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Does a prenuptial agreement only benefit the wealthier spouse?

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2024 | Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements have become much more common in recent years, as more people now recognize how important protection can be when starting a marriage. Generations ago, prenuptial agreements served almost exclusively to protect those who were incredibly wealthy or influential.

However, they have become useful for working-class and middle-class families as well as attitudes about divorce and marriage have changed over the years. Many people still feel conflicted or frightened when a fiancé proposes a prenuptial agreement. They may worry, in particular, that such an agreement could lead to a very unfair divorce outcome.

There is an expectation that a prenuptial agreement is likely to only benefit the spouse who earns more or has more property prior to marriage. That myth is a holdover from times past.

Contracts should benefit both parties

A prenuptial agreement is effectively a contract between engaged people. They establish expectations for the future of their relationship, including what might happen with their property if they decide to divorce. Despite what people often assume, a prenuptial agreement is not a way for one spouse to protect all of their property and income while preparing to leave the other with nothing if they ever divorce. A contract needs to offer something of value to both parties signing.

One of the most common reasons that people are able to invalidate or contest prenuptial agreements is an unconscionable contract. If one spouse can show that the agreement only protected the other, then the courts might invalidate the agreement or set it aside during divorce.

For a prenuptial agreement to be enforceable and valid, it has to offer something of valuable consideration to both spouses. Just the privilege of getting married is not adequate. If one spouse intends to set their income and property aside as separate, then the contract should offer protections to their spouse that have similar value.

Typically, best practices for negotiating prenuptial agreements include each spouse retaining their own lawyer to review the agreement carefully. That way, the contract includes terms that benefit both spouses if the marriage ends in divorce. Having a realistic idea about the usefulness of a prenuptial agreement could make a major difference for those preparing for divorce or for marriage. Marital contracts can be a powerful tool to protect the interests of both spouses if marriage doesn’t work the way they hope.