What is a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a common form used between two people before marriage that offers some direction for handling situations that arise should the couple consider divorce. When accurately assembled, it can provide a legally enforceable plan in writing that both parties can expect to adhere to during a divorce.
A prenuptial agreement is created before the couple is married and becomes enforceable after being legally married. Although it can be difficult for some parties to want to plan for a marriage that doesn’t work, a prenuptial agreement can also be viewed as an efficient plan that both couples agree on to allow for less stress and uncertainty during a divorce. Financial stability and parenting arrangements are important to all of us, and an effective prenup can help to address these critical topics.
What Topics are Typically Included in a Prenup?
Common topics that are included in prenuptial agreements are listed below. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather to summarize some of the most common issues addressed.
Life Insurance – several prenuptial agreements reference whether or not both parties are required to carry life insurance.
Alimony – the amount of alimony, the length in which alimony payments are to be made, and more can be stipulated in a prenup.
Existing and future assets – how assets will be owned and managed during the divorce and after it is finalized.
Property allocation – how property is to be dispersed if one of the parties passes away, gets remarried, or other life events occur.
Who Should Consider a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement may not be for everyone. Several individuals feel that planning for the end of a marriage isn’t healthy or consistent with how they want to proceed in marriage.
For some, it may be imperative to consider a prenup. Some everyday situations where it would be regarded as a great idea to have an effective prenup in place are listed below.
If you or your spouse will be bringing significant debt into the marriage, it may be incredibly beneficial to have a prenup in place. This agreement can address what happens with the debt upon divorce, so the other party isn’t responsible for clearing up the active debt before the marriage.
Suppose one of the spouses is significantly more wealthy or poorer than the other. A prenup can help address the unlevel playing field for financial situations and how each party can expect to handle the divorce as it relates to the other’s financial situation.
If one or both spouses already have children, it can be essential to note how the children will be included in asset division and other important aspects of divorce.
If either of the parties has been married before, it is helpful to outline how previous spouses may be included or discluded from future divorce assets or life insurance benefits.
If the couple has or plans to have a business together. A contract may exist regarding the business entity, but including expectations for how to proceed in the event of divorce can also be beneficial for both parties.
What Topics Are Prohibited From Prenups?
A couple can decide to include provisions for child custody or child support in the prenup. These provisions are standard practice for couples entering a prenup and planning to have a family. However, it is at the court’s discretion whether to uphold the plan outlined in the prenup if they see it poses an issue for any affected parties moving forward.
Courts may choose to throw out the prenup plans if it isn’t in line with the children’s best interest and decide to enforce a different set of guidelines regarding child support or custody arrangements. The utmost priority of the courts is to make decisions that are in the child’s best interest. This discretion can mean that even the most well-intentioned prenuptial agreement may be overridden concerning the children if the courts determine it is no longer reasonable for the children involved.
What Makes a Prenuptial Agreement Enforceable?
There are items of importance to ensure that the prenup you and your soon-to-be spouse create will be enforceable.
Firstly, the agreement must be in writing. Oral contracts are not valid in Washington.
The agreement must be signed in contemplation of marriage.
The agreement should contain a thorough list of both parties’ assets, debts, and other pertinent financial information. If it is found that either party was not transparent while creating the prenup, it may be found to be unenforceable.
Both parties must sign the agreement with the assistance of a notary, and each party’s lawyer must also sign. The page that each lawyer must sign also should include a certification that the lawyer thoroughly explained the document to their respective clients and that they signed it voluntarily and without pressure.
Considering a Prenup?
An experienced family lawyer is an invaluable resource when considering a prenuptial agreement. Both parties can and should obtain legal representation to ensure both parties are being transparent with all financial items and are entering into the agreement voluntarily.
Furthermore, if a prenup is in place and either party wishes to modify the agreement, both parties can provide mutual consent for the necessary changes and revise the contract.
Contact our office today at (360) 926-9112 to get your specific questions answered and learn how we can best assist you and your spouse moving forward. We have multiple years of experience in helping couples ensure they remain financially stable during marriage and post-divorce. We look forward to serving you.