Note: This is a blog post originally written for blog.saltmoney.org. It is included here as an example of my ability to make dry topics more interesting.
I generally trust Kanye West for all kinds of advice in matters of fashion or finance, despite his absurdly garish wedding. But I have to disagree with him about the justifications for a pre-nuptial agreement.
In his 2005 song “Gold-Digger,” Kanye suggests that men should use pre-nups to avoid paying child support:
18 years, 18 years! She got one of your kids,
got you [and your payments] for 18 years….
If you ain’t no punk, holla “We want pre-nup!”
That’s flatly wrong. Child support, visitation, and custody are always excluded from these kinds of agreements. You simply can’t sign away the obligation to support your children.
There Are Other Limits, Too
Both parties must willingly enter into the pre-nup, and the agreement can’t be ridiculously one-sided. But even with these stipulations, that doesn’t mean that these aren’t good to have—or that they’re only for name-brand celebrities entering into rapid-fire marriages.
For example, my wife and I have a prenuptial agreement. It says that almost everything we own is held in common and will be split evenly in the event of divorce, with one exception: my share in my grandmother’s farm.
For possessions that aren’t very sentimental, like our beat up old car, we could sell it and split the cash. If it were a beloved dog, we could work out some kind of custody arrangement. But the family farm? Not easy to split and not easy to share.
Should You Consider A Pre-nup?
Pre-nups protect your individual interests in a marriage. Some situations where you might want to consider one could include the following:
- One of you stays home to raise children. Being a full-time parent means less income now and a harder time getting back into the workforce later. A pre-nup could help ensure that it doesn’t also mean becoming destitute if your marriage falls apart.
- One of you makes a lot more than the other. I know a couple who met during law school. He became a high-paid corporate lawyer, and she made less in nonprofit law. When they got divorced, she had trouble paying her student loan bills. A pre-nup could have specified that he’d help her with those debts even after the marriage ended.
It’s not comfortable to talk about these kinds of things, of course. A lot of couples fear that planning what to do in case of divorce will make it more likely. Others think that bringing up the topic will make it sound like they don’t trust their partner.
But talking about difficult subjects and planning for the future are really important in relationships. That includes talking about things you hope won’t happen, including “what if we get divorced?” and “what if one of us dies?”
Besides, it’s much, much easier to decide these kinds of things before you get married than it is to argue about them during a divorce.