Can a postnuptial agreement save your marriage?

If you didn’t get a prenup, you’re not out of luck.

A prenuptial agreement is the legal term used to describe a contract between a couple who intend to marry. In it, there are usually terms that spell out what happens in the event that the couple decides to divorce.

They’re pretty controversial. After all, who goes into their marriage expecting it to fail, right? But, if you don’t at least outline a contingency plan, aren’t you setting yourself up for failure? It’s a fine line to walk. How much can you plan for the worst and still say that you really do expect the best?

If you didn’t negotiate a prenuptial agreement before you walked down the aisle, you’re not out of luck. Though many people don’t really think about drafting an agreement AFTER they’re married (you’re pretty much stuck with each other, right?) it’s definitely possible—and on the rise.

Usually, we see these couples come in when some issue or another arises that seems insurmountable. The two people, though they still intend to remain married, completely disagree about something. (And by “something,” what I really mean is money.)

When two people have completely different ideas about how money should be managed in a marriage, you’re asking for trouble. If one little piece of paper can help put both people’s minds at ease and set up expectations for how things will go down in the future, wouldn’t that paper be a pretty worthwhile thing to have?

I’ve spoke with more and more women lately who feel like the extra layer of protection would be beneficial to them. They don’t want a divorce because they love their husband and want their marriage to work—but one little nagging issue is keeping them lying awake at night. Marriage counselors often can’t help, either, because the differences between the two people’s attitudes are just so vast.

Postnuptial agreements can be designed to handle all sorts of relatively common issues—from establishing a household budget, determining what property belongs to whom, or deciding how a family owned business would be managed in the event of a divorce. It can even handle simpler things, like how often a mother in law is allowed to stay overnight and vacation plans for the holidays.

I’ve even heard about postnuptial agreements for women who are thinking about becoming stay at home mothers.

Why? Well, simply put, it’s a little dangerous to become a stay at home mother. The longer you’re out of the workforce, the less relevant your skills, degree, and work experience become. It becomes more and more likely that you’ll have to take a lower tier job than you had before you quit, and work yourself back up again. That could result in you having to take a lower paying job than you’re used to. Depending on how long you plan to stay at home and when, if ever, you plan to go back to work, divorce could really through a wrench in your plans.

It’s not a bad idea, if you’re thinking of becoming a stay at home mom (or if you’ve already become one), to take some time thinking about what you’d need to survive if you and your husband called it quits. It may seem laughable now, but a little bit of pre-planning can go a long way.

You may be thinking, “it’s just a piece of paper!” But a piece of paper can provide a lot of comfort and stability. When you and your husband talk about an issue like this and come to an agreement, you both have an expectation about what will happen if the marriage doesn’t work out. Sometimes, just knowing the alternative can be enough to encourage parties to work on things rather than face the discomfort of what they KNOW will happen in the event that they get divorced.

Whatever your reason, it’s not a bad idea to consider a post nuptial agreement, particularly if you and your husband have one of those nagging little issues that constantly eats away at your marriage. Can a piece of paper save your marriage? I think it can.

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