We had a lively discussion this weekend about marital and non-marital property. A friend of ours was visiting Chicago from one of the prairie states, and after a few minutes of conversation she went into a panic. Not a breathing-in-a-paper bag panic, but definitely a wild-eyed “yikes” panic.
She thought it grossly unfair that after just two years of marriage “some sponger” could take half of every penny she’d saved over the last 25 years. We explained Illinois law and the factors the court would take into consideration, we revisited the definition of marital property, and we pointed out two things — well, maybe three: First, a prenuptial agreement would add an extra layer of protection to her savings; second, she’d never marry a sponger; and third, she’s not even dating, so she should really not borrow trouble just yet.
The mention of a prenuptial agreement often strikes terror in the hearts of people in love. Look what happened to Big Hollywood Star! Didn’t they end up in court? And what about the whole Dodgers thing? Isn’t the McCourt case all about a prenup? These couples add that they are in love and plan to be together forever.
(Just as an aside: It’s exasperating to hear the McCourt dispute referred to as a prenup issue. They signed a post-nuptial agreement about the ownership of the Dodgers.)
Many family law practitioners have discarded the fraught term “prenup,” calling it a marital agreement instead. It’s actually a more accurate term, because the agreement addresses financial and other issues that affect your married life.
Think about it this way: You write a will to make sure your personal property, kids and real estate are distributed the way you want them to be. Why wouldn’t you do that with what you bring into a marriage? A marital agreement often supplements a will, especially when two families come together.
We’ll talk about the requirements of a marital agreement in our next post.