People are generally familiar with the concept of prenuptial agreements for engaged couples. Family law attorneys are able to assist married couples with another document known as a postnuptial agreement. The contracts are similar to the prenuptial version, except the document is drawn up after the marriage. Some restrictions apply to prevent either party from making unreasonable demands.
Reasons for Postnuptial Contracts
Postnuptial documents are typically created when two individuals marry hastily without planning ahead. They might suddenly decide to elope as a romantic adventure, for example. If either owns a substantial level of assets, a postnuptial agreement could seem advisable.
Some couples may want to file a postnuptial agreement with the court after being married for a while. They may have experienced some marriage difficulties that make them feel wary now. Perhaps they even separated for a time and reunited.
The documents are mainly intended to focus on financial issues. A wealthy individual who marries someone without much money may want to be certain assets are protected in case they divorce.
A couple who has been married for a year or more may decide to legally document their agreement about certain assets if the relationship ends. For instance, they could agree that one person will keep a vacation home that was mutually purchased. However, family court judges expect there to be a fair balance in these arrangements, and many state laws may require it. That means the spouse who keeps the home must relinquish something of equal value. That could be cash, an investment account, or another equally large purchase like an RV camper.
Another situation would involve real estate that one spouse owned before the marriage. State laws typically do not view this as marital property since one person owned it beforehand. However, that changes if there is any commingling of assets. An example would be a mortgage taken on the land to fund the other spouse's new business.
Certain restrictions apply to these contracts. If the couple has children, the agreement might address custody and visitation. However, any proposed arrangement must be reasonable or a family court judge is likely to reject the filing. A family law attorney understands this and will counsel clients not to include points that will be heavily disputed. For example, any attempt to release one individual from future child support obligations is not allowed. The document cannot deny either person child custody or visitation in the event of a divorce.
A married couple who is considering this type of contract may contact a family law attorney for a consultation.