I am a big proponent of prenuptial agreements – even before Kanye West’s song “Gold Digger”.  For those of you not familiar with the song, Mr. West advised that “if you ‘aint no punk, holla ‘we want prenup!’” I agree with his advice implicitly, albeit with a slightly different delivery.

I have had a lot of friends and acquaintances over the years who discuss prenuptial agreements as if they are offensive. These naysayers do not dare broach the subject with their significant other because they think that it would be rude, or that it implies that there is no trust in the longevity of the relationship.  Why on earth would you be uncomfortable discussing ANYTHING with your soon-to-be spouse?  My thoughts are – if you do not feel you can have a candid conversation about these important issues, then maybe you should re-think getting married in the first place.  One of the cardinal rules for having a good marriage is to have open and honest communication.  You should be able to have a serious conversation about your finances, albeit (perhaps) a slightly uncomfortable one, with your betrothed. If you cannot, it begs the question – why not?  Before you take the plunge, consider a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial Agreements require full financial disclosure.

What does full financial disclosure entail?  Each of you needs to provide the other person with a statement of your assets (bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, vehicles, etc.) and liabilities (mortgage, credit card debt, student loans, etc.).  You also exchange income information and recent tax returns.

Why is full financial disclosure important? You want to know what you’re getting into when you get married.  You may know that your bride-to-be eats crackers in bed, or that your bridegroom doesn’t want to talk to you while he’s watching American Ninja Warrior.  Financial disclosure requires you to let the other party know about your college loans, credit card debt, and any other financial skeletons that may be hiding in your closet.  It also helps you budget for your marital life together and figure out how you will be able to pay your bills, plan for your family, and save for retirement. It may make sense for you to agree to pay off one party’s debt so that credit can be re-built or so that you can qualify together for a mortgage.  However, you can also make sure that you preserve your own wealth so that it follows you in the event there is a divorce, whether you be reimbursed for a down payment on a house or reimbursed for paying off your future spouse’s premarital credit card bill.

A very high percentage of couples headed for divorce fight about money.  Some of these disputes could be avoided, however, if the parties had discussed their respective expectations and goals for their financial futures. Recent studies show that credit scores can be predictors of the longevity of your relationship.  If you have a unified approach on how you deal with your respective assets and liabilities, and particularly your credit, there’s a much better chance that your relationship will sustain the test of time.

There are other requirements in a prenuptial agreement – that the documents be signed in advance of the marriage, without any coercion or duress, and an ample amount of time before the marriage.  It is also HIGHLY recommended that you have the prenuptial agreement reviewed by an attorney.  Your agreement cannot be unconscionable (cannot shock the conscience) and cannot adversely affect a child’s right to receive child support. You can peruse the statute for the particulars.  Rest assured, if you do not have a prenuptial agreement and are already married, there is still an opportunity to protect yourselves – you can have a mid-marriage agreement drafted. Nothing says love like ensuring financial security for your spouse-to-be (and yourself!). If you would like to have a prenuptial agreement prepared or reviewed by an experienced New Jersey family law attorney, you can contact me at amackaronis@hoaglandlongo.com.

[1] A clarification: prenuptial, premarital, and antenuptial agreements are all the same thing. There seems to be confusion in the public regarding these terms.  However, family law attorneys use the terms interchangeably, as they are all agreements made before (and in contemplation of) marriage.