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Postnuptial agreements; what you need to know

Without a doubt, the word "prenup" has made its way into many homes in the United States thanks to a string of high profile celebrity marriages. A postnuptial or postmarital agreement is a legal document designed for couples who are already married and is signed after the union has taken place.

Postnuptial agreements are not just for couples seeking divorce

Besides seeking a formal separation from your spouse, postnuptial agreements serve many purposes. Utilizing a postnuptial agreement could apply if you have a child from a previous marriage and want to protect their inheritances. When one partner has experienced legal trouble during the marriage, seeking this type of document can serve as a safeguard. Financially speaking, if one partner receives an inheritance or a bump in salary, a postnuptial agreement works to keep assets secure from future uncertainty.

Factors needed to create a valid postnuptial agreement:

  • Have it in writing: oral contracts are not acceptable
  • Voluntary: both parties need to sign of their own free will and without cohesion
  • Full disclosure: assets, liabilities and income must be accurately acknowledged
  • Impartiality: agreements that are one-sided will not be accepted
  • Validity: postnuptial agreements must meet the laws of the state in which the parties reside, often a notary is required to solidify the document

In the eyes of the court

Although postnuptial agreements are legally binding documents, they are not definite. Even if a postnuptial arrangement meets all of the requirements to be seen as valid and enforceable, the courts may not accept it. While that may seem unjust, the law regarding postnuptial agreements varies from state to state along with the way in which these contracts are enforced.

Entering into an agreement to protect yourself is a beneficial move in many situations. A postnuptial agreement is just that, a means of dividing assets and property to protect both spouses' best interest in the case of divorce.

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