Couples in Illinois, and around the country, who are planning to get married may be uncertain about whether they should first complete a prenuptial agreement. While the idea of a prenuptial agreement may make both parties uncomfortable, it is a conversation that couples should have when they get engaged, particularly if they have substantial assets.

A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that couples can use to specify how their assets should be divided if the marriage ends in divorce or with the death of one of the spouses. To determine if they should have a prenup, engaged couples should consider some important issues.

Prenups may be advisable if either party operates their own business, regardless of whether they began the business before or during the marriage. The document allows them to protect their business assets if the marriage ends. Many states have laws that state a divorcing spouse is entitled to half of the assets that were obtained during a marriage or should have half of the ownership interests. A prenup can be used to bypass these laws so that the spouse who owns the business may be able to retain complete ownership of the assets.

A prenup can also be used to protect oneself from the debt owed by a spouse. Both parties can specify in the document that the debt incurred by each party stay in that party’s name during and after the marriage.

An attorney who practices divorce law may advise engaged couples about the benefits of prenuptial agreements and may assist with the drafting of the documents. The attorney may pursue negotiations during a divorce to ensure that the terms of the prenuptial agreement are upheld. A lawyer may also advocate on behalf of a client regarding other divorce legal issues, including alimony, child custody and child support.