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What's the difference between a prenup and a 'love contract'?

If you are getting married, you and your soon-to-be spouse have likely discussed your hopes and plans for the future. You may know where you want to live, how many kids you want to have, what roles you will each fill around the house, and how you will approach finances as a couple.

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However, talking about these issues is not the same as protecting them. For those who want to take this process a bit further, it may be wise to consider speaking with an attorney to put everything in writing in an enforceable document. Unfortunately, some people make the mistake of thinking that as long as something is in writing, it is enforceable.

For example, let's say you and your fiancée sit down before the wedding and write down a list of all your individual assets, the rules you have agreed on for spousal support, and a clause stating that if one of you cheats, the other will receive $100,000 in a divorce. You may also decide to add a note that you will be expected to work while your spouse stays at home to raise the kids.

This type of document is not uncommon. After all, we read news stories about celebrity couples entering into this type of "love contract" quite often so it can be easy to think you can draw one up on your own.

But there is a very important difference between love contracts and prenuptial agreements. In the example discussed above, the clauses about infidelity and domestic roles likely would not be enforced in the event a couple got divorced. In fact, there are times when having such clauses could invalidate the entire agreement.

That is the difference between these two types of documents. While love contracts can serve as an important tool for couples when it comes to resolving their own disputes and establishing boundaries, they may serve no legal purpose. Prenuptial agreements, on the other hand, can be enforced by the courts and are intended to provide crucial direction on asset division and other financial matters.

Understanding your goals when it comes to relationship contracts will be crucial in making sure you are doing what needs to be done to protect them. One of the easiest ways to do this is to discuss your situation with an attorney.

Source: CNBC, "Laying the groundwork for a lifetime of love," Constance Gustke, Aug. 8, 2015

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