Guest post today is by Andrew Lisa, a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about marriage and divorce law.
Prenuptial agreements are contracts that are agreed upon by two people, prior to their wedding ceremony, that establish terms regarding the financial consequences in the case of their marriage ending.
Divorce is increasingly common, and the in the absence of a prenup, parting married couples are at the mercy of local divorce laws, the skills of divorce lawyers, and the decisions of judges. For many people who came out of divorces that were mitigated by fair, competent prenups, the attorney who put it together was as important to their wedding ceremony as the officiant.
Follow this guide to understanding prenuptial agreements.
Divorces are messy, emotional, expensive – and all too common.
Can and Can’t Dos
Prenups can handle the intricacies of virtually all of the most common concerns of the soon-to-be married. Prenups can decide which party will retain properties and vehicles, how assets will be divided, how debt will be spread out, and even contain alimony agreements.
Prenups can contain “sunset” clauses, which render the agreement null and void after a certain number of years, and unless otherwise specified, the prenup is subject to the laws of the state of the divorce, not the marriage.
Prenups can not contain language that dictates custody of children or religious affiliations regarding children. It can also not deal with child support, visitation rights, or anything that is likely to encourage divorce.
In order for prenups to be valid in the United States (they either don’t exist or exist in much different forms in many other countries), both parties must have entered into the agreement voluntarily – in writing – and have been verified by a notary public or similar officiant. Also, both parties are required to have fully disclosed all information required – financial or otherwise.
Although there are do-it-yourself prenup services, marriage and divorce law is complicated and inconsistent. Often, the person with the more competent legal representation ends up in a more favorable situation. Finding a good lawyer often comes down to means, but there are steps that can be taken to get the most bang for your buck. Both parties will need separate legal representation.
Prenuptial agreements must be agreed to freely by both parities.
While common theory generally accepts that marriages should be built on a foundation of love, marriage is a legal contract that comes with rights, obligations, and responsibilities that have little to do with romance. Marriages change the way taxes are filed; they deal with legal rights, including the obligation to give testimony in court, and they deal with a wide range of financial issues.
One way to assert control divorce laws, which can very wildly from state to state, is to have both parties sign a prenuptial agreement that both parties can be comforted by in the event of a divorce.
Photo credits: Flickr user Nicholas Copernicus