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Putting prenuptial agreements into proper perspective

The prenuptial agreement has gotten a pretty bum rap over the years. For those who believe that love is all that matters, the concept of asking a future spouse to sign a contract that defines who will get what in the event of a divorce is sacrilegious – a signal that the couple is somehow less than committed.

Today, the more pragmatic in Knoxville will likely agree that, far from being the death knell of a marriage, drafting a prenuptial agreement serves as a sign of respect. It provides a sense of certainty that both parties are maintaining the interests of the other as they enter the marriage.

It used to be that prenuptial agreements were seen as a tool wealthy spouses could use to protect their assets. These days, significant others might have nearly equal estates to be concerned about. Alternatively, they might have school or other loans that they don't want their spouse-to-be saddled with if they marriage doesn't work out. Clearly, the circumstances that might warrant a prenup can be many.

For the most part, prenuptial agreements tend to address material things. However, the scope can be broader. Tennessee does allow couples to use a prenup to express their desires for how to arrange child custody and support in divorce. If the marriage does dissolve and neither side disputes the existing terms on custody and support, the agreement will stand. If one or the other raises a challenge, however, the court will be obliged to step in and decide matters based on the best interests of the child.

In that light, what a prenup reflects is that a couple is foresighted enough to identify and express their intentions without expecting that things will go wrong.

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