Prenups 101: More Couples Sign Agreements Before They Say 'I Do'

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A: A prenuptial agreement is most important when it comes to protecting pre-marital financial interests, such as retirement, investment funds, property and other finances. Don't forget about debt, she noted. It's critical that partners disclose and discuss their debts with each other before they tie the knot. If the marriage ends in divorce, one partner may not want to be on the hook for student loans or credit card debt that the other partner accrued before the marriage, she added.

In addition to protecting assets and the division of property, the prenup should spell out how pets and sentimental items should be handled in the event of a divorce, she said. These are strong emotional triggers that can often become the focal point of messy divorces.

Q: What won't a prenup cover?

A: It can't include any provision that would encourage your partner to dissolve the marriage or prevent you from seeking spousal support in the event of a divorce, she said. That means that if a prenup restricts the spouse from seeking alimony, the spouse still has the right to sue for marital support.

A prenup does not cover the child custody arrangements or child support, but it can specify the type of education and religious faith that you prefer for your child, she added.

Q: What is a postnup? And how about marriage insurance?

A: A postnup is an agreement that spells out terms but which is signed after the marriage takes place, and it generally is scrutinized more in court, Hobson said. If you do get a postnuptial agreement, make sure that both parties have their own attorneys review it, she added.

Marriage insurance does exist, and there is a monthly premium for the coverage. Hobson said she does not think it's a good idea and she would not consider buying this insurance.

Web-extra Tips

Here are some more of Mellody's tips:

You may want to consider getting a prenuptial agreement if you think you will quit your job in the future to raise children. It will ensure that the financial burden of child-rearing is split equitably.

To ensure the agreement remains fair, a prenuptial agreement should be reviewed periodically, especially if your lifestyle changes or your salary has significantly increased.

If you live in a community property state such as California, usually everything you purchase during your marriage is split 50/50, no matter who purchased it. If you don't agree with those regulations, make sure you spell out specific guidelines about property division in your prenup, but remember that your partner will need to agree.

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