Premarital Agreements Becoming More Common

Prenuptial agreements were once assumed to be the domain of the very wealthy — many trusted that the only reason you would need a prenuptial agreement would be to protect against the loss of significant family assets in the event of divorce. Although this is one good reason to make a prenuptial agreement, this is certainly not the only reason that someone preparing for a wedding might want to consider such a document.

Increasingly, it seems that many are realizing this fact. According to a recent study conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 73 percent of divorce attorneys have noticed an increase in the number of prenuptial agreements in the past five years.

What Has prompted This change?

It is difficult to pinpoint a single cause, as several factors probably contribute to the increase in prenuptial agreements.

In some cases, those requesting premarital agreements have already been through marriage and divorce, and may have children from the first marriage. In these cases, those seeking prenups may have simply learned a lesson from the first time around — a prenuptial agreement can help prevent a particularly complicated and drawn-out divorce. If the details of a potential separation can be established while two people are on good terms, this can help to minimize the frustrations and challenges of divorce.

Alternatively, the surge in prenups may simply be a result of general sensibilities regarding marriage. Given that so many marriages end in divorce, it makes sense to decide the terms before the relationship has a chance to turn sour. If the marriage lasts, the existence of the prenuptial agreement doesn't hurt anyone, but if it doesn't, the premarital agreement can protect both people. It also has the benefit of providing some certainty in a turbulent time for divorcing couples.

Such agreements can still be helpful for those with significant assets, or more generally when the two people have significantly different financial circumstances. For example, if one person has a significant debt load, the prenup can prevent his or her spouse from assuming responsibility for this debt in the event of divorce.

What Is Contained in a Prenuptial Agreement?

The range of subjects is broad. A prenup may address property division and outline whether particular assets are considered separate property or marital property. It may consider premarital debts, and how such debts would be divided upon divorce. An agreement also may outline the terms of alimony. Notably, a premarital agreement cannot make decisions regarding child custody or child support. However, it can determine the ownership of a beloved pet because, unlike children, Michigan laws regard pets as property.

For many people preparing for marriage, prenuptial agreements just make sense. If you are considering such an agreement, or if you have been asked to sign a prenup, make sure that your interests are protected. Confidentially speak with a knowledgeable Michigan family law attorney to discuss your circumstances and better understand your options.