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Prenuptial Agreements

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Prenuptial agreements are contracts between spouses that outline the financial plans in the event of a divorce or death. These agreements may also be called premarital agreements, antenuptial agreements or prenups. Without a prenuptial agreement, the state decides how assets and debts are divided when a couple is filing for divorce.

Although prenuptial agreements aren't the final word in a divorce, if the agreement is executed properly, it can have a significant impact on the divorce court's ruling. In most states, the divorce court will recognize the prenuptial agreement if it includes:

  • A written agreement: Oral agreements are not recognized in most divorce courts. The prenuptial agreement will likely be dismissed if it's too informal or isn't notarized.
  • Voluntary by both parties: If a prenuptial agreement shows that one party coerced the other into signing, the divorce court may choose not to honor it.
  • A full and fair disclosure: A prenuptial agreement must recognize all the assets of both parties. Concealing debts or assets could lead to a dismissal of the prenup.
  • Conscionable: A court may throw out a prenuptial agreement that calls for excessive penalties or benefits to one party.
  • Carried out by both partners in front of a public notary: While family law lawyers can draft prenups, the future spouses need to sign it.

These are the basic regulations that prenuptial agreements must follow to be recognized in divorce courts, but each state has unique specifications. A divorce lawyer should know what to include in a prenuptial agreement to help ensure that your rights and property are protected. Divorce attorneys can be a good resources because they have experience with issues that usually cause problems during the divorce.

Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreements?

Prenuptial agreements can benefit people in a variety of circumstances, especially those who:

  • Have significant assets
  • Own a business
  • Expect to receive an inheritance
  • Have children or grandchildren from a previous marriage
  • Are significantly wealthier than their fiance
  • Plan on paying for a spouse's education
  • Must support other family members
  • Are studying in a potentially high-earning field
  • Expect a sizable income increase

What You May Want to Include in a Prenuptial Agreement

Prenuptial agreements can outline the financial terms of a marriage, such as:

  • Determining debt and asset division
  • Protecting from certain debts
  • Maintaining separation of finances and assets
  • Managing money, paying bills, handling credit cards and filing taxes
  • Property distribution to children from earlier marriages
  • Keeping certain items within a family

Prenups generally can't outline non-financial matters, child custody or support obligations and matters that would violate divorce laws in your state. Some prenuptial agreements include a sunset clause, which allows the prenup to expire after a certain number of years of marriage. The sunset clause highlights that the prenuptial agreement may not be needed, so some couples feel more comfortable entering into the prenup.

Creating a Prenuptial Agreement

It's recommended that prenuptial agreements be prepared well in advance of a wedding. This allows both parties enough time to agree on fair terms and may prevent divorce courts from suspecting coercion.

Once a couple has decided to create a prenuptial agreement, the legal issues must be addressed. Both parties should hire a lawyer to draft a prenuptial agreement that keeps each party's best interest in mind. Some prenups have been declared null and void by divorce courts because one spouse didn't have legal representation.

Contact a Divorce Lawyer about Prenuptial Agreements

If you're interested in drafting or learning more about a prenuptial agreement, you can find a divorce lawyer in your area by filling out a divorce case review form or calling 877-349-1310. Set up a preliminary consultation today to make sure your rights are protected in your prenuptial agreement.

The above synopsis of prenuptial agreements is by no means all-inclusive is not intended to serve as legal advice. These laws may have changed since our last update and there may be additional laws that apply in your situation. For the latest information on these laws, please contact a local divorce lawyer in your area.