Pre- and post-marital agreements, also called pre- and post-nuptial agreements, are extremely common in Virginia marriages. And despite the stigma that is associated with these agreement types – mainly, that by creating such an agreement parties are assuming the worst about the future outcome of their marriage – marital agreements can be a very smart part of the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone. At the law offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., we have helped numerous couples in Manassas and surrounding areas of Virginia create pre- and post-marital agreements that work for them.
Marital Agreement: What’s That?
A premarital agreement is an agreement that is entered into before a marriage takes place; a post-marital agreement is one that is entered after the marriage has already occurred. Regardless of when the agreement is entered into, the agreement will address certain provisions of the marriage, and specifically refers to what will become of property in the event of separation, divorce, or death of one of the spouses.
What Is Included in a Pre- or Post-Marital Agreement?
According to Virginia Code Section 20-150, parties of a premarital agreement create the contract with respect to:
- The rights and obligations of each party in respect to individual or joint property;
- The rights to control property, including the right to buy or sell property, transfer or lease property, dispose of property, and more;
- How property will be distributed in the event of divorce or death;
- Spousal support (alimony) should the marriage be terminated;
- Benefits regarding a life insurance policy;
- The composition of a will or trust; and
- All other matters, including personal rights and obligations, that are not prohibited under law.
What Makes a Marital Agreement Valid?
Creating a marital agreement is a big decision, and one that should not be taken lightly or forced upon one spouse by the other. Instead, couples should sit down and work together to determine whether the creation of a marital agreement makes sense, and if so, what provisions the agreement should contain. In fact, a pre- or post-marital agreement will be found void by a court if it is determined that:
- One party did not enter into the agreement voluntarily; or
- One party did not receive fair disclosure of property or financial obligations of the other party prior to the agreement being signed.
If there are any provisions within a marital agreement that the court considers to be “unconscionable,” meaning unreasonable, these issues will be decided by the court on a case-by-case basis.
What Cannot Be Included in a Premarital Agreement?
There are several items that are frowned upon in the inclusion of a marital agreement, and that will not be enforced by a court should separation or death occur. These typically include:
- Any provisions including child support or child custody;
- A spouse completely waiving their right to alimony;
- Anything illegal; and
- Many provisions about personal matters that are not financial, such as a requirement that one spouse clean the house daily, or is solely responsible for cooking meals.
Can Pre- or Post-nuptial Agreements Be Changed?
Entering a pre- or post-nuptial agreement can be intimidating; after all, who’s to say what the future will look like, and what your financial situation will be in 10, 20, or 30 years? The good news is that after a marriage occurs, an agreement can be amended or revoked at any point, so long as both parties agree to the amendment/revocation in writing.
What Are the Benefits of a Marital Agreement?
There are many advantages to entering a marital agreement with your spouse. As romantic as the idea of marriage may be, it’s important to remember that a marriage is also a type of contract with your spouse, and one that has legal repercussions. Entering a pre- or post-nuptial agreement can be one part of your plan for a life together and can be used to protect you and your spouse from financial ruin or controversy should divorce occur. What’s more, a marital agreement can be used to protect inheritance rights of children and grandchildren, protect a business, protect you from acquiring your spouse’s debt, protect your personal wealth, and ensure that you receive spousal support if you are giving up your career to stay home and raise children together. Marital agreements can also mitigate messy divorce cases; you already have an agreement, which means you will not have to worry about battling about who will get what or how an estate will be divided.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Of course, all legal agreements have pros and cons. While our legal team at the offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C. strongly believes that the benefits of entering a marital agreement outweigh the drawbacks, we do recognize that each situation is different. Some couples may feel as though the request for a marital agreement starts a marriage off with an underlying sense of distrust, or may be worried that by entering an agreement, they will give up certain financial rights that they would otherwise be entitled to should the agreement not exist. Because entering a marital agreement is such a serious and personal decision, our lawyers encourage you to work with a legal professional and discuss your options, a financial expert, and to consider marriage counseling before saying “I do” as well.
We’re Here to Help
If you have decided that creating a pre- or post-nuptial agreement is the right choice for you, or that you would like to amend or revoke an existing marital agreement, our lawyers are here to provide you with the support, guidance, and legal services you’re looking for.
You can call our law offices to learn more about our services and marital contracts at 703-361-1555 today. If you’re in the area, please feel free to stop by our office on Peabody Street in Manassas at your convenience. We hope to see you soon!