When love is new, the future seems bright and full of hope. But life doesn’t always turn out the way we hope it will. Too often, when the tint of those rose-colored glasses fades, it’s not commitment you’re left with, but the financial ruin and emotional heartache of divorce’s destructive wake.
Fortunately, you don’t need to throw out marriage with the proverbial bathwater. Concerned couples who want to insure against the possibility of divorce’s financial hardships need only file a prenuptial agreement, in order to assuage fears.
Here’s a little more about these pre-marriage contracts in Tennessee, and why you should make one an essential part of your walk down the aisle.
Prenuptial Agreements in Tennessee
A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup,” as the slang goes), is a pre-marriage contract between a couple, which stipulates how things like property, debt, and alimony will be handled, in the event of a future divorce. It can also be utilized to classify property and assign responsibilities while the couple is married.
Historically, these agreements were usually only used by the very rich—specifically in situations where there was a large disparity of wealth between the two parties. This often led to one half of the partnership feeling uneasy about their relationship, and the marriage’s inevitable doom.
Luckily, the unsavory stigmas revolving around prenups are rapidly changing, and more couples of average incomes than ever before are choosing to use them, prior to marriage. Here’s why.
Prenups and Property
When it comes to dividing marital property during divorce, courts in Tennessee follow the laws of equitable distribution. Under these guidelines, anything either of you acquire after marriage—be it property or debt—will get classified as “marital property.” (Or, in other words, “property that belongs to both of you.”) Anything with this classification will be subject to an equitable division upon divorce.
(And, by the way, “equitable” doesn’t necessarily mean a straight, fifty-fifty split. Equitable distribution also considers many intangible factors that skew the success of either party, post-divorce. More on that here.)
This type of property distribution can work fine for some couples. For others, however, the financial consequences can be devastating, completely compromising years of effort and work toward a business or career. But how to solve this conundrum? Do you just live together and avoid marriage altogether?
We argue: no.
Instead, enter: the prenuptial agreement.
Prenuptial Agreements: Insuring Against the Unexpected
A good prenup acts almost exactly like a good insurance policy. It’s not something you do because you’re absolutely sure the worst is going to happen. It’s something you do because the worst might happen.
Similarly, couples utilize prenuptial agreements because they’re just good sense. A kind of marital insurance that can be utilized to protect real property, business shares, investments, or accounts against the standard laws of marital property that we discussed above.
That being said, not every type of insurance is right for every person. After all, a pair of renters probably aren’t interested in homeowner’s insurance. Likewise, a prenuptial agreement might not be necessary for every couple.
Is a Prenup Right for You?
In general, you might want to consider investing in a prenuptial agreement, if either or both of you:
- Are bringing valuable property into the marriage;
- Have a significant amount of pre-marriage debt;
- Have been married before;
- Have children from another relationship; or,
- If a large disparity of wealth exists between you.
Naturally, there may be other reasons you’d want to draft one of these contracts, so while this list isn’t exhaustive, it does give you a good starting point.
The “Cans” and “Cannots” of Prenuptial Agreements
A prenup’s main purpose is to protect property and assets. To this end, there’s a lot of area it can cover, however, it does have limitations.
In Tennessee, a prenuptial agreement can:
- Divide accounts;
- Keep property and debt separate;
- Stipulate post-divorce living arrangements;
- Waive the right to, or the obligation of alimony;
- Specify property distribution in the event of separation, divorce, or even death; and,
- Require one or both parties to invest in life insurance.
However, a prenuptial agreement cannot:
- Bind one or both spouses to certain intimate behavior;
- Stipulate the terms of reproduction (such as number of children, and how often); or,
- Induce either party to engage in illegal behavior, or to commit a crime.
Terms that Reference Parental Obligations
Some couples like to include provisions that reference parental obligations and possible child care arrangements, such as custody, visitation, and child support. While these terms won’t necessarily invalidate your prenuptial agreement, keep in mind that a judge will not be required to uphold them.
In Tennessee, all decisions that affect minor children are made under consideration of the child’s best interest. If your judge believes that your child care arrangements meet those interests, they may incorporate them into your final divorce order. If not, however, they’re under no obligation to validate your parenting plan.
Drafting a Valid Prenup in Tennessee
There’s nothing like getting in an accident, and realizing that your insurance won’t cover the damage. The same can be said for a prenuptial agreement.
To make sure your Tennessee prenup can withstand the test of time, be sure that your contract:
- Clearly outlines all assets and obligations;
- Represents a fair agreement for both sides;
- Is in writing;
- Is voluntarily signed by both parties; and,
- Is executed prior to marriage.
Contracts that are authorized under duress or false pretenses are not enforceable. Similarly, anything finalized after marriage—even if it’s on the same day—will not be valid. (Though, already married couples are still free to draft an agreement between themselves, through executing a valid post-marriage agreement.)
The best way to ensure your prenup will be enforceable, is to simply draft your agreement with the aid of an experienced family law attorney.
Prenuptial Agreement Attorney in Tennessee
A prenuptial agreement can’t ensure a successful marriage. You will still disagree, argue, and maybe even get divorced. However, a valid prenup can make sure that you’re both in it for the right reasons, and that if your marriage ever does fall apart, that this, too, is for the right reasons.
If you have more questions about prenuptial agreements in Tennessee, we want to hear from you. Call the Byrd Law team at 423-304-6827, or contact us online, and let us help give you the peace of mind needed to take the next step in your relationship.