How To Create A Premarital Agreement

If you've found someone you love and you're ready to make it official, you have a lot of planning to do. But in between planning the perfect wedding, you need to make sure you're carving out enough time to create a premarital agreement that works for both you and your spouse to be. While prenups have gotten a bad rap in the past, they can be essential to creating and protecting a happy union between two people. In the event of a divorce, premarital agreements make things easy and straightforward, cutting out the need for bitter quarreling and long, drawn-out battles in court. If you're ready to protect your rights as well as the future of your marriage, here's what you need to know about creating a premarital agreement. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

How To Create A Premarital Agreement

  1. Consult With Your Partner. The most important aspect of a premarital agreement is making sure you and your spouse are on the same page. The agreement will only work if you both feel that you're getting what you deserve and that you're secure and protected inside of the marriage as well as in the eventuality of divorce. Before you draw up your agreement, make time to talk to your partner about what you feel is fair. From there, you can figure out terms that work for both of you. Remember, creating an agreement that you both sign off on is a work in progress, and it doesn't come easily, especially if you don't have the best lawyer working through everything with you. That's why communication is of the utmost importance during this process.
  2. Negotiate Your Terms. Even if you're not thrilled about the idea of a prenup or even feel you don't need one, it's important to take the process of creating your document seriously. Even if you never end up having to use it, your agreement lays out both partners' assets and property just to have everything on record. That way, you can start to size things up and figure out what type of split might be fair in the event of a divorce. It's not just about what happens after the end of a marriage, either. Premarital agreements can help you sort out special stipulations or terms for the marriage. You can even write in a clause that allows you to spend more time with your spouse if you so wish.
  3. Hire The Right Lawyer. With more and more millenials getting prenups before tying the knot, it's important to take your agreement seriously and arm yourself with the right lawyer for the job. It's not just about your protection. Having an experienced lawyer working alongside you and your spouse can help both of you protect rights you weren't even aware of. Hiring someone who's worked on premarital agreements before will also help keep things professional and will allow you and your spouse to talk about potentially difficult subjects without having it spiral into an argument.
  4. Sign On The Dotted Line. Now that you've reached an agreement with the right lawyer by your side, you're ready to walk down the aisle without any lingering fears or a feeling of unfinished business. You'll be able to enjoy the prospect of life with your spouse without the headache of any looming legal troubles.

What If I Want To Make Changes To My Prenup?

While the whole point of a prenuptial agreement is to protect you before you get married, it is possible to override or strike your prenup from the record in some circumstances, as well as to make changes. For instance, if you didn't plan to have children and then find yourself expecting, you may be able to ask your lawyer to write in a clause about child support. However, it's always best to factor these decisions in before your marriage, since it's notoriously difficult to change your agreement afterward. It's also important to keep your prenup up to date. Once it expires, it won't matter what was written in your agreement. In the eyes of the law, it will be null and void.

Divorce Laws By State

State Resident Requirement Uncontested Filing
Alabama 6 years, at least one spouse May file in any county
Alaska Filing spouse must be a resident Must file with local Superior Court
Arizona 90 days, at least one spouse Must file with local Superior Court
Arkansas 60 days, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
California Six months, at least one spouse Must file with local Superior Court
Colorado 90 days, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Connecticut One year, at least one spouse Must file with local Superior Court
Florida Six months, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Georgia Six months, at least one spouse Must file with local Superior Court
Idaho Six weeks, at least one spouse Must file with local Superior Court
Illinois 90 days, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Indiana Six months, at least one spouse Must file in local Domestic Relations court
Iowa 90 days, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Kansas 60 days, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Kentucky 180 days, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Louisiana One year, at least one spouse One year, at least one spouse
Maine Six months, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Maryland One year, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Massachusetts One year, at least one spouse Must file in local Probate Court
Michigan 10 days, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Minnesota 180 days, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Mississippi Six months, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Missouri 90 days, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Nebraska One year, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Nevada Six weeks, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
New Hampshire One year, at least one spouse Must file with local Superior Court
New Jersey One year, at least one spouse Must file with local Superior Court
New Mexico Six months, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
New York One year, at least one spouse Must file with Supreme Court
North Carolina Six months, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Ohio Six months, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Oklahoma Six months, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Oregon Six months, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Pennsylvania Six months, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
South Carolina One year, at least one spouse Must file with Court of Common Pleas
Tennessee Six months, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Texas Six months, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Utah Three months, at least one spouse Must file in District Court
Virginia Six months, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Washington One year, at least one spouse Must file with local Superior Court
West Virginia One year, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court
Wisconsin Six months, at least one spouse Must file in county Circuit Court

What Happens If We Have Kids?

If you have children during your marriage, things may change between you and your partner. The same goes for a change in finances or assets. For instance, if you end up inheriting a lot of money a few years into your marriage, you may feel that your premarital agreement no longer accurately reflects your finances. If you need to change your agreement for any reason, you'll need the consent of your partner and the help of your lawyer to draw up new paperwork protecting you and your family.

