Considering the high number of divorces our family law attorneys in Charleston have handled over many years, it is unfortunate that we do not receive more requests for prenuptial agreements. That is not to say that our Charleston family law attorneys do not handle prenuptial agreements; of course we do. Instead, many clients hesitate entering into a prenuptial agreement. The obvious reason for their hesitation is that they do not want to dwell on the prospects of a divorce when they are planning for the joyous occasion of their wedding. Also, some clients are concerned that they will upset or offend their partner by asking for a prenup.
Prenuptial Agreements Make Sense
Setting any emotional considerations aside, a prenup makes practical sense. For example, the odds of being involved in a car accident are about 1 out of every 44 drivers, so it makes sense that we purchase car insurance (or at least we should). We hope to live long, healthy lives, but it makes sense to look for affordable health insurance and to make a last will and testament. So, with the overall odds that 1 out 2 marriages will end in divorce, perhaps more couples should prepare for that possibility by having a prenup.
Prenuptial Agreements in South Carolina
A prenuptial agreement, otherwise known as an “ante-nuptial” agreement, is essentially a contract made between a couple before their marriage that spells out the parties’ intentions should they ever divorce. A prenup typically covers the division of assets and debts and spousal support (alimony). Because a prenup largely governs financial matters, some persons believe that a prenup is only necessary for the wealthy. This view is shortsighted for several reasons. For example, a young couple getting a start on their life may not have many assets to begin with, but over the course of many years of hard work and savings they may accumulate property, savings, retirement accounts, and so on. Unfortunately, the reverse may also true, and they might accumulate significant debts. As another example, one spouse may decide to remain home and raise children while the other spouse builds on their career and ultimately earns a substantial living. Regardless of the parties’ situation, a well-crafted prenup plans for these possible futures without the substantial costs (both financial and emotional) of a contested divorce and the inevitable uncertainty of putting their future into the hands of their lawyers and a judge.
Of course, setting aside all emotional concerns to work on a prenup is much easier said than done. After all, the reasons for marrying are more often deeply rooted in a couple’s emotional bonds to and affection for one another. But, there are ways to overcome the emotional obstacles to reach a prenuptial agreement. For example, the parties can discuss the idea of a prenup during pre-marriage counseling sessions. Although many couples never consider seeing a marriage counselor BEFORE they tie the knot, pre-marriage counseling is a good idea. During pre-marriage counseling, the parties can express and define their expectations regarding the marriage, set goals for themselves as a couple, and receive practical advice regarding how to keep their relationship in tune over the years. Additionally, it establishes a relationship with a counselor in the unfortunate event that the parties need counseling during their marriage. Overall, premarriage counseling gives the parties an excellent forum in which to discuss their views and their feelings regarding a prenuptial agreement.
As another example, we encourage clients to approach a prenuptial agreement from a positive perspective. Essentially, many clients are concerned that their partner’s desire for a prenup is to “shortchange” the other party during a divorce. However, the better perspective is to view a prenup in the same was as drafting a will. Most clients draft a will to financially “take care of” the surviving spouse and the parties’ children. So, we encourage clients to view a prenup as a way of equitably “taking care of” the other spouse in the event of a divorce and to avoid the added emotional heartache that typically stems from litigation in family court.