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I Don’t Think I Do… Understanding the Covenant of Marriage

Unhappy couple at therapy session in therapists office

The July 14, 2014 edition of US Weekly listed 25 stars who called off their engagement.  Included in the list were celebrities like Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Aretha Franklin.  No reasons for any of the decisions not to say “I do” were provided.

Marriage, however, in Louisiana as elsewhere, is an emotional, psychological, and financial commitment.  There is a good reason why marriage is called an “institution”.  Once you are in it, it can be difficult to leave.

Some faiths, such as Roman Catholicism, require couples who wish to marry in the church to attend pre-marriage counseling.  The purpose of such counseling is to impress upon the couple that marriage is serious business and to respect the covenant of marriage.  If you are thinking about getting married for the first time, you may want to speak with an attorney about the legal obligations that you are about to undertake.

But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? Prenuptial Agreements in Louisiana

cake-topper wedding couple and a pre-nuptial agreement

Marriage is not the stable institution that it was 100 or even 25 years ago. What was once a brick house is now made of cards and can be blown over at either spouse’s whim. In Louisiana, can you protect yourself against this uncertainty with a prenuptial agreement? Of course, prenuptial agreements cannot guarantee a marriage will last forever or even more than 30 minutes. They can, however, reduce and sometimes eliminate some of divorce’s adverse financial impacts.

Be forewarned that asking your significant other to negotiate and sign one is likely to send the wrong message. Why does a person who promises to love you until death need a marriage contract? There are many circumstances in which prenuptial agreements serve a worthwhile purpose for both parties. A prenuptial agreement might make sense in the following examples:

  • If you and your fiancee both have substantial estates and children from former marriages, a prenuptial agreement can simplify the passage of those estates to your heirs and legatees at your deaths.
  • If you are wealthy and your fiancee is not, a prenuptial agreement can protect you from “gold digging”.
  • If you and your fiancee have a pragmatic attitude toward marriage and see it more as a social convention than a bond for life, a pre-nuptial agreement can keep your respective financial affairs separate and facilitate the separation of your estates if you decide to go your separate ways.

If you are contemplating a prenuptial agreement or if your fiancee has asked you to sign one, it is critical that you consult with a lawyer concerning its terms. There are strict requirements for the execution and timing of such agreements. You should each have separate lawyers and time to consider what is being proposed. No one should be presented with a marriage contract on the steps of the church or at the rehearsal dinner. Finally, before signing one, remember that your financial relationship with your husband or wife will be governed, in large measure, by the document that you are signing. Beware of buyer’s remorse.