Marital Agreements Practice Areas
Marital Agreements Protect You and Your Family
A marital agreement of some sort may be the last thing you consider. After all, everyone wants to believe love lasts forever. Unfortunately, that's often not the case. And a well-conceived agreement can be the difference between losing or keeping valuable assets.
Our Bucks County and Montgomery County family law attorneys can help you determine whether an agreement is appropriate for your circumstances. They can also help determine the best form of marital agreement to protect your interests.
Premarital Marital Agreements
Individuals intending to marry may want a premarital agreement (sometimes called a prenuptial agreement). As a result, their marriage vows carry legal protections.
Some states (26) adopted the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act to determine the enforcement of prenuptial agreements, including how and when. However, Pennsylvania is not one of those states.
Even so, premarital agreements are valuable when one spouse has substantial assets. Those assets might include trusts, property, or an inheritance.
In that instance, one or both spouses may want to exclude assets from marital property. Otherwise, in the event of a divorce, the court could distribute those assets between the parties.
Certain rights fall under probate law following marriage. For example, a spouse could claim assets even if excluded in the will. A well-written premarital agreement, however, can supersede rights that would otherwise exist under probate law.
Because each prenup is unique and intended to address many situations, never settle for a "cookie-cutter" agreement. Discussing what provisions you do and do not want in the premarital agreement with a family law attorney is essential. Furthermore, straightforward language and full and fair disclosure are imperative to waive rights.
Postnuptial Marital Agreements
After a couple marries, they may want to draft a postnuptial agreement. That agreement includes specific stipulations binding the other party in the event of separation, divorce, or death.
For example, you might want a postnuptial agreement to address issues involving family, like child support. Or, with a divorce case, you might want to spell out terms relating to divorce and child custody. You can also use the agreement to stipulate asset distribution.
The Divorce Code binds nuptial agreements. Moreover, the court can issue an interim order enforcing the contract. Family courts may uphold even the most drastic agreement between a husband and wife.
For that reason, you want to create a straightforward postnup. After all, you don't want a one-sided marital agreement binding you. Getting legal counsel from a qualified family law attorney is crucial.
It happens all too often. Married couples separate. A separation agreement can spell out the terms of that separation and create specific commitments based on that separation.
Let's say you want the agreement to determine whether or not the parties live in the same household. A separation agreement can spell out the details, including who remains and who moves out. It's essential to have a family law attorney draft careful language addressing that distinction.
Additionally, separation agreements can address limited issues, such as interim support or interim child custody provisions. They may also address assets gained after the separation.
For instance, the date of separation typically ends further gains relating to marital assets. So, it's essential to identify assets obtained before and after the split to protect them. A family law lawyer can help distinguish and denote the separation date.
A settlement agreement is the most global document prepared by a family law attorney on behalf of a divorcing client. Typically, this marital agreement addresses all economic issues, including:
- Spousal support
- Alimony pendente lite
- Counsel fees
- Equitable distribution of marital assets
- Identification of non-marital assets.
In addition, there may be questions about child support and custody issues. Those questions may include the custody schedule, holiday schedule, vacation schedule, grandparents' rights, etc.
This marriage agreement can also addresses post-divorce issues. Those issues may include dividing retirement assets or maintaining life insurance. It might also provide security for long-term payments of equitable distribution or alimony.
Sometimes couples forgo marriage in favor of living together. During that arrangement, it's common to purchase assets jointly. Unfortunately, things can get messy with a split. That's why it's wise to talk with an attorney about a cohabitation agreement.
A divorce court can distribute marital assets equitably if a married couple wants to end their relationship. Unfortunately, those equitable principles don't necessarily apply when an unmarried couple separates. For example, things become complicated if an unmarried couple acquires real estate jointly.
With a divorce, the court reviews the source of monies used to obtain the jointly-held property. It can then distribute assets fairly. However, only common law principles of property law apply to an unmarried couple. So regardless of a one-sided contribution by one party, a 50-50 split is likely the outcome. This marital agreement, loosely speaking, can avoid such an inequitable distribution.
Sometimes, one party in a non-marital relationship sacrifices their career to care for a child born to the couple. Unfortunately, that unmarried parent has no protection, unlike divorce. They don't receive divorce provisions such as spousal support or alimony.
A cohabitation or co-parenting agreement could address economic issues such as these. Without such an agreement, you may lose your home when you separate.
Talk to Our Family Law Attorneys
Marital agreements are complex and often require legal services.
Our Montgomery County and Bucks County family lawyers can draft agreements designed for your needs. They can also support you with other family law matters, including custody, child support, domestic violence, etc. Call our law offices today.