Whether you are soon to be married or have been for several years, the decision to obtain a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is important. The concept may seem unromantic or even unnecessary given your current situation, but it’s a reasonable one in today’s world. Couples are getting married older, and they often start their union with significant assets. Second marriages also may bring children into the mix. And perhaps the most obvious, personal views change between couples over time. At Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC, we work with clients throughout Northern Virginia, including Stafford, Fredericksburg & Manassas.
What’s a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement, or “prenup,” outlines the division of assets in the event of a divorce. They are beneficial because they allow the couple to decide how things should be divided, instead of relying on state law. Typically, a prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that lists all a couple’s assets and debts and specifies each party’s rights and responsibilities following a dissolution of marriage. Prenuptial agreements are finalized before the marriage occurs & are effective once legally married. In some jurisdictions, prenuptial agreements are also known as premarital or antenuptial agreements.
Who Needs a Prenuptial Agreement?
There’s a common misconception that prenuptial contracts are only for the very wealthy. This is an antiquated notion, as even those from modest means can benefit from one. Here are some reasons a prenuptial agreement may be advantageous:
- Property can pass to children from separate previous marriages
- Couples can avoid costly mediation and arbitration
- If one member in a marriage is troubled by serious debt, a prenuptial agreement will protect the other from financial responsibility for that debt
From our offices in Stafford & Fredericksburg, we assist couples who choose to enter into a prenup to avoid potential issues which may arise within marriage & if that marriage ends.
What Happens If I Don’t Have a Prenuptial Agreement?
In the absence of a prenuptial contract, your property and assets will be divided in accordance with Virginia law. Virginia, for example, is an “equitable divorce” state. Inequitable divorce states, judges can divide all marital property and assets in a matter they consider fair, but it doesn’t necessarily require it to be equal. This concept of fairness is open to interpretation and may vary greatly based on the judge.
What Is a Postnuptial Agreement?
If you’re already married, a postnuptial agreement may be a suitable alternative to a prenup. As the name suggests, a postnuptial agreement has a similar purpose as a prenup but is drafted after marriage. Postnuptial agreements in Virginia must follow the following criteria:
- Contained in a court order, signed by both parties, and notarized, OR recorded and transcribed by a court reporter.
- It must be voluntary – both parties must agree to its terms.
- It should be fair, not one-sided to either extreme.
- Couples must fully disclose all of their assets.
Postnuptial, or marriage contracts, are becoming increasingly popular in Virginia as modern families seek a pragmatic, amicable approach to the dissolution of marriage. While they may aid in avoiding divorce battles, there are certain things a postnuptial agreement cannot do. For instance, they can’t dictate a custody arrangement, and many judges frown on agreements that put caps on spousal support or alimony.
A postnuptial agreement may be right for you if you wish for an expedient and cordial approach to the divorce process or if you wish to protect yourself from your significant other’s debts.
Contact Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC Today
Both pre and postnuptial agreements come with advantages and disadvantages. At Williams Stone Carpenter Buczek, PC, we are experienced in the drafting, negotiation, and review of both types of contracts. Contact us today to see if a pre or postnuptial agreement is right for you.