Prenups get a bad rap, and pop culture is to blame. Movies like Liar Liar and Kanye West songs like “Gold Digger” will have you believe that prenups are merely a deterrent against those who only want to marry for money.
We’ll cut to the chase: Prenups are good. They sometimes contain comedic clauses, but it’s a practical and thorough way to express your desires as one-half of a romantic and financial partnership.
We love a good prenup joke and can appreciate prenup-inspired song lyrics, but it falls on family law attorneys like us to disabuse newly engaged individuals of their cynical notions about prenups.
#1 - A prenup protects only the wealthy spouse
Yes, but that’s not all it does. It can also protect your properties, including pets, your house, pieces of jewelry, and your musty vinyl records. Facetiousness aside, it can also determine the terms of alimony and child support payments, and this can ease the dissolution of a marriage.
Sure, moguls like Beyoncé and Jay-Z signed prenups to protect their respective millions. Their prenup allegedly states that Bey gets $10 million if they divorce within two years, $1 million for every year she’s a Carter (rather than as a surname-less icon) within 15 years, and $5 million for every child she bears him. You know, the usual couple issues.
Couples who are not Jay-Z and Beyoncé may also benefit from a prenup to protect their own properties — assets that may not include mansions and several Picasso pieces but are valuable nonetheless. It also clarifies their financial rights and protects each spouse from their partner's debts.
#2 - You can make outrageous demands in your prenup
To be clear, we’re not referring to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s $400,000 child support payments or Mrs. Justin Timberlake’s $500,000 no-cheating fee. In the world of celebrities, those are exceedingly normal. What’s considered bonkers in the court of law are prenups saying you won’t make child support payments in case you divorce.
If you’re like footballer Tony Romo, Jessica Simpson’s ex-fiancé, you probably think that a provision stating you’re entitled to a fat $500,000 payout for every pound your spouse gains over 135 pounds is normal. It’s not, and courts are likely to junk that. Provisions about bedroom activities, in-laws’ visits, and the number of times in a week your spouse can watch football are also a no-no.
Keep in mind, however, that the meaning of the words “outrageous,” “unreasonable,” and “ridiculous” tend to evolve in divorce courts.
#3 - Signing a prenup is a surefire sign you’ll get divorced
If this were true, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman would have long called it quits. The Urbans reportedly stipulated that Keith (who previously battled alcoholism) would get a $600,000 bonus if he stayed sober for every year they stay married.
If anything, signing a prenup similar to that of Keith and Nicole is a win-win for both: one spouse gets incentivized for staying sober, while the other one spends her millions wisely.
Addressing practical (especially financial) matters before marriage is being responsible and highly recommended. By contrast, including random drug testing, setting limits on football-watching, indicating conditions to opt out of family barbecues, and incorporating other domestic affairs in your prenup does not bode well for couples who are about to tie the knot. These soul-crushing stipulations could cause marital strife in the long run, for which a prenup is not to blame.
#4 - A prenup can punish an erring spouse
“My husband cheated on me. Therefore, I deserve piles of cash, the family mansion, and sole custody of little Jimmy and the nanny.”
Unfortunately for those whose spouses have cheated on them, no-fault states like Washington do not factor in adultery in determining asset division and/or alimony. Confused by how this works in connection to including an infidelity clause in a prenup? We’ll gladly explain to you the finer points.
#5 - You don’t need a family law attorney to sign a prenup
Wrong. You need experienced attorneys to solidify the terms of your prenuptial agreement.
No one wakes up the morning of a romantic proposal thinking, “I’ve got to get a prenup!”. We won’t even fault you if you put it in the backburner as you bask in the glow of your new life as someone’s fiancé.
Once you’ve gathered your wits and realize that a prenup will be beneficial to keeping your assets, finances, and future child custody concerns in check, call Renton family law attorneys Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams.