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Carefully planned marriages could prevent painful divorces

A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive shows that almost 50 percent of divorced individuals wish they had signed a prenuptial agreement before getting married, with 44 percent of single individuals saying they would want such an agreement in place before being wed. However, experts say that many marrying couples in Maryland and elsewhere fail to properly plan their marriage, making the economic consequences of divorce particularly harsh.

Although Maryland is not a community property state, it does have an "equitable distribution" statute in place, meaning that marital assets could be divided equally. One expert explained that it is common for one spouse to contribute a disproportionate amount of money or assets to a marriage, but those contributions are often "merged into one marital pot" when property division takes place. For example, NBA star Kobe Bryant was reportedly ordered to hand over approximately half of his $150 fortune to his soon-to-be ex-wife. He and his spouse did not sign a prenuptial agreement before their wedding.

Experts say that some people neglect to sign prenuptial agreements because they see them as a cynical way to enter into a marriage or as a harbinger of divorce. However, marriage is a significant economic decision that experts say is worthy of an asset-protection strategy. Even couples that plan on staying married for the rest of their lives should take the time to consider the potential effects divorce could have on their personal finances and assets.

Despite the negative connotation that is still sometimes attached to prenuptial agreements, they are increasingly seen as a positive part of a strong marriage. According to one state's supreme court, prenuptial agreements allow couples to ensure predictability and plan their future with more security. Consulting with a divorce attorney could be the best way to find out how to proceed.

Source: Huffington Post, "Careful Marriage Contract May Facilitate Less Painful Divorces," Joseph E. Cordell, Jan. 27, 2012

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