Not just for the wealthy: Prenuptial agreements and what couples need to know about them.

  • In Business
  • 2022-12-27 12:05:06Z

First comes love.

Then comes...actually, let's back up a bit and talk prenups, postnups and other agreements.

While some people think these agreements are mainly for the rich, it just isn't so, experts say.

"People have realized that the divorce rate is, unfortunately, very high," said Deveney Wells-Gibson, a San Diego-based lawyer who runs a second business called The Prenup Queen.

She said the divorce rate is almost 50% for first-time marriage and the chance for divorce increases for second, third and fourth marriages. Divorce is also among the leading causes of bankruptcy.

She thinks people are realizing love and finances don't necessarily have to be intertwined.

For example, one partner may have a business that they want to be theirs and only theirs, she said.

"It has nothing to do with whether you truly love someone or not," she said.

More on what you need to know about prenups, postnups and other agreements for lovebirds below.

How do prenups and postnups work?

Prenups are signed agreements between couples prior to getting married that outline what will happen to their money and other assets if they divorce. Postnups are similar agreements, only after the couple is legally married.

These agreements can help alleviate some of the animosity in divorces and are also a great way for couples to have difficult conversations before getting married, Wells-Gibson said.

"It really just allows them to be on the same page," she told USA TODAY. "It opens it up for some type of vulnerability because they're understanding why money might be important to one person but not to the other. There might be some financial insecurities, different money mindsets and stuff like that."

Some people don't have these conversations before tying the knot. They don't know how much debt their partner has, how much money they make or even if they've got inheritances.

And when marriage isn't in the cards but people still want to protect themselves and their partners, there are cohabitation agreements, she said.

She has gone over them with couples who don't believe in marriage but want life partners with whom they can acquire joint assets, take out loans and do other things that married couples do.

The agreements serve as an outline for what's going to happen to these assets and debt if they split, she said.

"They no longer have that marital legal protection of spouses," she said.

Are prenups just for rich people?

When it comes to The Prenup Queen's clientele, Wells-Gibson said she usually helps people who may not be "mega wealthy" but perhaps they have a home, rentals, inheritances or businesses they'd like to remain their sole property.

Take stay-at-home moms, for instance. Staying at home means foregoing a career and being in the workforce. That means they're not increasing their workforce skills and if they leave or get divorced, they'll have very little retirement, if any.

""It's literally for anyone trying to get into a marriage," Wells-Gibson said.

How does property tie into all of this?

Karen Anderson Holman, a Virginia-based lawyer, said people are often shocked when they find out property that was once theirs can become hybrid property, or property their partners own a percentage of, too.

"Say for instance, that you own your own home and then you marry," she said. "Based on the length of the marriage and based on the contributions of your spouse to increasing the value of that property - landscaping, remodeling or whatnot - they can walk away with a percentage of the value," if the property isn't part of a prenup.

What's love got to do with it?

Wells-Gibson said raising the issue does not mean one person is already planning for divorce.

"That's just a load of bologna," she said. "It opens up a dialogue that some people miss out on before they even get married. It goes towards showing your partner's character."

Be open, she said. Be vulnerable about why you're considering a prenup or postnup and know that there are "very valid reasons" to get one such as a second marriage or a previous divorce that turned out to be pretty nasty.

"There's just a lot of pros and cons of prenups that people seem to miss," she said. "People are tied up on how prenups and postnups are portrayed via the media and there's just so many more benefits to it than just prepping for the war," she said.

Did someone say debt?

Anderson Holman said prenups and postnups are also useful for people whose partners have a lot of debt.

She said she has also seen a rise in individuals requesting them who have had bumps in their marriages, whether it's infidelity, a violation of trust or just uncertainty about the marriage's survival.

"Love is not blind when it comes to finances," she said. "The debt that your spouse takes on may be your own."

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY's NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia - the 757 - and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Prenuptial agreements: What couples should know before marriage


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