For our purposes, a “prenuptial agreement” is identical to a “premarital agreement,” which is the legal expression found in the Code of Virginia. In fact, the Code (never one to use a single word when 27 would do) has an entire chapter devoted to it (Chapter Eight, with its nine elegant parts1). You may feel, since you are unlikely to be a Hollywood celebrity and a resident of Virginia (listen, we only have a handful!), that a premarital agreement is not for you, but you could be wrong. Herein is your guide to prenups in Virginia.
What’s Up, Prenup?
If you are a little sketchy on the details of a prenup (or premarital agreement), allow us to sketch out the details. When two people wish to marry in Virginia, they can ask their attorneys to develop a premarital agreement in accord with Code of Virginia § 20-147 through § 20-155. If one of you brings to the marriage wealth, intellectual property, or real property, a premarital agreement can protect those assets from being divided, should the marriage collapse.
Say you own the rights to a brilliant innovation like an internet-connected wine bottle (be careful before you pooh-pooh that bit of genius; it exists2). You have yet to make your fortune but are certain it is headed straight to #1. You protect your future earnings from her clutching, grasping, covetous hands by writing into your prenup that she gets none of the profit from your phenomenal invention.
Say you own beautiful mountain property in the Shenandoah Valley, and you are happy to share it with her during your marriage, but you really want it to stay in your family should you two part ways. That could be written into the prenup.
Say you own a flourishing horse currying business. You can hold onto your business and retain full ownership (brushes, curry combs, the works!) even if your spouse divorces you, so long as you write it into the prenup.
Say you own half a million dollars in stock; hey, if you do, just call us, okay? For anything. Really. Anyway, you can protect future dividends and your stock ownership in a prenup.
Including Intangible Items in a Prenuptial Agreement
Celebrities, combining both fame and fortune, often have elaborate premarital agreements that can be used as amplified examples of the sorts of things regular folks might encounter. Take, for example, Facebook’s own Mark Zuckerberg3 and wife Priscilla Chan. They wrote a mutually advantageous prenup that guaranteed her with 100 minutes of time alone with him, and one date night, per week. During their contractually guaranteed time together, he cannot be on Facebook.
Though it sounds a little sad, it actually has a great practical purpose, guaranteeing the couple a level of personal intimacy any couple needs. You may not have the press of business obligations a Zuckerberg has, but perhaps you could write in a little quality time, too?
Can a Prenup include Children?
Prenups can cover children in the marriage, too. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt4 signed a prenup that divvied up their 12 pieces of real estate, but also is rumored to have had an infidelity clause: should Pitt cheat on Jolie, she would get sole custody of their children.
You may not be in a position to squabble over six children (Brangelina’s kids are a lovely gathering of three biological and three adopted children). You are, though, in a position to protect your relationship with children you bring to a new marriage. That could be part of your premarital agreement.
Terrible Ideas for Your Prenup
Not all prenuptial agreements inspire tremendously bonding moments. Some give rise to real clinkers. Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo did not actually marry, but he managed to get a “Porker Clause”5 into a prenup that paid him half a million bucks if her weight topped 135 pounds.
Britney Spears and Kevin Federline6 signed a premarital agreement that stipulated any gift the couple received valued at over $7,000 should come with a legal document outlining ownership in the event they divorce. Scaling that down to regular Virginia folks’ lives, that’s as obnoxious as using a Sharpie to write your name on the bottom of your new Keurig® coffeemaker.
Prenuptial Agreement Tips
Once you begin thinking about packing all sorts of bad and brilliant ideas into a prenuptial agreement, you may get carried away. This is where your lawyer can provide valuable advice. You may be happier and more successful with a streamlined agreement that spells out the essentials:
- Real estate you owned before the marriage
- Sentimental items or family heirlooms that deserve to be passed down
- Custody of any children from the marriage
Getting too caught up in theoretical future lives (“My WiFi wine bottle could be worth millions!”) obscures the underlying reason you marry.
So What’s the Real Value of a Premarital Agreement?
The value of a premarital agreement is that it quickly puts to rest any qualms and conflicts over stuff, the material clutter of a marriage. If you two can come to an agreement on the things you drag along into the marriage, you can then shift your focus to the other aspects of bonding two lives: philosophies, spirituality, forging friendships, building common interests, volunteering, and other intangibles.
If, someday, you two do part through separation or divorce, at least your marriage will have an ample supply of positive moments that centered not around objects, but around ideas. For that alone, the prenuptial agreement could be priceless.
For up-to-the-minute information and ideas about premarital agreements, contact us at The Firm for Men, 757-383-9184, so we can put you in touch with an attorney. Though we may have difficulty separating our Ks from our Feds, our Chloes from our Lamars, or our Kims from our Kanyes, we have no difficulty crafting strong and trustworthy prenuptial agreements.