Traditionally, prenuptial agreements have been viewed with displeasure both in popular culture and in Maryland courts. In a society that values the sanctity of marriage and the lifelong link between the lives of two people, the idea of creating a binding document describing what will happen if and when the marriage dissolves can tend to leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths. However, in recent years, more and more people have been consulting Maryland family law attorneys for advice in drafting prenuptial agreements. As we will see below, the practical reasons for drafting a “pre-nup” are beginning to outweigh any stigma associated with them.
For one, prenuptial agreements are a very good way to account for disproportionate financial positions between two parties before they enter into the marriage. Once a couple is married, their assets, for all intents and purposes, become totally linked. For example, if the groom happens to make $200,000 per year and the bride happens to make $40,000 per year, in the eyes of the law, the couple had a combined income of $240,000. But what happens if the happy couple were to fall upon some hard times and file for divorce?
In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, lawyers and judges are the principal people in charge of deciding the couple’s fate after the marriage. Maryland is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that the marital assets are divided in a manner that puts the parties in a “fair” post-marital state. It does not mean that the marital assets are divided equally. The advantage of a prenuptial agreement is that the parties can assess their disproportionate financial states and craft a logical, equitable solution to what will happen to those financial states in the event of divorce. More importantly, their judgment is not clouded by the stress and emotion of divorce litigation when the contingencies are agreed upon.
Moreover, prenuptial agreements are a good idea when one or both parties have been through previous marriage, and especially when these previous marriages have produced children. The prenuptial agreement can help hash out things like whether a party will bear any financial responsibility for the children from a previous marriage, or whether they will only bear responsibility for their own natural children.
If one party has an ownership stake in a business, a prenuptial agreement may be a very good idea. If there were to be a divorce, it may be damaging to the business if that ownership stake had to be divided, such that the former spouse now is involved in the business where he or she wasn’t before.
The main thing to take away from your consideration of a prenuptial agreement is that the choices are fully retained by the parties to the agreement. A Maryland family lawyer is merely the agent expressing the wishes of the parties. If the idea of free will is appealing to you and your future spouse, consider having a prenuptial agreement drafted by a Maryland family law firm. If you end up needing it, your interests will be protected. If it ends up collecting dust in a drawer somewhere, you can be comforted by the fact that you’re experiencing a happy marriage.
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