The recent, very expensive divorce proceedings for award-winning actor and “Yellowstone” star Kevin Costner bring into focus the reality of what happens when a prenuptial agreement is taken to court. Yahoo! News reports that rather than continue to pursue expensive litigation to win more of Costner’s estate and funds for child support, Christine Baumgartner’s attorneys recommended she cut and run. Challenging the prenuptial agreement would be a risky move for Costner’s former spouse as she may have lost financial payouts that were part of the agreement.
What is a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement (prenup) is a legally binding agreement between two individuals before marriage. A well-drafted and mutually beneficial prenup can simplify the process by providing clear guidelines for asset division that can lessen the strain of legal fees and emotional stress. The agreement outlines the financial understanding between the two during the marriage and in a divorce. This may include division of assets and debts, spousal support, and other non-financial clauses such as confidentiality, pet ownership and social media image restrictions.
A prenup is not an automatic term limit on your marriage; it is just there to provide guidelines if your relationship ends.
The most reassuring thing about a prenup is that it is an enforceable legal document that protects everyone, regardless of income or family wealth. Prenups are not just for the ultra-wealthy; people across the financial spectrum increasingly use prenups to prevent a long legal battle.
The Benefits to Your Marriage
Once you get through the sometimes-sensitive conversation about a prenup, you can start to see that a mutually agreed upon document can offer numerous benefits as you enter a marriage. The conversation, and how it is managed, is an excellent exercise in having open and honest discussions about finances, property, and future financial goals, which lays the foundation for a better marriage. This type of conversation can promote better communication and understanding between partners and gives each person the backup to make decisions based on the facts of the agreement rather than emotion.
What Protections Does a Prenup Provide?
A prenup is also about protection. Protection of your assets, family heirlooms, and even intellectual property. The goal of the prenup is to identify the assets that you bring into the marriage and what should remain with you if your marriage ends.
It is also a protection from considerable debt that one partner could bring into the marriage from college or a doomed business venture. A prenup gives you a way to outline how existing debts will be divided or managed in case of divorce, which can prevent one partner from being held responsible for the other’s pre-existing debts.
In some states, prenups also protect partners with “lifestyle clauses” that can cover various behaviors, from infidelity to how often the in-laws can visit. Capturing these details in a legal document helps bring clarity and guidance if they are ever needed.
A prenup can also specify whether one partner will be entitled to alimony or spousal support in the event of a divorce, and if so, how much and for how long.
Can a Prenup Be Changed?
A prenup can also evolve as your relationship does, during your marriage, aspects of your life change drastically, you have a few options available you can explore. In most states, including Florida, you can amend or modify specific terms of the agreement while keeping the overall agreement intact. You can also decide to revoke or cancel the agreement. Both options require the signature of both parties, and it is advised that you seek guidance from a legal professional, either a mediator or family law attorney, who can provide personalized advice and guidance through the necessary legal steps.
Can I Challenge the Prenup During Divorce?
You always have the option to challenge the prenup during your divorce if you think it was not properly executed or if you would like to renegotiate the settlement, but as Ms. Baumgartner found out, that approach can be a very costly and uncertain process with less than favorable outcomes than abiding by the original document.
In the Costner divorce, the risks of challenging the prenup appear to be too high for Christine Baumgartner. This is an excellent example of why couples put a prenup in place and why it is crucial to have an experienced attorney help with the agreement to ensure it is enforced should a relationship end.