If you and your spouse-to-be are planning a wedding and entering into a marriage with a fair amount of personal and/or business assets on either side, then it may be worth considering a prenuptial agreement before you officially tie the knot.
What is a prenup?
A prenup is a legally binding document that provides provisions for dividing up your money, property, and other assets, and outlines what you intend to provide in terms of spousal support, should your union come to an end. It can certainly be an unpleasant subject to address right before a marriage, but a prenup may be your best option to protect your personal assets that you had accumulated before the marriage, because it could help spare both of you the time and expense of a lengthy and stressful court battle, should you later decide to divorce.
If you've read extensively about certain high profile celebrity divorces, you might be aware that a prenup can also be used to establish in writing what each spouse expects from the other in terms of responsibilities such as providing childcare, or maintaining stable employment, paying bills, staying faithful to the marriage, etc. It can also spell out what ramifications may occur if these stipulations are violated, such as divorce, or a possible reduction in spousal support, or loss of assets. (Do note that if you live in a “community property” state, you likely won't be able to entirely forfeit your right to alimony.)
A prenup can also protect you if your betrothed has a significant amount of debt that you do not wish to take on, either during the marriage or after the divorce. If either of you have children from previous marriages, a prenup can be especially useful, since it could be used to stipulate what your children stand to inherit in terms of assets and property in the event of your divorce or even death. A prenup can never be used to limit custody, child support, or visitation rights, however, since the welfare of children is a matter of public policy that cannot be limited by a private agreement.
If you neglect to sign a prenup, your assets will be divided up via a settlement you negotiate, subject to court approval.