Guide to Marriage Contracts

Written by: David Scott

How to Create a Marriage Contract

When you are planning a wedding, we know you absolutely desire everything to go smoothly and seamlessly. Yet, there may be so many to-dos on your checklist that you do not have time to research specific procedures.

One of the most common articles couples consider, yet may not completely understand, is a marriage contract. Fortunately, our comprehensive guide will help you navigate this important marriage agreement. Follow along to learn:

Table of Contents

    What Is the Difference Between Marriage and a Relationship?

    Whether you are considering engagement or wondering if marriage is the right choice for you, you may wish to know the difference between marriage and a relationship. When you are in a relationship, you may live together, plan your lives together, and it genuinely may feel like you are already a married couple. Since this is the case, a relationship holds significant value all on its own. Yet, when you are married, your relationship is legally enforced or backed. In short, this means the government certifies your union and a religious authority may as well. On the other hand, you may dissolve a relationship at any time without any legal consequences (although there are a few exceptions to this rule, such as in the case of a shared child or shared property). 

    Additionally, when you are married, you typically exchange vows during the ceremony. These vows are more than simple promises; they reflect a deep commitment to each other. You may even detail these commitments in a marriage contract. If the vows are broken, there is a legal reason to dissolve your marriage and whoever broke the contract may suffer legal consequences. 

    Is Marriage a Relationship?

    Many people refer to marriage as a relationship. In general, marriage is a type of committed relationship. A married couple makes their relationship legally (and often, religiously) official, and permanent. Marriage intends for two people to stay together forever, until death.

    Is Marriage or a Relationship Better?

    One of the hardest decisions a couple may make together is if they should get married or stay in a relationship. Although you may wish for the answer to be simple, the correct answer is deeply personal and dependent on your relationship. There are many advantages and disadvantages to either scenario. It is best to decide with your partner, and even a marriage counselor or another trusted confidant.

    What Is a Marriage Contract?

    When you get married, you have the option to create a marriage contract. A marriage contract, also known as a prenup or prenuptial agreement, details how you will handle potential issues in your marriage or how you will handle a divorce. The most common concerns that couples discuss in marriage agreements are property, savings, assets, debt, potential spousal support, and infidelity clauses.

    Why Should You Get a Marriage Agreement?

    Marriage contracts are becoming more and more popular. Naturally, you may be curious as to why this is the case and what the advantages of getting a marriage agreement could be:

    • Protecting Your Assets: If you have a business, property, investments, or other assets, you can reclaim complete ownership if your marriage ends. If you do not have a marriage agreement in place, the separation of your assets will remain up to you and your partner and the court system. 
    • Protecting Against Debt: In some cases, partners have undisclosed debts or risky investments they may not have told each other about. A marriage contract can prevent you from being liable for that debt if your marriage ends. 
    • Preventing Court Battles: If you are like most couples, you do not want to think about how you or your partner may act in the unfortunate event of divorce. A prenup can help prevent long and complicated court battles where individuals act hostile towards each other. Since divisions are set ahead of time, it can simplify and smooth out many aspects of divorce. 
    • Opening Communication: Often, it is hard to talk to your partner about certain aspects of life such as finances and marital expectations. Discussing the contents of a marriage agreement can lead to greater insights into your relationship and the other person. It can also help both parties feel safer and more secure in their marriage, knowing there is a plan in place if things do go wrong. 

    How Do You Create a Marriage Contract?

    Creating a marriage contract does not need to be a complicated process. Although there may be variances depending on your specific location, the general procedure is as follows:

    1. Discuss with Your Partner: It is important to have a thorough conversation with your partner about which subjects should be covered in the marriage agreement. 
    2. Find an Excellent Lawyer: While you do not need a lawyer to draw up a marriage contract, it may help determine if your agreement follows the rules of your location, explain your rights, and obtain legal advice. 
    3. Make and Sign Your Agreement: Now, it is time to draw up your marriage contract. You must follow certain legal requirements to ensure your contract is legal. Legal counsel may be particularly helpful during this process. 
    4. Notarize Your Agreement: In most places, you must have your document notarized, which legally enforces your agreement in a court of law. 

    What Should You Put in a Marriage Contract?

    Every relationship is unique, and individuals handle things differently within a marriage. As such, every couple may prioritize different articles within a marriage contract. The most common contents include: 

    • Assets: If you and your partner have varying incomes, or one partner plans to take time off from their occupation at some point in the marriage, it is important to establish how you will control the assets within your marriage and if the marriage ends. 
    • Debts: If you or your partner have already accumulated debt, are you planning to repay it together during your marriage? Will you assume each other’s debt during the marriage? How will you deal with debt in the event of a divorce?
    • Expenses: Expenses can be complicated, especially if you have disproportionate incomes. How will you split household expenses during your marriage? How will you deal with outstanding expenses if you divorce?
    • Business Ownership: If you own a business, will your partner become a partial owner once you are married? If you divorce, will the business be divided equally?
    • Blended Families: Although typical marriage agreements do not include children from your current marriage, couples should consider children from previous marriages. What are your partner’s parenting responsibilities for that child? Will you need to pay child support if you divorce?
    • Spousal Support: If your relationship dissolves, will one party pay spousal support for a certain period? How much should you receive per month or year? How will it be paid?

    Can You Obtain a Marriage Agreement After Getting Married? 

    Most marriage agreements are created before getting married, known as prenups. In some cases, a couple simply did not have time to deal with the process beforehand or did not consider it important until later on. It is possible to create a marriage contract after getting married. The only difference is that they are called post-nuptial agreements. The procedure and contents of these documents are similar to prenuptial agreements.

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