A prenuptial agreement can be a contentious subject for a couple about to marry, but, in some cases, it is necessary for both spouses to protect their personal interests. The simplest way to explain a prenuptial agreement is as a contract two people sign prior to entering a marriage that outlines each party’s rights, responsibilities, and ownership over carefully defined pieces of property.

Many people may find the suggestion of creating a prenup offensive. There is an underlying connotation that suggesting a prenup is a way of subtly implying that there is a chance the marriage will not work out as the couple hopes. In reality, it is simply a way for a person getting married to protect their assets and interests they held prior to the marriage. Anyone who has decided to get married should consider the benefits of a prenup.

When Is a Prenup a Good Idea?

Most divorce attorneys and family law professionals would agree that the best time to consider a prenup is when one of the spouses owns significantly more assets and property than the other. For example, if two people are getting married and one earns about $1,000,000 per year and the other only earns about $75,000 per year, the higher-earning spouse likely holds much more property and asset value than the lower-earning spouse. If the couple marries without a prenuptial agreement, state law may allow the lower-earning spouse to seize half of the higher-earning spouse’s property under the state’s divorce laws. This is not exactly a fair outcome for the higher-earning spouse, and a prenuptial agreement can prevent this situation.

When both spouses earn roughly the same amounts of income and hold roughly the same amounts of property, a prenup may seem less necessary because it’s a much more level playing field should the couple decide to end their marriage. However, as life changes, so can your circumstances. State law considers all property and assets gained through the course of the marriage as marital property, which is subject to division in a divorce under California state law. If both spouses enter the marriage with roughly the same amount of individual property, there is far less room for discrepancies to arise. It’s rare that people start in the same place financially than they do at the beginning of a marriage.

Income and wealth differences aside, it is also a good idea to consider a prenup if you enter into a marriage while owning a business. While your spouse may play a role in the operations of the business at some level, if you built the business, you should retain ownership of it no matter what happens with your marriage. A prenup contract will ensure your spouse does not have a claim of ownership on your business, whereas the business could be subject to division under state law no matter how long you were married before divorcing if your spouse had any hand in the operation of the business.

Benefits of Prenuptial Agreements

The main benefit to pursuing a prenuptial agreement is peace of mind. This type of marriage contract basically outlines the “backup plan” in case the marriage doesn’t work out the way the couple imagines. The idea of pre-negotiating a divorce before even getting married may seem distasteful to some people, but the reality is that most state laws concerning divorce are very difficult to work around without some type of preexisting contract in place that outlines each spouse’s rights and responsibilities.

While some people have a difficult time considering a prenuptial agreement, some couples actually grow closer together by developing these contracts together. Ultimately, it’s a chance for a couple to practice having difficult conversations about uncomfortable topics in an open and honest way. A family law attorney in Orange County, California is a great resource for any couple considering a prenuptial agreement prior to marrying, and the right attorney can not only answer any questions the couple might have but also assist in the drafting of the contract.