Most couples have heard about prenuptial agreements. In fact, if you or your spouse suggested such an agreement before you married, it may have caused some tension between you. Perhaps you and your partner ultimately discarded the idea, but now that you've been married awhile, you are starting to regret that you didn't follow through.
Fortunately, there is still an alternative that may provide similar protections, especially if your marital situation has changed. More couples are now considering postnuptial contracts, which carry the same legal standing as prenuptial agreements except that you draft them after the wedding.
Why do people use postnuptial agreements instead of prenups?
In some cases, a couple may simply run out of time before the wedding and agree to wait until after the ceremony when they can think clearly with the stress of the preparations behind them. However, you may be like the many couples whose circumstances have drastically changed since your wedding day. What may have seemed like an unthinkable arrangement back then may feel practical and reasonable now.
For example, if you or your spouse started a successful business or have begun to earn a substantially higher income, you may wish to clarify the division of those assets if divorce becomes an issue. Similarly, if infidelity rears its ugly head, a postnuptial agreement can be a way to facilitate reconciliation while protecting yourself if your marriage doesn't work out.
What should I include in my postnuptial agreement?
Just as with a prenuptial agreement, there are common issues you may wish to consider and include in your postnuptial contract. In addition to addressing the consequences of infidelity and the balance of property division, many couples have concerns about the following:
- Who pays alimony, how much and for how long?
- Who covers the legal fees if you should divorce?
- Which partner gets the house?
- How will you divide retirement accounts?
Because the validity of postnuptial agreements is often more difficult to prove in family court, the preparation of such a document must be above reproach. Such contracts are becoming more widely accepted, but some judges remain skeptical because the idea of creating a contract that post-dates the marriage contract is a relatively recent historical development.
Nevertheless, family law professionals report a steady increase in the number of postnuptial agreements they write each year. Since state laws vary concerning these contracts, having sound legal advice will allow you to make an informed decision and proceed with confidence.