7 Reasons Professional Women Need a Prenuptial Agreement
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By John K. Grubb, Attorney, Guest Author - October 02, 2015

Prenup.jpg1. It is your profession and you deserve to keep the rewards and benefits.

You are the one who earned the college degree(s), the professional certifications and accreditations, and the professional recognition.

You are getting married for love, affection, companionship, etc. You need to keep your professional life separate.

Without a prenuptial agreement, all your wages, salary, income, employee benefits, retirement, pensions, and professional assets earned or acquired while married will become community property, marital property, or mixed up with your separate property.

In the event, you end up in a divorce without a prenup things can get really messy very quickly, and that messiness will probably have a huge detrimental effect on your professional life. With a good premarital agreement, these problems can be minimized or eliminated.

2. With a prenup you eliminate some of the greatest dangers to your marriage.

Unfortunately in personal relationships threats, fear and uncertainty are very destructive. And unfortunately, many spouses, either consciously or subconsciously, fall into the habit of threatening their spouse in an effort to manipulate.

We have all heard of situations where a husband or wife says, “if you divorce me, I will take you for all you are worth,” or “if I divorce you, you are going to get nothing.” The recipient of the threat then usually goes into the defensive mode, fearful of what will happen. Both the threatening mode and the defensive mode can slowly eat away at, and destroy the personal relationship.

With a prenup agreement, you and your spouse have certainty. Once a person has certainty there is nothing to be gained by threatening, so it tends to disappear from the marriage relationship. Also, with certainty there is nothing to fear – if the marriage ends in divorce each party knows what they are going to get.

3. Professional women are more frequently marrying non-professional men.

Approximately 60% of all college graduates are women. In 2012, more women obtained more advanced degrees than men for the first time in the history of the United States. The simple fact is that in the years ahead there will be more women doctors, dentists, lawyers, certified public accountants, architects, engineers, chief financial officers, presidents, business owners, etc., than professional men. This means professional women are going to end up marrying non-professional men.

Historically it has been the professional man marrying a less educated or less professionally accomplished woman. Now we are beginning to see a role reversal. Professional women are marrying less educated or less professionally accomplished men. Professional women do not want their spouse to be able to profit from their careers if they get divorced. A professional woman can insulate herself from the ravages of a divorce with a properly drawn premarital agreement.

4. With a prenup it means he is marrying you for who you are, not for your money.

A lot of marriages end up on the rocks because of arguments about money. But with a well drafted premarital agreement you take the issues of money and property out of the equation. You and your spouse can then concentrate on love, friendship, companionship, sex, intimacy, emotional support, etc.

5. You have professional colleagues, business partners, co-owners or investors.

Your professional colleagues, business partners, co-owners, and investors want to work with and do business with you, not your husband. One of the things they fear most is having to deal with your spouse. With a well-drawn premarital agreement you can ensure that your professional dealings will remain separate from your personal relationships.

6. Without a premarital agreement a divorce can be very time consuming and damaging to your career.

Property issues, alimony issues, separate spousal maintenance, interim support, and attorney fees are involved in almost every divorce. Going into a marriage thinking, “It won’t happen to us,” is naivety  to the extreme. Many of the things we do in life are preventative because we know if something unlikely occurs the consequences can be catastrophic. We put a seat belt on to minimize the risk of death in the unlikely event of a major automobile accident. The divorce process can be catastrophic, so you should seek to minimize your risk at the beginning.

Some examples of what can happen is when a professional woman gets divorced: Let’s say she is a 40-year-old woman practicing medicine with a group of four other doctors. The medical group has contracts with insurance companies, contracts with nursing homes, a main office that is fully equipped with diagnostic and testing equipment, a professional building, investments in several MRI facilities, a 401k plan, a pension plan, a bonus plan, and accounts receivable, etc.

When a woman doctor ends up in a divorce, what does her husband’s attorney do? The attorney wants to hire a forensic accountant to value the medical group’s accounts receivables, the insurance contracts, and the contracts with nursing homes. The attorney wants to hire an appraiser to value the woman doctor’s interest in the diagnostic and testing equipment, the professional building, and the MRI facilities. The attorney wants to take the other doctors depositions to try to determine how much the bonus for the current year will be.

Let’s take another example: Let’s say the professional woman works for a corporation, an investment banking firm, a real estate development firm, etc. In addition to the normal corporate benefits, she has stock options granted in different years which each require a five year earn out, has a long-term incentive bonus plan, normally receives a large annual bonus, and has a company car.

How are these benefits to be valued in a divorce? And guess who thinks that the woman’s bonus and benefits should be figured into an alimony award?

So what is the effect of the divorce on the woman professional? She is going to spend a lot of time away from her profession dealing with attorneys, accountants, appraisers and the Court. Her colleagues are going to get dragged into her personal affairs and they are not going to be happy.

I have used the example of a doctor or corporate executive, but much is the same for any professional woman - architects, decorators, designers, corporate officers, business owners, etc.

With a properly drawn premarital agreement, it is possible to minimize the complexity of a divorce so you can devote your time and effort to your professional life. You can specify that in a divorce, neither party shall be required to pay the other party’s attorney fees.

You can provide that there will be no alimony or spousal maintenance. You can provide who is going to get what property. You can provide who is going to pay what liabilities.

You can provide that all of your associated business interests and benefits are yours, free and clear of any claim of your spouse.

You can provide all sorts of things in a premarital agreement so that if a divorce does occur, the marriage is going to end with the least amount of hassle.

7. Conclusion

In conclusion, if you are a professional woman, get married for personal reasons, and keep your professional life separate by having a well-drawn premarital agreement. Premarital agreements are not simple fill in the blank forms; they are complex documents that can last ten or twenty years or even a lifetime. Target meeting with an attorney about one hundred and twenty days before the wedding.

The objective should be to have it delivered to your soon-to-be spouse about seventy-five days before marriage and to have it completely signed, sealed and delivered sixty days prior to the wedding.

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