Nobody enters into a marriage believing it will fail. Yet despite our best intentions, roughly half of all marriages end in divorce. Given the reality of these numbers, it’s prudent to consider a prenuptial agreement before getting married.
To help you better understand their benefits and what you need to know before drafting one, let’s take a closer look at the basics of prenuptial agreements.
Prenuptial agreements explained
A prenuptial (or premarital) agreement is a written contract that two people enter into before marriage outlining how assets will be divided should the union fail. Prenuptial agreements commonly dictate how homes, money and valuables are distributed, but they cannot specify how child custody is awarded. They can also address whether the parties will waive alimony/maintenance. A prenuptial agreement can also address the rights of a surviving spouse in the event of the death of the other spouse. Other than the rights of children, a prenuptial agreement allows the parties to agree to most issues which arise with respect to the rights and obligations of married persons. For example, how the parties intend to manage day to day expenses.
In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, the distribution of marital assets is subject to the family laws that are in effect in each state. These laws then ultimately determine who is given ownership of money or property acquired during the marriage. Depending on local state law, even money or property that was owned by one person before entering the marriage may be subject to court-ordered distribution. Also, a court may award one spouse with alimony/maintenance in the absence of a prenuptial agreement where the parties waive those rights.
The benefits of a prenuptial agreement
While some people believe that prenuptial agreements are solely for the wealthy, that’s an outdated misconception. These days, almost anyone can benefit from a prenuptial agreement.
Some of the most important advantages of these agreements include:
- Protecting one person from sharing responsibility for the debt accumulated by the other
- The protection of any assets held before entering the marriage
- Certainty as to how assets will be distributed in the event of divorce or death
- Greatly lowering the odds of an expensive, protracted court battle
- Waiving alimony/maintenance
Given these benefits, anyone planning to get married should at least consider the possibility of a prenuptial agreement. In order to ensure an agreement is valid, however, it’s important to take a few smart steps.
Drafting a prenuptial agreement
Prenuptial agreements are subject to court review to determine their validity, so it is critically important to ensure that best practices are followed when drafting these contracts. In the state of Connecticut, courts use the Connecticut Premarital Agreement Act of 1995 to evaluate the validity of contracts executed after the Act was enacted. This law allows for prenuptial agreements to be challenged (and possibly voided) under the following circumstances:
- The agreement was not entered into voluntarily
- Financial disclosures or asset valuations were not fair, reasonable or accurate
- The agreement is not “fair and equitable” at the time of signing or “unconscionable” at the time of dissolution
- One person was not given the chance to speak with independent counsel prior to signing
- Enforcing the agreement will make one party eligible for public assistance
By diligently avoiding the above circumstances, a prenuptial agreement is much more likely to withstand a legal challenge in Connecticut.
Finding the right legal partner
In order to ensure that a prenuptial agreement protects the interests of all involved (and is strong enough to avoid being struck down), it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney.
At Brickley Law, we specialize in helping Connecticut residents successfully navigate the complexities of family law. If you have any questions about prenuptial agreements, we encourage you to contact us today.