You might have heard of prenuptial agreements in the context of celebrity marriages or divorces, so you may be surprised to learn that it is becoming common for couples of all income levels to sign “prenups”. These premarital contracts can protect spouses both during the marriage and in the event of a separation or divorce.
What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement, or prenup, is a legally binding contract between two people who plan to marry. You must put the prenup in writing and sign it before you get married. (If you sign a marital agreement after getting married, it is called a postnuptial agreement.) In case you do need to alter the agreement later during the marriage, all changes must be in writing and signed by both spouses.
Prenuptial agreements have two primary purposes: to protect individual assets during the marriage and to determine what happens to a couple’s assets should they divorce. In addition, prenups can provide guidance and structure for finances before and during the marriage. Prenups may contain provisions for handling money and property during the marriage, as well as spousal support and property division after the marriage.
Though a prenup can protect you in many ways, the law limits what you can include in your agreement. For example, you cannot pre-decide issues of child custody or child support. While you can include provisions as to spousal support, if these provisions would cause a spouse to be eligible for public assistance when you separate or divorce, the court may require the other spouse to provide support.
Should You Sign a Prenuptial Agreement?
Signing a prenup makes you think about your and your spouse’s financial situations in a way that may not be possible when facing an emotional separation and divorce. It also may change how assets are distributed if you divorce. If you fall in any of the below categories, you may want to consider signing a prenup:
- You have assets or income that you want to keep separate from marital property
- You and your spouse make very different incomes
- You and/or your spouse have significant debts or are likely to have debts in the future
- You own an interest in a business
- You expect to receive a large gift or inheritance during the marriage
- You have children from a previous marriage and want some assets to go directly to them
- You’re worried about spousal support should you divorce
As you can see, people in many different life situations may want to sign a prenuptial agreement. You don’t need to be a celebrity or be extremely wealthy to want the protection a marriage contract can offer.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Prepare or Review Your Prenuptial Agreement?
It is very important to have a lawyer prepare or review your prenuptial agreement before you sign it. While there is no legal requirement to have a lawyer look at it, your agreement may contain technical language or complicated provisions that do not mean what you think they do. You may have omitted key legal provisions that would protect you better, or you may have misunderstood the laws that apply to your specific situation. Every marriage and everyone’s finances are different, so it’s a good idea to have a lawyer evaluate your individual needs.
Again, you should speak to the lawyer before you sign the agreement and before you get legally married. Allow time to make any necessary changes so that you protect your own interests. Also, make sure you and your spouse give a complete picture of your financial and personal situation to the lawyer preparing your agreement to ensure a tailored marriage contract that meets your needs.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you want to know more about signing a prenuptial agreement, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals. We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.