Marriage & Wedding Information

Prenuptial Agreements: The Deal Breaker?

So you're toying with the idea of getting married? Maybe somebody has mentioned a Prenuptial Agreement (Prenupt) or maybe you've never thought of it before. Regardless, just as you're an educated consumer you might also want to take a look at the advantages of having a prenuptual agreement before leaping into marriage.

The truth of the matter is that asking your fiancee' to sign a Prenupt is not the most romantic thing you will ever do. Below are a few tips on planning a marriage with all the love you have for that other person.

Understand what it is and what it is not.

Some couples forgo the Prenupt conversation for fear that their partner may suspect that they have reservations about the solidness of their relationship. The best thing about a Prenupt is that is does exactly what is suppose to do, it either breaks you up before you commit financial suicide or it makes your relationship even stronger. Ironically, and contrary to long held common belief, according to family surveys, men and women sign Prenupts at an evenly low 16% rate across the table. Increditably, women have a higher percentage of initiating a Prenupt agreement than men.

Know who it applies to.

Whatever the gender, a Prenupt is especially vital to young adults starting out in their respective careers. In New York a spouse may be entitled to a significant percentage of the value of a professional license earned during the marriage or a master degree earned during the marriage.

Basically, if your spouse supported you--even by giving you gas money, for example--during your days as a law school, medical school or business school student, then come divorce time you essentially may be working your entire life for your former spouse.

Why? The reason for this is simple but the emotions are a lot more complicated. Because the math formula used to calculate the value of the license contemplates the value amount you will make during your entire working life, the law says that your spouse can possibly collect money decades after the divorce.

It's true: the average couples who walk down the aisle don't want to think about potential future financial disagreements. In fact, they don't even consider the future need of having to deal with a divorce and all of its headaches. Regardless of your confidence in the relationship though, the US national divorce statistics give a more realistic, sobering view of marriage and its potential disadvantages.

Take a look at the statistics and be honest with yourself.

According to the United States Census Bureau, more than fifty percent (50%) of all marriages end in divorce. In 2002 there were 136,684 marriages in New York, and in that same year there were 65,428 divorces. New York is in part with the rest of the country where the divorce rate is at 52 percent. Those numbers are especially hard to accept if you were a couple contemplating any kind of legal union.

Understand a Prenupts true importance.

So how important is a Prenupt in light of these awful statistics? Imagine having to choose between keeping the family's business or having your former spouse for a business partner!

Who's it for?

Some people may suggest that a Prenupt is only for those wealthy forks. This could not be any further from the truth a Prenupt is for everyone. I always advise my clients to consider a Prenupt whenever they are considering marriage. A Prenupt is as essential to a marriage as a wedding ring nobody should get married without one.

Why is it important?

The average working class couple owning no property or significant assets should also sign a Prenupt, because chances are they will inherit property or other during their marriage.

This could be you. For example, remember the classic example illustrated by Colombian-born Juan Rodríguez, who was the sole winner of the New York's lottery multi-million dollar jackpot? Rodríguez, had arrived in the United States in 1982 and worked as a parking lot attendant for most of his life. Even though he had been separated from his wife, he never tried to divorce her for lack of money. Mr. Rodriguez did not have a Prenupt. His estranged wife who was living apart from him at that time, received nearly half of his winnings in a divorce that was filed days after he won the lottery. Had a prenuptial agreement been in place, she never would have gotten a cent.

Save yourself the headaches.

It's unfortunate that couples sometimes overlook this very important agreement before they commit to a lifetime financial partnership.

A Prenuptial agreement is very much like a road map: it guides you along the ride of marriage. Think about it this way: just like going on a long cross-country trip, requires a good map to guide you, so to does marriage require a Prenupt agreement.

Most people find they need something to help them understand as much as possible the intentions and goals and emotional needs of the other person BEFORE they commit their life in marriage. With a Prenupt, once you encounter marital problems you'll always have the written agreement as a reference to put you both back on track.

Odalis M. Encarnacion, is a Family Lawyer in private practice in New York City. For more information you may call him @ (718) 651-5283 or visit him on the web: or contact him via email:


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