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Prenuptial Agreements - Avoiding the Billion Dollar Mistake

Tonight's post about Prenuptial Agreements was written by our Marietta Divorce Attorney, Jeannine Lowery.

Harold Hamm, the 24th richest man in the country according to Forbes Magazine, has been ordered by an Oklahoma City Judge to pay his ex-wife, Sue Ann Hamm, nearly $1 billion dollars.

That's billion with a "b," and one of the biggest divorce judments in history.

Mr. Hamm made many good decisions to end up on the Forbes richest list, but he made a costly decision when he decided against a prenuptial agreement.

Unfortunately, he's not alone. It is estimated that only 5-10% of the population enter into prenuptial agreements, despite the fact that nearly half of marriages end in divorce.

The use of prenuptials agreements is on the rise, and for good reason.  The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) reports that 63 %of divorce attorneys have seen an increase in prenuptial agreements. Even more interestingly, divorce attorneys also report an significant increase in the number of women who were initiating the requests.

It's a myth that only the rich and famous need prenups. Prenuptials are an important tool in protecting yourself from a wide variety of financial hardships and can also minimize the cost and headache of a divorce by clearly articulating what happens in the event of divorce.

Prenuptial agreements make sense even if you didn't make the Forbes list. There are three situations where prenuptial agreements are a must: (1) when your potential spouse has a lot of debt; (2) when you own your own business; or (3) when you plan to give up your career to raise children.

If you are marrying someone with a lot of debt, you could end up paying that debt long after the marriage ends. A prenuptial agreement can help protect you from becoming liable for your ex's debt.

If you've worked hard to start your own business, or own a stake in the family business, there are a lot of good reasons to protect your investment. A prenup can keep your business yours after a divorce and help prevent a costly legal battle.

Lastly, if you're going to leave the workforce to raise kids, you must make sure that your sacrifice is protected. A prenuptial agreement can protect your and your spouse's decision to have you stay at home by putting in place the financial agreement which will allow you to get back on your feet and back in the workplace, in case of divorce.

Maybe, Mr. Hamm looks at losing one of his $18 billion as a drop in the bucket. More likely though, Mr. Hamm will make a different choice about prenups the next time around.

Jeannine Lowery

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