Unfortunately, if you are getting married, the odds of divorce are high. The current marriage rate is 6.1 per 1,000, and the divorce rate is 2.7 per 1,000. Over 20 percent of first marriages end in divorce within five years, and nearly half of marriages dissolve by the 20 year mark. No matter your reason for marriage, your philosophy, or your desire, you should recognize going into a marriage that if your spouse later requests a divorce, you will not be able to fully control the situation at that time.

A Prenuptial Agreement Can Improve the Rules for Divorce

However, you can control the situation to a degree if you take action before your marriage. With a prenuptial agreement, you can define the rules for a divorce and remove some of the risk and uncertainty and expenses associated with a divorce. Oklahoma has certain default rules that apply to divorces where there is no prenuptial agreement. For example, in “equitable distribution” states such as Oklahoma, the standard for property division is what is “fair,” not necessarily 50-50. In some divorces where there was no agreement before the marriage, people spend tens of thousands of dollars for their attorneys to fight about whether the division of property in their divorce will be equal or not. You can completely eliminate that fight with a prenuptial agreement. You may define your own terms for spousal support: you may agree that neither of you may ever claim spousal support from the other, or you may implement a calculation or tiered approach to remove discretion from a judge in the future. You may define the standards for determining what is separate property and what is marital property, and you may even require each side to bear their own attorney fees in the event of a divorce.

A prenuptial agreement is a risk management vehicle. Paying to address foreseeable issues can forestall extreme monetary expense and the emotional toll that accompanies divorce proceedings that do not have such certainty. Although all risk and uncertainty cannot be eliminated, a well-written prenuptial agreement can save tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in exposure to spousal support, attorney fees and invasion of what you believe to be premarital or gifted separate property.

As you can see, you do not need to be a millionaire or even have a lot of income or property for a prenuptial agreement to make sense. If you are getting married, you likely assume that the two of you will make more money as time goes on and that the two of you will accumulate more property over time as well. A prenuptial agreement does not have to be onerous or unfair to one side. It can be mutually beneficial for each person to know what the terms will be in the event that the marriage does not work out.

A Prenuptial Agreement Can Protect Your Children's Estate

When a married person dies, their spouse takes at least 1/3rd of the deceased spouses's estate. This is true whether there is a will or not. This means that even if you have a will providing for all of your property to go to your children upon your death, if you are married when you die your spouse can claim a substantial part of your estate, even if your will says otherwise. The only exception to this rule is for a prenuptial agreement making some other type of designation for the property. Even though the law provides that a surviving spouse is entitled to part of the deceased spouse's estate, the surviving spouse may not take more from the estate than what is provided in a valid prenuptial agreement. As you can see, if you have children from prior relationships and wish to set aside your estate for them, a prenuptial agreement can play an important role in your estate planning and even be more powerful than a will.