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Setting the right expectations: the purpose of prenuptial agreements

Prenuptial agreements need to be understood in the right context. Like marriage itself, their role is best grasped with the right expectations.

Agreements before marriage about property division in the event of a possible divorce make a lot of sense for certain couples. In Illinois and across the country, they are increasingly used by couples in which at least one of the parties has high net worth. A "prenup," as such agreements are called, can enable such couples to clarify which property will remain individual property in the event that the marriage ends.

Contrary to a common stereotype, this does not mean that couples who use these agreements lack love for each other. There are many legitimate reasons why couples may choose them.

For example, it may not be just be a matter of protecting separate property. If one spouse comes into the marriage with significant debts, a prenuptial agreement could protect a wary spouse from getting stuck with them in the event of divorce. That protection could actually help the marriage happen. In short, prenups can promote marriage, and it is very simplistic to say that they undercut the emotional connection that many people seek in marriage.

Nationally, the big news right now about prenuptial agreements is that they may be easier to challenge in court than was once thought. In a case in New York, an appellate court ruled that a prenup could be voided when one party made promises that proved to be fraudulent.

The decision has prompted much discussion about the formalities required to put a valid prenuptial agreement in place.

Source: "Five Reasons Your Prenup Might Be Invalid," Forbes, Jeff Landers, 4-2-13

To learn more about our firm's practice, please visit our page on high-asset divorce.

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