A prenuptial agreement, often referred to as a "pre-nup" or a "premarital contract," is a legal document drafted and signed before a marriage that sets up certain contractual agreements for the marriage. This is then signed by the future spouses, and will go into full effect once the marriage is finalized. The agreement serves to protect the interests of both spouses, should the marriage terminate from death or divorce. While these agreements can be controversial, the purpose of it is to provide both parties with a stable solution, in case the marriage terminates.
Who Is Eligible For A Prenuptial Agreement?
In order to draft a prenuptial agreement, the parties need only be future spouses with the intent to marry. The agreement itself is only valid and enforceable if the parties do, in fact, marry one another. Prenuptial agreements may appeal to those who wish to avoid lengthy divorce proceedings at all costs, or who wish to have specific items that they wish to be protected in the event of a death or divorce. Prenuptial agreements may also appeal to individuals who have amassed a significant amount of wealth or assets and wish to protect a child's inheritance or wish to retain these items.
The court, however, will not always honor a prenuptial agreement. Certain circumstances may cause the court to fail to uphold a prenuptial agreement. These circumstances include:
- Evidence that a spouse did not voluntarily sign the agreement
- Evidence that a spouse did not provide reasonable and full disclosure of wealth, assets, and debts
- Evidence that a spouse was given fraudulent or inaccurate information pertinent to the agreement
- A claim that the agreement was egregiously unfair
What Does A Prenuptial Agreement Protect?
While a prenuptial agreement is meant to cover most of a person's assets, they do not cover everything. There are certain matters that will only be settled through Family Court matters. Matters typically protected through prenuptial agreements include:
- How property will be divided
- Each spouse's individual property
- Post-divorce alimony
- Each spouse's rights to gifts and inheritance of another
- Each spouse's entitlement to death benefits
- Each spouse's use of property and rights to buy and sell assets after marriage
While these are matters commonly included in prenuptial agreements, at times spouses may have specific wishes not covered by the above generalizations that they wish to include. These can usually be included in the prenuptial agreement provided that they do not infringe on the following topics:
- Child custody
- Child support issues
- Alimony pendente lite or temporary spousal support
- A child's religious upbringing
Prenuptial agreements are only meant to protect issues strictly related to the spouses and their property. The only exception to this is the determination of inheritance. This means that custody and matters of child support must be determined through separate custody proceedings, even if the divorce or marriage termination matters are resolved through a prenuptial agreement.
If you or a loved one is involved in matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.