January 28, 2016 Melissa

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements: Why and How?

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The beginning of a new year brings all different flavors of change, in relationships and otherwise. Nicknamed Divorce Month”, January sees an outpouring of couples looking to end their relationships. At the same time, there is a surge of couples beginning the year hopeful and ready to move to the next stage with their partner.

Couples got engaged over the holidays or in the fall, or proposals are forthcoming. Wedding season is on the horizon. Approaching marriage, it is important to consider whether you are going to execute a prenuptial agreement.

*Why get a prenuptial agreement?

There is a fair amount of social stigma attached to prenuptial agreements: Aren’t you expecting your marriage to last forever? Why are you preparing for divorce? Does a prenup doom your marriage from the start?

When saying “I do”, most all couples hope for “happily ever after”. The truth is, however, more than half of American marriages end in divorce, despite everyone’s best intentions.

As much as a marriage is a public declaration of love and commitment, it is a financial partnership, endorsed by the government and involving certain rights and responsibilities. Prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly popular. This is not because people are assuming their marriage will end in divorce, but because they are choosing to be prepared for all outcomes and protecting themselves and their separate property.

Making the decision to end a marriage is generally an emotional and painful process, unique to each individual couple. For couples who determine it is in their best interest to divorce, having a prenuptial agreement in place eases the process somewhat, with decisions about some of the important logistics involved in the separation process having already been made.

Washington is a community property state. Pre- and postnuptial agreements allow for clarity when it comes to property and asset ownership during a marriage and in the event of a divorce or legal separation. Spousal maintenance (also known as alimony or spousal support) and life insurance may also be included in these contracts. Washington state pre- and postnuptial agreements do not address child custody or child support issues.

*Definitions:

  • Prenuptial agreements are executed and determined before a marriage, clarifying which assets are brought to the partnership by each party. These contracts serve to characterize the assets and determine how they would be addressed in the event of a separation or divorce.
  • Postnuptial agreements are executed and updated continually after a couple is married. This is a written contract used to clarify ownership of assets or debts acquired during the marriage and to settle the couple’s affairs and assets in the event of a separation or divorce.
  • Cohabitation agreements are contracts between unmarried couples who live together, detailing legal rights and responsibilities between partners. Property ownership is clarified and it is determined how assets and debts will be divided in the event of a separation. In Washington State, committed intimate relationships (formerly known as meretricious relationships) hold rights and responsibilities similar to those of married couples, including property and asset ownership. Cohabitation agreements serve to protect individuals and their assets.

*Legal Representation:

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can be complex and must meet certain criteria in order to be enforceable. Each party much have an independent attorney’s advice and counsel before the agreement is signed. It is essential to work with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney through this process. Our family law attorneys are well-versed in the sensitive nature of this topic area. We are prepared to help you navigate the process, offer sound legal advice and counsel, and draft your contract as appropriate. We are experienced in executing very complex and also more simple pre- and postnuptial agreements, depending on your unique situation. We will advocate for you and help protect your assets in the event divorce becomes a reality.

Please contact our family law attorneys today for a consultation.

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