While marriage imposes many legal and financial obligations, the law allows couples to alter them in some ways as long as they meet specific requirements. Couples from all walks of life can benefit from thinking about these critical matters, having frank discussions, and putting agreements in writing.
A prenuptial or premarital agreement (prenup) is a contract that couples enter into before marriage. A postnuptial agreement is a contract couples enter into during the marriage. A postnuptial agreement can also modify or amend a prenup. Both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements could and likely will form the basis of a separation agreement if the couple later decides to divorce.
Working with a knowledgeable attorney from Jones Family Law Group, LLC could prove extremely valuable when you and your spouse are considering a marital agreement. Our Ballwin marital agreements lawyers will get to know you and your family, understand your goals, and assist in crafting an agreement that meets your unique needs.
Marital Agreements Can Override Property Ownership Laws
State laws determine a married couple’s financial relationship and what would happen to their property in a divorce. As a Ballwin attorney can further explain, entering into a marital agreement allows a couple to decide for themselves how to handle their financial relationship.
Understanding Missouri’s laws regarding property ownership could help a couple decide what should be in their marital agreement. “Separate property” or “non-marital property” includes anything that belonged to one spouse before marriage and any inheritances or gifts received during the marriage. “Marital property” is anything the couple or either spouse acquired during their marriage, regardless of who paid for it or whose name is on the title or deed.
State law governs how couples must divide their property when they divorce. Missouri Revised Statutes §452.330 states that the couple must divide their marital property fairly and equitably; this does not mandate a 50/50 split, but it typically results in something close to it. Assessing the value of each spouse’s interests in shared properties can be complex, time-consuming, and expensive. A premarital or postnuptial agreement could resolve these issues before they become contentious aspects of a divorce.
A premarital or prenuptial agreement is a contract you and your fiancé negotiate and sign before the wedding. It takes effect when you marry. A premarital agreement might designate specific property as your separate property, preventing your spouse from acquiring an interest in it during the marriage. It could address whether you or your spouse will receive ongoing financial support if you divorce. You also could decide how to divide marital property in a prenuptial agreement.
If one or both of you owns a business, a premarital agreement can help protect it in the event of a divorce. For example, you could decide that one spouse will keep the business, but the other will receive a payout over time to compensate for their contribution. Many arrangements are possible; an attorney from our firm could suggest fair approaches that still maintain the viability of the business.
A postnuptial agreement may cover the same topics as a prenup. In addition, you could use a postnuptial agreement to address issues you might not have anticipated before you were married.
For example, a postnuptial agreement could protect the other if you or your spouse has potential financial liability in a lawsuit. Couples sometimes use postnuptial agreements to set ground rules or penalties after one party commits misconduct.
Enforceability of Pre- and Post-Marital Agreements
An enforceable marital agreement must be written and signed by both parties. Oral agreements or modifications are not enforceable in court.
If one spouse challenges the agreement, the judge will ask several questions to determine whether the challenge is valid, including:
- Did both parties provide accurate financial disclosures before they signed the agreement?
- Did both parties decide to create the marital agreement voluntarily?
- Did either party feel pressured to sign the agreement?
- Did both parties have access to an independent lawyer to review the document?
Incomplete financial disclosures or evidence that one party was pressured to agree could lead the court to invalidate all or part of a marital agreement.
A marital agreement must be fair, or the judge will not enforce it. If one party gives up something of value, such as the right to an interest in a successful business, the other party must provide consideration. A Ballwin marital agreements attorney could help you determine a creative compromise, which might involve a cash settlement, offering other property of similar value, or buying an insurance policy or annuity.
Separation Agreements Guide the End of Marriage
Not all marriages last forever. If you decide to get a legal separation or divorce, you must file a separation agreement with the court. If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial marital agreement that addresses alimony and property division, a Ballwin attorney from our firm could incorporate it into a separation agreement.
Neither a prenuptial nor a postnuptial agreement can address child custody and child support issues. Couples must decide on child custody, visitation, and child support when they separate. Courts expect you to provide a detailed parenting plan explaining how you and your spouse plan to co-parent, and a judge will review it to ensure it supports the children’s best interests.
Reach Out To a Ballwin Marital Agreements Attorney for Advice
Considering a prenuptial agreement is a wise move when you are getting married. If you are already married, a postnuptial agreement could help you and your spouse clarify your financial obligations to each other. If you have decided to end your marriage, a separation agreement details how you will unravel your finances and handle co-parenting.
A Ballwin marital agreements lawyer from Jones Family Law Group, LLC can draft a document that resolves your complicated financial issues. Schedule a meeting today with a skilled attorney from our firm.