DEFINING A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT
A prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement) is a written contract entered into between two individuals prior to their marriage. The purpose of the prenuptial agreement is to identify the assets and debts of the parties and determine, in advance of the marriage, each of the individual’s rights to those assets and responsibilities for those debts in the event the marriage ends in divorce. Prenuptial agreements are often a prudent and practical step to take before entering into a marriage in Pennsylvania. With careful planning and proper legal guidance, a prenuptial agreement can be extremely useful for future planning.
BASICS OF A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT
A prenuptial agreement must be in writing and signed by both individuals who are entering a marriage. A prenuptial agreement must provide a fair and reasonable disclosure of the assets and debts of the parties.
ENFORCEABILITY OF THE PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT
An individual can seek to set aside a prenuptial agreement if the individual can prove by clear and convincing evidence that:
- The individual did not sign the agreement voluntarily
- The individual before signing the agreement 1) was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of property or financial obligations of the other individual; 2) did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other individual beyond the disclosure provided; and 3) did not have an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party
- The agreement was signed under duress
- The agreement was the product of fraud or misrepresentation
- An individual lacked mental capacity
- Failure to provide a fair and reasonable disclosure of assets and debts
CONTENTS OF THE PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT
Entering into a prenuptial agreement in Pennsylvania has many advantages, including protection and assurance about the future. Use of a prenuptial agreement is highly recommended in situations where one individual has a great deal of wealth, where one individual has a lot of debt, or where either party enters the marriage with children from a previous relationship. Common provisions for the prenuptial agreement include the following:
- Inheritance rights for children of a prior relationship
- Clauses for putting each other through college or professional school
- Protection of real estate or an inheritance that one party owns before the marriage
- Non-liability for the other party’s debts
- Provisions for the surviving spouse in the estate plan or through life insurance coverage
- How property acquired during the marriage is to be divided
- Alimony or spousal support decisions
- Retirement benefits
There are certain interests that a prenuptial agreement cannot protect such as a religious upbringing of children, temporary alimony while a divorce is pending, child support issues, child custody matters, anything illegal or unconscionable, or any provision that can be viewed as encouraging a divorce.
PROS AND CONS OF THE PRENUPTIAL
A common misconception is that a prenuptial agreement will create distrust or stress in the relationship. In other words, some view the prenuptial as an encouragement to divorce. At the very least, many individuals perceive the prenuptial agreement as a deal breaker for marriage and that the provisions can be a burden if the couples’ circumstances change in the future.
Individuals should not overlook the advantages of the prenuptial agreement which include discussions about finances that can prevent future disputes during the marriage, protections for loved ones outside the marriage, facilitating effective and open communication.
Our Pennsylvania family law attorneys understand that a marriage is based on trust; however, taking the time to carefully plan and protect your assets can avoid future disagreements. When a divorce does arise, the emotional stress of the situation makes it tremendously difficult for a couple to arrive at a fair division of marital assets and debts. By addressing these issues from the outset, you can establish strong lines of communication and mutual understanding. Our Pennsylvania prenuptial agreement attorneys handle these delicate family law matters gracefully and will work with you to draft a fair contract that will provide reassurance to you and your family.
PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT ATTORNEYS – THE MARTIN LAW FIRM, P.C.
Our attorneys are competent and experienced in Pennsylvania family law issues. We are skilled in negotiating the sensitive aspects of prenuptial agreements in order to produce a clear and legally enforceable agreement. Each party should have his or her own attorney to best protect his or her interests. If you are interested in hiring our attorneys to represent you in the planning of a prenuptial agreement, contact us today at 215-687-4053.