Prenuptial / Cohabitation Agreements
Prenuptial or Cohabitation Agreements can be a difficult subject to discuss, especially when the romance is new and the couple is planning a long term, trusting relationship. However, considering the unfortunate statistics that over 50% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages, and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, it becomes a necessary conversation to have, especially for those bringing large assets or children into the marriage.
A Prenuptial Agreement is a contract signed by a couple before their wedding detailing what their property rights and expectations would be upon divorce or death. It clearly defines division of assets, alimony, asset management during the marriage, and responsibility for debt. This document can override both Community Property Law and Equitable Distribution state law. A Cohabitation Agreement is similar, but for those living together without being married.
Couples signing a Prenuptial /Cohabitation Agreement should each have their own attorney review the document and must fully disclose all assets and financial status prior to signing. Failure to do so can nullify the agreement. It is best to sign the Prenuptial Agreement early enough before the wedding date to avoid a later claim of coercion.
Prenuptial / Cohabitation Agreements also can cover a number of stipulations other than division of property in the event of divorce such as the division of household maintenance costs, what religion the children will be raised in, etc.
A Prenuptial Agreement cannot however eliminate child support payments, provide for custody of unborn children, or do anything that is considered promoting divorce, i.e. that you can get a divorce if you catch your spouse having an affair.
Even if there are not significant assets, Prenuptial Agreements can prevent payments of alimony and other financial obligations. Not only can they establish division of assets, but they can help with estate planning issues concerning children's inheritances and welfare, such as setting aside money for college expenses, trusts for minor children, etc.
At Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk, we have years of experience drafting Prenuptial and Cohabitation Agreements. Please contact us for a consultation to see if these agreements may benefit you.