
“People typically think ‘oh I have to have a lot of money and a lot of assets in order for a prenup to be beneficial to me’ but prenups are usually there to protect you if something happens.”
That “something” could be an unfortunate early death. Who would get the house? Your spouse or kids from a previous marriage? What will happen to your 401k? These are all addressed when drafting a prenuptial agreement.
Clark also noted three distinct situations where individuals should without a doubt consider a prenup:
1. If your potential spouse has a lot of debt that you may not want to take on in the event of a divorce.
2. If you own your own business, it’s a good time to talk about the role it will play in your marriage.
3. If you are planning to give up your career to raise children.
Some women (and men) forego career advancement and their professional lives altogether to become a stay-at-home parent. Clark mentioned the prenup can set a standard for the necessary spousal support should the marriage dissolve.
Typically, we think of men being the ones to put a prenup on the table but the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 52 percent of divorce attorneys have witnessed an increase in women initiating the agreement. With Statistics showing African American women are the largest growing entrepreneurs in America, it might be time for us to think about drafting these papers ourselves.
Clark, who’s a part of this growing trend, said it’s crucial for women to protect their entrepreneurial efforts. “We are in a partnership, so that might look different if there’s a divorce. Women are power players and power houses and have things to protect now.”
Couples must also consider some states differ in terms of what’s actually most important to protect. Take New York, for instance, where property is king.
Accomplished divorce lawyer Alton L. Abramowitz and leader of New York’s matrimonial bar noted that the state’s prenuptial agreements differ a bit from the rest of the country, where property owned prior to the marriage, inheritances, and compensation from personal injuries such as 9/11 are among the most protected items.
“People do prenuptial agreements to protect those assets, no matter how small or large they might be because our law also says that if those assets increase in value due to the act of management over the course of the marriage, the increase may be subject to equitable distribution,” he told us.
So how soon should you have the “prenup” talk with your significant other? Abramowitz recommended you do it as soon as you get engaged, and sometimes beforehand.
“As a lawyer, I like to see people come into my office generally three to four months in advance to the wedding. A lot of thought has to go into structuring a prenuptial agreement, because presumably this is going to last the remainder of these people’s lives.”
But prenups are not just a “this is what you do and don’t get” document. Clark, Abramowitz and Savage all agreed that the basics of a prenup – being able to lovingly speak on finances and your financial futures — is a discussion all couples must have.
If you’ve been debating bringing the subject up in your relationship, Savage recommended trading annual credit reports over a glass of wine.
“You’ll learn an awful lot about this person by reading their credit report. How many cards outstanding, average balance and more… it’s important to know what you are getting yourself into.”
Savage also added the swap and prenup in and of itself isn’t just about credit history but about “getting to those inner goals and desires and how you can be a better partner.
“A prenup is about trust and respect, and if you don’t have that you don’t have a relationship.”