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Prenuptial Agreement Attorneys

Like it or not, divorce has become a common occurrence. A prenuptial agreement is a contract made between two people prior to marriage, which typically outlines how money and property will be divided in the event of dissolution of the marriage, including divorce and death. While it may sound cold and very un-romantic, a prenuptial agreement can protect both parties in the event of a divorce, and can sometimes reduce martial tension and prevent divorce.

Most prenuptial agreements are designed to protect those entering into marriage with substantial assets, the expectation of obtaining substantial assets during the marriage, or to ensure that assets will be divided fairly amongst children and family members.

A valid prenuptial agreement will take precedence over state laws that determine division of property, assets, and liabilities. It will not determine conditions of child custody and child support, even if such elements are outlined in the agreement. While the courts may consider these provisions in the agreement, in reaching its decision, it is not bound to abide by them, and inclusion of such aspects may compromise the entire contract.  It is important that prenuptial agreements be thoroughly discussed and reviewed, well in advance of the wedding. Elements of a valid prenuptial agreement include:

  • Agreement in writing, signed by both parties
  • Full disclosure of assets, liabilities and debts
  • The opportunity for both parties to review the agreement with independent counsel
  • Agreement that is free from fraud and entered into willingly by both parties
  • Fair and reasonable terms

Prenuptial agreements are not just for the wealthy. There are many factors which can indicate that a prenuptial agreement should be considered including:

  • Assets, such as a property or stock
  • Business ownership
  • Anticipated inheritance 
  • One party much wealthier than the other
  • One party plans to support the other through college 
  • Pursuing education in a potentially lucrative profession
  • Potential for significant increase in income
  • Children and/or grandchildren from a previous marriage 
  • Loved ones who need care (elderly parents, etc.)
  • One party has significant debts

Contesting a Prenuptial Agreement

The contract may be contested by either party or by family members of a deceased spouse. Grounds for contesting a prenuptial agreement include:

  • Duress – feeling forced physically or emotionally to enter the agreement, can be avoided by entering into the agreement well before the wedding. Agreements that are signed within a few days of the wedding are very likely to be considered void if contested.
  • Fraud – misrepresentations that induce one party to sign such as lack of full disclosure of assets and debts, or representing the contract as temporary or non-binding.
  • Incompetence – one or both parties was intoxicated, mentally impaired, or in some way incapacitated when signing the agreement.
  • Grossly unfair terms – the contract leaves one party destitute in the event of a divorce.

A prenuptial agreement benefits and protects all parties involved, included both spouses and their loved ones. Those who are reluctant to enter into, or even discuss, an agreement should be aware that these contracts are not just pre-planning for divorce, they also apply when a spouse dies. A prenuptial agreement can promote harmony in a relationship by removing any potential concerns and doubts as to the intentions of either party.

If you have questions about prenuptial agreements, please contact a matrimonial law attorney today.

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