While virtually half of all American marriages end in divorce, only about five percent of couples heading to the altar or the courthouse do so having executed a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”). Two reasons are often given for avoiding these agreements. First, many couples think that by “negotiating” a prenup, the couple is planning to fail. The second reason is that many couples think that divorce is what happens to other people, “not us.” Are couples who sign prenuptial agreements more likely to divorce later? The answer might surprise you.
Prenuptial Agreements Are Not a Strong Predictor of Later DivorceAccording to a recent survey of 105 mental health professionals, there are indeed some strong predictors of divorce:
- An earlier divorce – 58 percent of the experts agreed that persons who have an earlier divorce are more likely to become divorced again.
- Cold feet – 80 percent agreed that pre-wedding cold feet – particularly among brides – is a strong predictor of a later divorce.
- Communication problems
- Sexual infidelity
- Failing to give “the marriage” a high enough priority
Prenups Aren’t For EveryoneA prenuptial agreement should solve potential problems, not create them. Some experts joke that many couples in their mid-20s have only their love and college loans to share. Where there are no significant family assets coming into the marriage, there is less need to worry about a subsequent division. Some marital counselors argue that there is always the chance that a prenup can alter the chemistry within a committed relationship. Particularly when one prospective spouse raises the subject only days before the wedding, he or she is only asking for trouble. Others point out that prenups can sometimes fail to take into account a spouse’s nonfinancial contributions to the marital union. The spouse without the advanced degree (and the associated salary) is usually the one who takes primary responsibility for raising children. A prenup can put that nurturing parent at a subsequent disadvantage.
Prenups Can Still Be Very Useful For Many CouplesPrenuptial agreements can be particularly useful in the following situations:
- Where one or both spouses bring children into the marriage. Having a clear understanding as to what marital resources will be shared and what other resources are designated for the children can be helpful to the new couple, as they seek to build a home together.
- Where one spouse has significant existing business interests, particularly if the interest is in a closely held corporation. In this regard, a small business owner should not only consider having a prenup with his or her spouse, but shareholder or partnership agreements with others in the business.