For most people about to make a lifelong commit to someone, splitting up is the last thing on their mind. Unfortunately, not all marriages last. According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.

Planning for the possibility of divorce does not mean you think it will happen. Deciding to get a prenuptial or premarital agreement only means you and your finance want to prevent issues down the road. It also gives you and your partner time to discuss important financial matters before any arguments arise. One of the most common reasons couples divorce is over disagreements about money. Having a prenuptial agreement could prevent potential problems.

If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, here is a list of items that could be addressed with this document.

  • Who owns what property and how property will be divided if you split up
  • Whether alimony will be awarded
  • Who benefits from life insurance policies
  • Who is responsible for debts related to school loans, mortgages, and credit debt
  • Other personal rights, as long these do not violate decisions that are based on public policy

Issues of public policy include child support and custody agreements. Since the court awards custody based on what is best for the children, this is not something that can be planned out ahead. You or your spouse may develop issues that prevent you from providing the care your children need. For example, awarding custody to a parent suffering from a debilitating illness may not be in the best interests of your children.

The downside to creating a prenuptial agreement is you and your future spouse may not agree about the need for one. If you are not ready to make the decision, you might be able to pursue a post-marital agreement after you are married. These documents can address most of the same issues as a prenuptial agreement.

In New Jersey, the prenuptial agreement must be written, signed by both partners, and include a statement of both parties’ assets. The statement of assets ensures both spouses are honest about all their financial information. If some assets or obligations are not disclosed, this could invalidate the agreement. To protect yourselves, you and your spouse may both want to contact an attorney. A family law attorney can help ensure your best interests are represented.