Tips for broaching the issue of a prenuptial agreement

Discussing a prenuptial agreement may not be as romantic as planning the honeymoon vacation, but this type of contract may prove to be an investment in long-term financial security and peace of mind.

In fact, many same-sex couples have experienced the benefits of using contracts to clarify their relationships, which was a necessity prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark marriage ruling this past summer. Contracts can fill in the gaps between the law and changes in societal values, reproductive technology or even personal circumstances. But how can this topic be broached?

Our law firm focuses on family law matters, including prenuptial agreements. We have helped many clients to draft contracts before their marriage. A discussion about prenuptial agreements might begin with a long-term focus, in the event that a couple is planning on having children or avoiding financial entanglements.

This prompts an examination of what issues a prenuptial agreement can cover. Generally speaking, parties cannot agree to provisions that contravene applicable local or federal laws. For example, in the event of a divorce, both parents have a financial obligation toward their minor children. A prenuptial agreement cannot relieve one parent of this legal duty. Said another way, child support arrangements are generally defined by state law, and cannot be altered in a prenuptial agreement.

In contrast, other state laws function as a default, to be used only in the absence of other arrangements. Contracts can be used to avoid those default outcomes. One example is intestacy laws, which govern the distribution of estate property when an individual has passed without a will and/or trust. A prenuptial agreement can work in conjunction with an estate plan to ensure that designated people receive certain property as their inheritance, such as children from a previous marriage. Premarital contracts can help couples be proactive and avoid surprises.

Source: FindLaw, "What Can and Cannot be Included in Prenuptial Agreements," copyright 2015, Thomson Reuters