When is Having a Prenuptial Agreement a Good Idea?
A premarital or prenuptial agreement is almost always a good idea. Really about the only time a prenuptial agreement is a bad idea is if your partner does not want one and you try to force it on him or her. That’s not only a bad idea, but such an agreement would likely not be enforceable in court if it ever came to that. Other than that situation, though, prenuptial agreements can be valuable in just about every marriage. In fact, if you got married without a prenuptial agreement, it’s not too late! You can still negotiate a postmarital or postnuptial agreement with your spouse, which can accomplish all of the things a prenup can.
What can a prenup do?
A prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by two people who are contemplating marriage, and it becomes effective upon marriage. With a prenuptial agreement, the parties set out in advance how separate property and marital property will be handled during marriage or in the event of separation, divorce, death or some other occurrence set out in the agreement. The parties can also decide whether spousal support (alimony) will be paid and if so, who will be paying it to whom, how much and for how long. A prenup can dictate other things as well, such as the purchase of life insurance policies. About the only thing a prenup cannot do related to the marriage is adversely impact one party’s right to child custody or child support.
So when do you need a prenup?
Any couple can benefit from having these matters decided in advance. Negotiating a premarital agreement allows both parties to enter into a marriage with their eyes open about the financial situation of the other party (assets and debts), knowing that they will be taken care of and not taken advantage of in the case of divorce. A prenup therefore lets the parties get married with security and peace of mind. If a divorce does occur later, the parties will be thankful for the prenup, knowing that property and spousal support issues are already taken care of and don’t have to be fought over in court.
While prenuptial agreements can work for anybody, they can be especially beneficial when there is a large disparity in wealth between the couple, and especially if one party owns an interest in a business or has other important family property or assets that need to be preserved and protected. Another instance where a prenup can be especially helpful is where one or both partners have been married before and have gone through a rough divorce; they may be gun shy to try marriage again if they think another bitter divorce may be in their future. Also, if one person has children from a previous marriage, a prenuptial agreement can help ensure that those children will be taken care of financially and not made to suffer at the expense of the other spouse.
Requirements for valid prenuptial agreements in Maryland
Maryland law does not go into great detail about what is required for a valid prenuptial agreement, but following a few simple rules of thumb will help ensure that your premarital agreement is valid and enforceable should the need ever arise. First of all, the prenup should be based on a full financial disclosure by both parties. If either party waives the right to a financial disclosure, he or she should do so in writing. The prenuptial agreement itself should be in writing and signed by both parties. The agreement must also be entered into voluntarily and not under duress or undue influence. Finally, the terms of the agreement must not be unconscionable. In other words, it cannot be so one-sided that a third party reading the agreement would be shocked at how unfair it seems.
One way to help ensure that these requirements are met is to have both parties be represented by their own independent legal counsel in the negotiating and drafting of the agreement. If only one party’s lawyer was involved in drafting the agreement, the other prospective spouse should have plenty of opportunity to have the document reviewed by his or her own attorney (don’t hand the agreement to your betrothed the day before the wedding and expect him or her to sign it on the spot).
If you have other questions about prenuptial agreements in Maryland, or if you need assistance negotiating, drafting or reviewing a premarital or postmarital agreement, contact the Coover Law Firm in Columbia, MD for assistance. Howard County Family Lawyer Fred L. Coover Esquire is here to serve you. Contact us today at (410) 995-1100.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general educational & informational purposes only. It is not intended to convey legal advice or serve as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.