The Basics of Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

If you are getting married, you may have heard about prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, but many people do not fully understand what they are. If created correctly in appropriate circumstances, these contracts bind parties who will marry or who are already married. They allow the parties to agree to some issues if they decide to divorce in the future, making the divorce proceeding faster, less expensive, and less time-consuming. You may be thinking about creating one of these agreements. Or you may have one in place that you’re not sure is enforceable. Contact Martine, Katz Scanlon & Schimmel, P.A. in Cherry Hill, Philadelphia, and Princeton, at (856) 396-9500 for questions or inquiries regarding prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

Address Issues Early to Avoid Problems Later On

A prenuptial agreement takes place before a couple marries and becomes effective after the marriage takes place. A postnuptial agreement is made between married spouses and is effective as soon as it’s executed.

These agreements are beneficial if you own a business, have highly complex assets, or have multiple children from more than one marriage. The goal is to create a map if you need to go down the divorce path. It states the parties’ rights and responsibilities if that happens, so the process should be much more predictable.

The agreements can cover financial issues, including marital property and debt, how they should be divided, and spousal support. Disagreements over these issues can disintegrate into highly emotional confrontations when a marriage falls apart, so it may be better to address them when the parties are more positive and open-minded.

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can’t include child custody or support. If you have children from the marriage, the divorce process can become much more focused. If your marriage results in no children, these agreements may leave little left to fight over.

Honesty is the Best Policy

As the situation becomes more complex, the greater the number of issues that might be covered in these agreements, and the more you need a knowledgeable attorney. These agreements should be as comprehensive as possible, which will require many complete and honest disclosures by the parties involved.

Not every agreement is legally enforceable. One reason may be disclosures, or lack thereof, before the agreements were signed. During a divorce, parties aren’t supposed to hide assets or debts. That’s also true when these agreements are negotiated. For Pennsylvania prenuptial agreements, possible challenges include that the party didn’t voluntarily execute the contract, or before signing it they:

  • Weren’t given a fair and reasonable disclosure of the other party’s property or financial obligations
  • Didn’t have adequate knowledge of the other party’s property or financial obligations
Two Birds With One Stone?

To correctly create these agreements, you must engage in a lot of forward-thinking and planning. There will be many ‘What if?’ questions during the process. While an agreement is being created and these issues are discussed, it makes sense for the parties to update their estate plans to reflect how assets should be handled if one or both spouses passes away during their marriage.

How Can Martine, Katz Scanlon & Schimmel, P.A., Help?

A divorce lawyer can help you minimize the process through a properly executed and enforceable prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. If one is already in place but you have been told it isn’t valid under the law, we can challenge it in an effort to make your divorce more fair and equitable. If you live in Pennsylvania or New Jersey and want to learn more or need legal representation, call our office at (856) 396-9500 or fill out our online contact form today.