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Careful Marriage Contract May Facilitate Less Painful Divorces

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The single most important economic decision a person will make during their lifetime is deciding to say, "I do."

The second most important economic decision a person will make is deciding to say, "I don't."

Yet very few people pay attention to the implications of the contract of marriage. With decades of experience handling men's divorces at Cordell & Cordell, I can tell you that couples do not appreciate the extent and comprehensiveness of this contract that essentially means all of their assets become hopelessly commingled once they are married.

It's likely one of the spouses in a marriage will contribute disproportionately more in assets to the marital partnership, yet all that income, property, and assets become merged into one marital pot where the lesser contributing spouse is now entitled to half.

People take a practical, reasonable, business-like approach to buying a car, buying a house, and every other major financial decision. They research options, read over the fine print, and make an educated choice. So why is the practical approach disregarded when it comes to marriage?

The moment you say "I do" you are essentially giving your spouse half of your wealth; not just your current wealth and what you bring into the marriage, but nearly every asset acquired during the course of the marriage -- and sometimes after.

Take the recent news of NBA star Kobe Bryant, whose soon-to-be-ex-wife will reportedly receive at least half of his estimated $150 million fortune. Even though his assets are on a much larger scale, Mr. Bryant and a construction worker making $40,000 a year have one thing in common: everything they owned was up for grabs the second they got married.

A prenuptial agreement is an obvious way to protect your financial interests, but too many people dismiss prenuptial agreements as only for the wealthy or believe a prenup is a harbinger of divorce.

A Harris Interactive poll showed nearly half of divorced people wish they had a prenup and 44 percent of single adults would want a prenup. Yet, only about 5 percent of couples actually have such an agreement.

There's a popular perception that prenups are a cynical way to enter into a marriage. It's true that prenuptial agreements recognize the possibility of divorce, but to think otherwise is contrary to reality when roughly half of all marriages end in divorce. The divorce rate tells us it is imperative to have your financial interests protected before getting married.

Once seen as an inducement to divorce, and thus a detriment to marriage, prenuptial agreements are now viewed by many states as strengthening a partnership. Even the Michigan Supreme Court wrote that prenups "allow couples the opportunity to ensure predictability, plan their future with more security, and, most importantly, decide their own destiny."

Regardless of the amount and type of property you own, and whatever your goals are for protecting and preserving those assets, a divorce lawyer can work with you to determine the best asset protection strategies for properly achieving those goals.

When it comes to asset protection, there is a minefield here that if you fail to navigate adroitly could result in losing your hard-earned assets to the other party.

Remember, you have worked hard to obtain your property. It will be beneficial to you in the long run to take the necessary steps to protect what you have earned.

Joseph Cordell is the Principal Partner of Cordell & Cordell, a nationwide domestic litigation firm focused on men's family law matters. Cordell & Cordell also provides a website dedicated to informing men on the divorce process and the challenges they face. Visit http://www.dadsdivorce.com for more information.