Montgomery County Pre-Marital Agreements: Why You Should Contact a Lawyer Before Marriage
A premarital agreement, also called a prenuptial, ante-nuptial, or pre-nuptial agreement, is a legal document signed and agreed upon before legally entering into a marriage. There are also legal contracts you can have drawn up known as pre-cohabitation agreements which work in similar ways if you are not married. These agreements are not necessary in order to get married, but many couples are having them drafted and they can be a strong safeguard should anything happen.
These pre-marital agreements outline what will happen with the couple’s finances and property should the relationship end. There are several new laws surrounding same sex couples who live together which are also included in these agreements. The pre-marital agreements are legally binding documents that have the power of the law behind them. This means that they can be enforced by some outside governmental agency. If you or someone you love is considering getting an agreement or are having problems because of an existing agreement contact the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, PC at (610) 645-0100 immediately.
Included in these premarital or pre-cohabitation agreements are full disclosures about the earnings of both individuals involved. All earnings, property holdings, and any other financially related item must be disclosed on the agreements. These agreements outline how the property is to be divided if the relationship ends. The agreement will also include how any property made, bought or sold during the relationship will be split up if the relationship ends. The premarital or pre-cohabitation agreement should also include information about what to do if any children are involved.
These agreements often include any future earnings and alimony or spousal support payments that must be handled in the future should a relationship break up. The agreement can and should also be conditional, that is, the money and property should only be split in certain ways as long as the breakup or relationship is amicable. Cheating, stealing, child or spousal abuse, or other violations of the law should be mentioned in any pre-marital or pre-cohabitation agreement.
A premarital agreement covers many of the same topics as a divorce. It can also be used as a blueprint for divorce, providing a clear outline for how assets should be handled after a relationship ends, either through divorce or a spouse passes away. A premarital agreement may contain one or more of the following issues:
- Marital vs Separate Property/Assets: What property is considered marital (owned jointly by spouses) and what is considered separate (owned by the individual spouse). Marital property may be subject to divorce proceedings, but a premarital agreement can clearly outline which spouse will keep specific assets in a divorce.
- Responsibility for Debt: This clause may outline what debt is shared by spouses and what debt is liable only to individual spouses. This protects debt-free spouses from collection agencies in the case of a divorce.
- Savings and Spending: A premarital agreement can contain a financial plan for how money should be divided into joint or individual accounts, retirement strategies, and if there are any spending allowances for either spouse.
- Financial Plans: As with savings, financial plans for expenses within a marriage may be protected through a premarital agreement.
- Inheritance: Spouses may choose to allocate financial assets, property, or family heirlooms to their birth family and heirs, effectively protecting it from passing to a deceased spouse’s family.
- Estates: Spouses may agree beforehand how an estate should be managed in their premarital agreement. This ensures that each spouses’ wishes are respected and, in the case of death or divorce, the other spouse cannot make changes to the estate’s plan.
- Spousal Support: Spouses may choose to pre-determine the amount of money to be provided for spousal support and alimony in the case of a divorce. However, a court can choose not to uphold this clause if a premarital agreement leaves one spouse impoverished. It cannot be used to determine alimony rights.
Outlining the allocation of assets and property rights in a premarital agreement can be a huge factor in divorce proceedings or in the case of a spouse’s death. However, it is important to note that the following matters cannot be upheld by a premarital agreement and may be dismissed by a court:
- Forfeiture of Alimony
- Child Support
- Child Custody
- Domestic Affairs and Personal Matters
- Infidelity/Lifestyle Clauses
- Provisions Deemed Illegal or Unfair
Within the state of Pennsylvania, premarital agreements cannot contain clauses for child custody or support. The rights of children to financial support, education, and safety are protected by Pennsylvania courts. A spouse may not absolve themselves of the responsibility to pay child support through a premarital agreement.
Courts cannot make decisions regarding child support, custody, and visitation until the spouses are in the process of separating or divorcing. Any provisions regarding child support or custody cannot be made in advance beyond agreements with regard to inheritance. If a custody clause is placed in a premarital agreement, it will be ignored by the court and decided separately.
An agreement can and should be drafted and filed by an attorney representing each member of the relationship. Attorneys for each member will develop the details of the agreement and usually come to some sort of contract that both members can sign off on. Once the agreement is signed by all parties, including the attorneys, it becomes an enforceable legal document. A lawyer sponsored premarital or co-habitation agreement is more legally enforceable than one drafted and signed by the couple themselves.
If you have any questions regarding the pre-marital or co-habitation agreement process contact our offices immediately. Sheryl R. Rentz has a family law office in Montgomery County, PA and is fully familiar with the particulars of each states’ premarital and co-habitation agreement laws. Contact us at (610) 645-0100 for a free evaluation and consultation today.
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