2017 Premarital Agreement Statistics

  • 15% of divorcees regret not using a prenup or premarital agreement.
  • 44% of single individuals are in favor of prenuptial agreements.
  • Both Community Property law and Equitable Distribution State law can be trumped by the existence of a prenup.
  • A mere 5% of U.S. divorces use a prenup to figure out division of property.
  • 11.7% of married people feel that divorce is a probably eventuality.
  • 50% of current law students believe that the existence of a prenup leads to divorce.
  • The average cost of a prenuptial agreement is less than 10% of the total cost of a wedding.
  • 41% of married Americans go through a divorce.
  • 60% of American divorcees get married for a second time.
  • 73% of American divorcees get married for a third time.
  • There has been a 51% increase of prenuptial agreements for millenials in the past 3 years.
  • Nearly half of all American marriages end in divorce.

In Depth

Love is a beautiful thing. However, even the most wonderful love affairs can end, and it would be foolish to pretend like divorce doesn't affect 50% of married couples in the U.S. That's why so many celebrities, from Kanye West to Ice-T, create prenuptial agreements to protect their assets in the event of a breakup. While many of these agreements are fairly straightforward, others have wild clauses and terms built-in to make the prospect of breaking up feel even harsher than usual.

Whether you're Beyonce and you allegedly receive $1 million a year simply for not divorcing Jay-Z, or you're Jessica Biel and you're guaranteed half a million dollars in the event of Justin Timberlake cheating on you, prenuptial agreements can go from standard to out-and-out wild. But how do you actually sit down and make one yourself? As long as you have the right lawyer by your side, it's easy. Whatever you do, make sure you have one before you agree to tie the knot.

Don't end up like Russell Brand, the comedian who ended up getting totally cleaned out by his 2012 divorce. Because he and his ex Katy Perry didn't have a prenup in place, Brand ended up losing out on the $20 million Perry technically owed him, something he regretted instantly. If you don't want this to be your story, you can't sit around and wait.

Because he and his ex Katy Perry didn't have a prenup in place, Brand ended up losing out on the $20 million Perry technically owed him, something he regretted instantly.

Be sure to read our guide on protecting yourself with a prenup agreement. You can find it right on this page. Scroll beneath this video to talk to a lawyer who will help you create an agreement without pissing off your partner. Ready to get started? Here's what you need to do to create a prenup that works for you.

#1: Communicate. Before you sign your name on the dotted line, you have to make sure you and your spouse-to-be are totally on the same page about everything. You don't want to end up locked in endless communications about your prenup or turning bitter because your partner doesn't see eye-to-eye with you about any detail. Remember, prenups don't have to revolve around money, though traditionally the agreement does lay out the belongings and assets of each party to have it on record.

If you're Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, you've gone out of your way to stipulate that you have to spend more time together than at the office. Your prenup can be what you want it to be. But never forget that it's for your own protection, and you should always fight for equal terms between you and your partner.

If you're Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, you've gone out of your way to stipulate that you have to spend more time together than at the office.

#2: Negotiate. Very few people have ever agreed on a prenup right away. In fact, premarital agreements have spurred many a lover's quarrel. For all his talk about "we want prenup," Kanye West seems to have totally rolled over for Kim Kardashian West, who ensured that she would keep the Bel Air mansion and all her earnings and jewelry in the event of a divorce. There isn't even a child support clause in the prenup, which is a classic no-no for most married couples.

After you've laid out the terms of your agreement, you need to make sure you're covered for specific eventualities like child support should the unexpected happen. This isn't just important in the case of a divorce. Think about the man who had a happy marriage for years, until his wife tragically died in a car accident. He remarried, but his adult children felt that this went against his late wife's wishes and took him to court.

A prenup could have prevented this bitter family quarrel. If you don't want to end up like this, don't waste another minute. Check out our guide to creating the perfect prenup, found right on this page. Simply scroll beneath this video to find a lawyer who will look out for you and your rights.

A prenup could have prevented this bitter family quarrel.

#3: Find A Lawyer Who's Right For You. Before you sign your prenup, you'll need to find a lawyer you trust to handle your affairs. While many couples imagine that having a joint lawyer is the answer, this could actually cause problems later on. If you have your own lawyer, you'll be guaranteed protection no matter what. If anything happens and you split up, you don't want to have to fight over your lawyer and end up getting nothing.

#4: Draw Up Your Agreement. Now that the terms are set, you're ready to sign and walk down the aisle. You don't have to be like Catherine Zeta-Jones and demand $2.8 million per each year of marriage plus a $5 million bonus for children. We're not lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but you have to make sure that your property and assets are protected no matter what, and that if your spouse crosses a line, you won't be left with endless heartbreak and no legal resource to fight it out in court.

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