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Shove over a bit Vienna and Jake, the next in line for the romance of the century crown have arrived. News reports have it that Bristol Palin and baby daddy Levi Johnston are engaged. So now what? How about a little primer on the pre-nuptial agreement?
Many news reports are focused on the apologies and reconciliations that have gone on between the young couple, and between Johnston and the mother of all mother-in-laws, Sarah Palin. But with a very real possibility of another break up in the future (bride and groom are 19 and 20 and under a national microscope) what could be done to keep any future fights to a minimum? Pre-nup.
Pre-nuptial agreements are part of popular culture. But like other parts of our common culture, they not always clearly understood by everyone. A pre-nup is usually only necessary if the parties involved have significant separate assets they will wish to protect in the event of a divorce. What with all the book deals, tabloid covers and reality show appearances, maybe Bristol and Levi now have enough individual property to warrant that protection.
However, a pre-nup can do more though than just protect the assets one brings into a marriage. A well drafted pre-nup can address estate planning issues (inheritances such as the possibly much larger one Bristol can expect), responsibility for debt, agreements for putting a spouse through school (something both Bristol and Levi want to do), the joint or separate bank accounts and importantly, how to handle future disagreements.
Parties to a pre-nup should remember that it is a contract and needs to meet some basic requirements to be legally binding. For example, the agreement must be in writing and executed by both parties. One party cannot exert undue pressure on the other (even via relatives or family lawyers) to sign the pre-nup. Parties must have time to consider the agreement and it must be free of false or incomplete information. In some states, both parties must be represented by counsel or the agreement will not be enforced. If any of these or some other requirements are not met, the pre-nup can be challenged in court.
Pre-nups can be a good idea. They can save arguments and costly court battles down the line. But let's face facts, it is not the most charming or romantic of ideas to prep for a split right before you enter into holy matrimony. But it is always better to think before you act. Bristol Palin would be the first person to tell you that.