June is traditionally the busiest month for weddings. Many couples spend months or even years planning their special day; scouting locations, listening to bands, trimming down the guest list. But couples spend little or no time talking about or planning for their financial life together and they rarely discuss what would happen if they divorced though 50% of marriages end that way.
Dallas Pediatrician Carolyn Ashworth loves kids. When she married for the second time she wanted to make sure her own adult children were protected. "We did accumulate things during our previous marriages, and we did think it was only fair that they have those things."
Her husband, Barney Auton, was also divorced and didn't think twice when Ashworth uttered the 'p' word. Suggesting they sign a prenuptial agreement before the wedding. "I had no problem with it," said Auton. "It's just another form of the marital contract much like the vows you take, and it made a lot of sense to me that everything was spelled out ."
A prenuptial is a binding contract that spells out in advance what happens to a couple's finances: assets, debts and property in the event of death or divorce. "They need to talk about how they're going to fund their household," says Courtney Knowles of the Equality in Marriage Institute. "Who's going to handle the responsibility of paying the bills and taking care of investments?"
The prenuptial can override state, family and probate law. And non-financial, lifestyle issues can also be put down on paper. "People put into prenuptial agreements how many times a week they're going to have sex, people put in what happens to the goldfish when you get divorced," said David Bach, author of 'Couples Finish Rich'.
Celebrity prenups seem as common as celebrity divorces. From actors and athletes to wealthy CEOs. But these contracts aren't reserved for the rich and famous. Many women are initiating prenups these days and it's not only those with high powered careers.
"Your more traditional woman who plans to stay home and take care of the children often will ask for a prenuptial to make sure that her non-monetary contributions to the marriage will be compensated and she will share 50/50 in the assets," said Arlene Dubin, author of 'Prenups for Lovers'.
Dubin, a New York attorney, and her husband, Bud Rosenthal, keep their prenuptial agreement in a tiffany bowl in their living room. "It has sentimental value because it was an enabler. It was one of the things that enabled Bud and I to get married," she says.
They intend to stay married, but still followed what Dubin calls the "three rules of prenups" to ensure the courts will uphold the agreement if they divorce. Each had their own attorney, they agreed to full and fair disclosure, and they finished the prenuptial at least 30 days before the wedding, so there'd be no question that these were hasty decisions. It's easier than doing a will, say Ashworth and Auton, who spent less than $2,000 putting their prenuptial together. In the terrible tragic event that your marriage does end in divorce, you feel like you are going to be in a safe harbor.
Prenuptial agreements are legal contracts and are fully enforceable if they are prepared properly. But you can terminate the contract, and you can also you can amend it. Say you inherit money or property and want the prenuptial to reflect that. Just make sure both parties have their own attorney and sign and notarize the new agreement.
The Equality in Marriage Institute also has advice on what it calls "the commitment conversation"... You can download the workbook from their website by ( clicking here).