Marriage is not only a public statement of a couple's emotional commitment, but a powerful legal and economic relationship. At CT Mediation Center, we help clients establish peace of mind and thoughtful planning through pre-nuptial agreements. The process of crafting a pre-nuptial agreement is an exercise in money management and financial planning that provides more than just economic benefits to the couple involved; it provides peace of mind and clear expectations from the beginning. There are a variety of reasons why a pre-nuptial agreement makes sense and our attorneys have drafted pre-nuptial agreements for people just starting out in their careers, those on their second marriage, and for financially established individuals.
Who Benefits from a Pre-nuptial Agreement?
For some couples, especially those entering into second marriages, pre-nuptial agreements are an extremely helpful way to take care of financial and estate planning issues. Generally, a pre-nuptial agreement is held to be valid if entered into freely and voluntarily by the parties, if each party was vigorously represented by a lawyer prior to signing the agreement, and if the pre-nuptial agreement is not unconscionable when it was signed by the parties.
Not every couple needs a pre-nuptial agreement, but every couple can benefit from learning about mutual problem-solving and financial planning that leads to the security provided by a pre-nuptial agreement. Our attorneys draft and review pre-nuptial agreement contracts to serve a wide range of purposes, including the following:
- Protecting assets for the children from a previous marriage
- Preserving assets that without a pre-nuptial agreement would become part of the marital estate
- Defining the way in which assets accumulated before marriage, including an interest in a home or business, will be kept separate from distribution in the event the marriage ends
- Defining limits to the amount and duration of alimony (spousal support) in the event of legal separation or divorce
- Establishing a way to handle future disputes over money and practical matters during the marriage
- Establishing the terms of a domestic partnership agreement
What Should Be in a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?
Pre-nuptial agreements should address how spouses will divide property and income in the eventuality of a divorce. Forms of pre-nuptial agreements address in detail the assets intended to be retained separately and not divisible in a subsequent dissolution. Sometimes there are disappearing or “sunset” provisions so that the longer one is married the more blended the couple’s financial resources become.
Provisions for Pre-marriage Assets
Pre-nuptial agreements should address in detail the pre-marriage (pre-marital) assets that each spouse wishes to keep in the event of divorce. Similarly, the agreement should identify items or assets that can be blended and are not separate.
Sometimes increases in retirement benefits and other assets obtained after the marriage are shared by the couple, and sometimes they are saved for each souses children. If one party moves into the other party’s home, there might be provisions with regards to what happens to the house and a spouse’s occupancy after divorce or death. Each pre-nuptial agreement should be specifically designed for the needs and values of the two parties.
Death of Either Spouse
Another area addressed by pre-nuptial agreements is what happens after the death of either party. Generally, parties want to protect their assets from a potential divorce, but also want to protect possible inheritances for the benefit of children previous marriage. There is usually some allocation between the surviving spouse and the party’s own children, depending on the surviving spouse’s ability to take care of him/herself after the death.
Allow for Areas of Marital Venture
Some pre-nuptial agreements purposely leave out some issues in the agreement. This is to allow the couple to build an area of “marital venture” that is uncertain and almost entrepreneurial. These areas tend to positively feed a marriage. And if there is a divorce, absent agreement, these issues are left to the agreement of the parties to resolve.
When Should We Create a Pre-nuptial Agreement?
It is imperative that you draft your pre-nuptial agreement as far in advance of your wedding as possible. Not only does this allow more time to thoughtfully work out the terms of the agreement, but also an agreement signed six months before the wedding is seen by the court as a stronger contract than one signed right before the wedding ceremony. For many couples, it is not possible to create a pre-nuptial agreement six months before their wedding. In these instances, it is critically important you work with experienced legal counsel.
“Off-the-shelf” pre-nuptial agreements do a great disservice to both parties and to the marriage in general. They also may not be correct or adequate in light of recent case law.
Call our offices at (860)986-1141 or fill out the contact form to learn more about how CT Mediation Center can help you with a pre-nuptial agreement.