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What are the most common prenuptial clauses?

3rd February 2021 Print

There are so many things to think about in advance of a wedding – from choosing a dress and a venue to deciding what food to serve and what flowers to have in your bouquet, and it’s easy to get caught up in all of these fun details. Not all of the advance planning is so enjoyable, however; couples also need to deal with financial issues, like opening a joint bank account, and, in many cases, decide whether or not to see a lawyer about a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements have become more common in recent years, and for good reason: having these hard, but critical conversations before marriage can create stronger bonds and help both parties feel confident about their partnership. But their common use doesn’t mean that most people know what goes into a prenuptial agreement, and there are legal restrictions on what can be specified. These are some of the most common clauses included in these documents among couples everywhere along the economic spectrum.

Money Matters

Among the most common clauses included in prenuptial agreements are those that outline both parties’ assets and lay out how assets will be handled if the marriage is dissolved. Often, premarital agreements stipulate that couples will essentially leave the marriage with what they entered with, with marital assets split evenly. However, if premarital assets are so disparate that they would make such an agreement unfair, especially if children are involved, couples can choose to set other terms.

Not Included: Children

On the surface, it seems obvious that children would play an important role in constructing any premarital agreement, with terms differing depending on if there are children involved. In reality, though, issues concerning children are generally off-limits in both prenuptial and post-marital agreements. According to divorce lawyer Rowdy Williams, “The legal terms of a premarital agreement are such that children can’t be used as pawns, and that means the agreement can’t be a factor in who gets child custody or child support payments in a divorce.” 

This is just one reason why it’s important for couples to consult with a lawyer before setting out the terms of a prenuptial or post-marital agreement: to avoid making major mistakes like this. In fact, as a general rule, you should never draw up a legal document without oversight from a professional.

Terms Of Alimony

While a prenuptial agreement cannot be used to determine the terms of child support payments, they can and should include a clause about whether alimony will be granted and any specifics related to this, such as under what terms and how much. Additionally, the terms of alimony are often tied to penalty clauses in prenuptial agreements, meaning that a spouse can be denied alimony if they have an affair or otherwise contravene the terms of the agreement.

Newer Inclusions

Alimony and financial assets may be standard elements of prenuptial agreements, but as social norms change, other items are regularly being added to the list. One of the most contentious among these might be classes as genetic material, specifically sperm, eggs, or embryos banked for reproductive purposes. While couples may not be able to predict whether they’ll go on to use assisted reproductive technologies later in their relationship, they may wish to immediately amend any documents or draw up a post-marital agreement regarding the fate of these materials as there have been a number of custody-style cases regarding use of jointly created embryos.

Every couple is different and whether you choose to draw up a prenuptial agreement is a personal choice, but it’s widely encouraged when there is a significant amount of money involved, if at least one party has been married before or has children from a prior marriage, or even if one person has more debt than the other. These documents offer a small measure of reassurance in an uncertain world, and while they can’t cover everything, many consider that a good reason to have such a contract in hand before they walk down the aisle.