Everything to Know About Premarital Agreements
Marriage is one of the most important decisions an individual will ever make. There are many diverse factors that go into choosing a partner, and they can differ widely depending on the individual. What does not differ, however, is the human drive to protect ourselves in the event that these major decisions fail to work out. That’s why many individuals opt to create a prenuptial agreement before marriage. In doing so, they are protecting themselves from future financial problems.
Prenuptial agreements, also known as prenups or premarital agreements, can be especially beneficial for couples who bring significant assets into the marriage. Prenups are also popular for individuals who have experienced divorce before. However, a prenuptial agreement is not the right decision for everyone. To accurately assess if a prenup is right for you, it’s essential to understand the basics of what a prenuptial agreement entails.
What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a written contract between two people who are about to get married. Prenuptials outline details regarding how each member of a couple would advance if they decided to divorce in the future. Prenuptials often cover topics like:
- How property and other assets will be divided during divorce
- How debts will be assigned during divorce
- What each person’s standard of living will look like, and each person’s entitlement to spousal support
- What would happen if one person were to pass away
A prenuptial agreement can help reduce uncertainty by outlining how finances would be handled in case of separation. It can also prevent arguments about how to divide any property and protect one party from the other’s debt.
Most prenuptial agreements specify that the decisions made in the document are not fully valid until the marriage takes place. However, the process of instituting a prenuptial agreement must begin well before the wedding—both people must get independent legal advice regarding their rights and responsibilities, as well as the terms laid out in the document. This is to help ensure that both spouses understand the agreement and what it means for them if they sign it.
What are the Common Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement?
There are several benefits to securing a prenup that motivate many couples to create a prenuptial contract. One of the most significant is the ability to keep things simple in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements can help couples manage their finances in a straightforward manner and allow them to proceed according to the wishes outlined in the document instead of requiring their lawyers to battle in court.
Prenups can also help you control the outcome of your divorce by specifying how assets and debts will be divided. If you and your partner don’t have a prenup, the court must decide how assets are to be divided in case of a divorce. It can also be beneficial to enter into a prenuptial agreement if one or both of you already have children and you want to ensure certain assets are preserved for the child’s future.
In addition, couples can also use prenuptial agreements as a tool to take action against the other’s immoral behavior. Many couples specify that certain actions can result in divorce and potentially even the forfeiture of certain assets. For example, you could include a clause about adultery and specify the consequences of such behavior.
What Is Not Covered by a Prenup?
Unfortunately, while prenuptial agreements are especially useful to streamline the divorce process, they cannot completely eliminate the need for a divorce hearing. There are some things that cannot be included in a prenup, including:
- Child support and custody decisions, as these issues must be addressed in family court during the divorce proceedings.
- Waiving rights to child support or alimony.
- Any other kinds of illegal clauses such as those that discriminate based on race, sex, or religion or require a spouse to participate in illegal behavior.
- Any other unreasonable or unfair requests. At the time of the divorce hearing, a judge can invalidate a prenup that contains unreasonable terms.
- Any agreement signed with threat of force. The court will not enforce a prenup document signed under duress.
Does a Premarital Agreement Signify a Lack of Trust For One Another?
Some people believe that creating a prenuptial agreement is an indication of distrust towards the other partner, which can cause problems in the relationship. However, this is not necessarily the case. Creating a prenuptial agreement to protect your family and assets in case of a divorce does not indicate distrust and can serve to protect both spouses.
One of the most important reasons to enter into a prenuptial agreement is that it can help reduce uncertainty about the future in case of a divorce. Having legal documents to protect your family and assets helps take away some of the stress and conflict couples experience when progressing through a divorce. Creating a prenuptial agreement often means that you are looking out for your future spouse’s best interests, as well.
How Can a Family Law Attorney Help Me with Premarital Arrangements?
If you are anticipating marriage, a prenuptial agreement can help you begin this important endeavor with confidence and trust. A family law attorney can help you draft the necessary documents and ensure that the requirements listed within are legally sound. An attorney can also help you understand the contents of your spouse’s prenuptial agreement proposal and inform you regarding what the terms may mean for you.
Just as every marriage is different, every prenuptial agreement will be different. The best thing you can do is sit down with a family law attorney to discuss your options.
Get Help from Bickford, Blado, & Botros
If you are looking for skilled legal representation to help you draft or understand a prenuptial agreement, it is important to consult with a family law attorney. The team at Bickford, Blado, & Botros is deeply familiar with the laws regarding premarital arrangements in California and will help counsel you regarding your next steps. Contact our office to schedule a consultation.
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