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Nassau County Family Law Blog

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Primer on Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Are pre-nuptial agreements only for the wealthy?

Gossip columns are often filled with stories of high-profile celebrity divorces and the details of prenuptial agreements of the rich and famous. While these stories may be cringe worthy, the fact is that many marriages don't last. In fact, more than 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, and the odds for success are even less for second and third marriages. With this in mind, any couple, regardless of their financial status, should consider having a prenuptial agreement.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement, or pre-marital agreement, is a contract entered into by a couple prior to the marriage that specifies the future spouses property ownership, as well as debts, and clarifies each spouses property rights in the event that they divorce. A well thought-out agreement will also specify how joint bank accounts, household bills and credit card payments will be managed. Most importantly, a pre-marital agreement can establish how disputes will be handled, leaving the parties with the ability to pursue alternatives to litigating a divorce in the court system.

Reasons to Have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement

In addition to avoiding court intervention, a pre-marital agreement provides a number of other benefits. First, an agreement can clarify the financial rights and responsibilities of each party. Furthermore, in cases where one or both spouses is entering into a second marriage, a prenuptial agreement can specify how their property will be distributed if they die, giving each party the ability to pass on separate property to their children while still providing for each other. Finally, a prenuptial agreement can serve to protect each spouse from the others debts.

Because state law considers marriage to be a contract, each spouse is entitled to automatic property rights. By not having a prenuptial agreement in place, the courts will determine what is marital property and how it will be divided in the event of a divorce. In order for a prenuptial agreement to be valid, however, it must be fair and each party must enter into the agreement free of coercion. For this reason, you are well advised to seek the counsel of an experience matrimonial law attorney who can help you negotiate and prepare a legally sound prenuptial agreement.


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