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Will having a premarital agreement speed up our divorce?

Nobody wants to go into a marriage and prepare for a divorce at the same time. However, the truth is that divorces do happen, despite your best intentions and efforts, and when they do, a premarital (or prenuptial) agreement can be a huge help.

Premarital agreements work out who will get your assets if you do end up getting a divorce. It will determine who will support who after the marriage has ended, or if both parties will be completely responsible for supporting themselves. It divvies up everything from your business and pension to your retirement account, savings accounts and investments. Most lawyers would suggest a premarital agreement, no matter how in love you are at the moment. The hope is that you’ll never have to use it; the reality is that should you get divorced, the premarital agreement will make life much easier.

If you end up getting divorced and you don’t have a premarital agreement, the court will divide up your assets as they see fit. In some states, this means splitting everything completely in half; in other states, it gets more tricky than that and assets are divided based on a number of factors. A premarital agreement, though, guarantees that each spouse will be able to keep what is theirs.

Nobody wants to get divorced, but even worse than going through a divorce is going through one that’s lengthy and drawn out. A premarital agreement can expedite your divorce to get it over with as quickly as possible. When you have a premarital agreement, it means that you and your spouse have already agreed about how your assets will be divided. Certain issues will already have been resolved so that you don’t have to start working through them now, when life is in upheaval and emotions are high. The benefits of having a premarital agreement include the following:

• Your separate property will be protected
• Your estate plan will be supported
• You will define marital property vs. community property
• You will limit the number of conflicts you and your spouse have if you divorce
• You could save money, since many issues will already be decided upon
• You will clarify any special agreements you have with your spouse
• You will set the procedures you’ll both follow for handling issues after the divorce

In order for your premarital agreement to be a help instead of a hindrance during your divorce, it has to be a legally binding contract. This means that it should be executed by an expert, i.e. a divorce attorney. A premarital agreement that’s been executed correctly is technically a binding contract. However, note that even if you had a lawyer draft your premarital agreement, one spouse can challenge the it. For example, they may say that the agreement isn’t completely clear or that it was signed when one of the parties was under duress.

Before you decide for sure that you want a premarital agreement, check out your state’s laws. You may find that the laws protect you in exactly the right way, or even in a better way, which would make a prenuptial agreement unnecessary. If your local law is unclear, speak with an attorney about your best options for protecting your assets should your marriage end in divorce.

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