The Pros and Cons of Prenups

If you’re getting ready to tie the knot, the thought of a prenup may have you tied in knots. But many divorce attorneys suggest that getting a prenuptial agreement, a legal document that determines how assets will be divided and protected in the event of a divorce, is a smart financial decision.

There are drawbacks, too. If you’re considering a prenup, here are the pros and cons (mostly pros) to factor in first.

[READ: Little-Known Financial Benefits of Divorce.]

Pro: A prenup forces partners to discuss money. Couples divorce for a lot of reasons, from incompatibility to infidelity, but stress and disagreements over how to manage money is certainly high on the list.

A prenup can be an excellent idea, if for no other reason than it forces a couple to talk about how to manage money, says Katherine Miller, a divorce attorney and founder of the Miller Law Group with three locations in New York.

“Most people spend more time talking about the color of the napkins at their wedding reception than they do about important issues around money that will impact their partnership in many ways. Negotiating a prenuptial agreement gives people the opportunity to talk about their expectations and hopes around so many money-related issues,” Miller says.

Some of the topics you can expect to discuss, Miller says, include:

— Credit and debt.

— Savings.

— Planning for retirement.

— Working versus being home with children.

— College savings.

— Owning real property versus renting.

— Payment of expenses.

Sure, with a prenup, you’re discussing how to handle finances if the marriage ends, but these are weighty, important topics. If you talk about who cares for the children while both of you work, or the merits of having one paycheck while another parent stays home, that’s not a bad thing to discuss before saying “I do.” So as improbable as it sounds, your prenup could inspire conversations that ensure a lasting, happy marriage.

Pro: A prenup can reduce the cost of divorce. No one wants to consider this because no one goes into a marriage believing there will be a divorce. So why plan for something that won’t happen?

But the idea behind a prenuptial agreement is simply to plan for the worst, just in case.

“You aren’t sealing your fate by executing one,” says Claire Samuels, an attorney with her own family law and divorce mediation firm, Claire Samuels Law PLLC, in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Nobody thinks twice about purchasing homeowners insurance, and doing so doesn’t mean your house is going to be burnt down … but you will be prepared if it does. The same can be said for a prenuptial agreement.”

Nicholas Creel, an assistant professor of business law at Georgia College and State University, has a similar take: “These are legal instruments that simply act as a safety net in that they provide clear-headed guidance when the worst occurs and nobody is thinking straight.”

Because dragging out a painful chapter in your life can be costly. According to DivorceNet.com, the average hourly cost of a divorce attorney is $270.

Creel adds that one reason divorce is expensive is that people aren’t functioning at their best; they take a lot of time to work things out in their head, and that can mean far more conversations with a divorce attorney.

“A prenup can ensure that if the worst occurs and the marriage needs to end, it can do so in a much more quick, orderly and inexpensive manner,” Creel says.

[Read: Cost Breakdown of a Divorce.]

Pro: A prenup can protect your friends and family. Corrie Sirkin, a founding partner at NOVA Legal Professionals, in Manassas, Virginia, that specializes in family law and divorce, says she and her partner at the firm, who are both divorced, promised each other that if either of them marry again, they’ll get prenups. Otherwise, Sirkin or her partner could be putting the other at risk if either have a contentious divorce with a spouse who could hurt the business.

A prenup is also a way to protect valuable assets you want to stay in your family. And, of course, if this is a second marriage for either of you, and there are already children in your life, think of your children or stepchildren. A prenup could make their lives a lot less complicated in case of a future divorce.

Pro: A prenup lets you and your partner make decisions, not attorneys and judges. If you don’t get a prenuptial agreement, says Kaylin Dillon, a financial advisor who owns Kaylin Dillon Financial Planning, in Lawrence, Kansas, your state has laws to help the court decide what’s fair if you get divorced.

“Those state laws can’t address everyone’s situation appropriately and thus are often not fair at all,” Dillon says, adding: “Why not discuss what you two think is fair at a time when your relationship is at a peak affection level?”

Con: The prenup may favor one spouse. This can happen. Sirkin says she has had clients ask her to review prenup contracts that are, indeed, one-sided. But then she works with her client to make it fair.

“There is a misconception that prenuptial agreements are somehow unfair,” Sirkin says.

But it probably won’t be unfair if you have a good attorney reviewing the prenup and suggesting changes before you sign it.

[See: 7 Signs Your Romantic Partner Is Financially Unstable.]

Con: Talking about divorce before marriage isn’t romantic. This is likely why so many couples don’t discuss a prenuptial agreement. Dillon concedes that discussing a prenup could cause issues in your relationship.

“If your relationship is not at a place where you can have awkward but healthy conversations about finances, diving into prenup negotiations can be like tinder to a fire,” Dillon says.

If you’re not in a place where you can do that, she says, “It’s better to walk before you run. If you aren’t ready for the prenup conversation, start by discussing how you plan to split expenses and share or not share income during marriage.”

Then after you have a talk about marriage and money, hopefully you can feel comfortable discussing a prenup, Dillon advises.

Pro: Planning a prenup can make a marriage stronger. There are strong arguments that prenups make marriages healthier.

Says Samuels: “Interestingly enough, it’s not necessarily the lack of money that causes conflict. Couples with millions of dollars still argue about it. The disagreement lies in how each person handles it.”

She says communication is the key to any good marriage, and a prenup will lead you to talk about challenging topics.

“If you can get comfortable taking about the uncomfortable with your future spouse, the stronger your relationship will be,” Samuels says.

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The Pros and Cons of Prenups originally appeared on usnews.com

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