Most people are likely familiar with prenuptial agreements. Yet there’s another, very similar contract that also helps people structure the terms of marital dissolution — the postnuptial agreement.
To better help you understand how these contracts work and their benefits, let’s take a closer look at postnuptial agreements and how they differ from prenuptial agreements.
How does a postnuptial agreement work?
Prenuptial agreements are contracts that specify how assets will be distributed if a marriage fails. A postnuptial agreement does much the same thing, with one significant distinction: The contract is entered into during the marriage, rather than before it. Like a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement outlines how issues such as asset division and spousal support will be handled.
Postnuptial agreements are a fairly new phenomenon in the legal field. Prior to the 1970s and the advent of “no fault” divorce, these contracts were often unenforceable. Today, however, post nuptial agreements have become much more common and are widely enforced by courts in Connecticut and other U.S. states.
Prenuptial Agreements are governed by Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-36d(a). Postnuptial Agreements are not governed by any statutes in Connecticut. They can, however, be used to address the same issues. Among other things, spouses can address their rights and obligations concerning real and personal property acquired before or after the marriage and rights to such property in the event of a divorce. Postnuptial agreements can also be used to determine the rights of the parties’ children to any real or personal property. Postnuptial agreements can also be used to reach an agreement on spousal support in the event of a divorce.
Since a postnuptial agreement occurs after the marriage, the feelings of the parties can be quite different. The parties are now married. They may have children together. And, there may be additional complex family and personal dynamics to take into account. Some of these considerations may not have existed had the parties entered into a prenuptial agreement.
Why choose a postnuptial agreement?
There are several reasons why someone may wish to opt for a postnuptial agreement. For example, a couple may be unable to comes to terms on a prenuptial agreement, and therefore decide to postpone the matter until the marriage in in place.
A postmarital agreement may also be sought if there is some significant change in circumstances after the union. One spouse may experience post-wedding financial good fortune, or decide to put a career on hold to care for children. Someone may insist on a postnuptial agreement if a spouse is engaging in reckless financial behavior, or if there is turbulence in the marriage. In this context, postmarital agreements are often a last resort of sorts for couples who may be heading toward divorce, but who wish to exhaust all options before taking that step.
The basics of drafting a postnuptial agreement
As with prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements are subject to court review. This means that the agreement must meet certain standards in order to be considered valid. These standards include:
- The contract must be fair to all parties, reasonable and accurate
- The contract must be written rather than verbal
- The contract must be mutually voluntary
- Full disclosure must be made in terms of assets, debts, income etc.
Along with meeting these standards, a postnuptial contract will generally outline how assets and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce. Potential spousal support and rules for property division if one spouse dies are also subject to the terms of the contract. Child support, visitation and custody terms inserted into a postnuptial agreement are unenforceable in Connecticut. What is in the best interests of the children is for the court to decide.
Finding the right legal partner
In Connecticut, the state Supreme Court has upheld the validity of postnuptial agreements, which means that these agreements are permissible for state residents. It’s important to do your due diligence before moving forward with a postnuptial agreement, however. This means consulting with an experienced attorney who specializes in Connecticut family law.
At Brickley Law, we have the deep legal experience necessary to handle even the most complex postnuptial agreement issues. If you have questions about how these agreements work, we encourage you to give us a call today.