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The ins and outs of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements

On Behalf of | Mar 17, 2022 | Family Law

Prenuptial agreements are an essential part of family law in Virginia and something that many soon-to-be spouses consider. Postnuptial agreements, while less commonly known, are also important legal tools.

Prenuptials and postnuptials: What are they?

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are legal documents that lay out what happens to spouses’ shared marital assets if they divorce or die. Engaged spouses create prenuptial agreements whereas married couples create postnuptial agreements after getting married. Arguably the biggest similarity between these two legal documents is that courts will closely scrutinize these agreements during divorce proceedings to ensure that they were created fairly.

What topics do these agreements cover?

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements should cover the division of financial assets, including bank account balances, homes and plots of land, and investments like stocks and bonds. Both usually cover alimony or financial spousal support in the event of divorce. In marriages with spouses who expect to receive an inheritance, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements outline how to handle properties and investments handed down by benefactors.

Who needs a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement?

Not all couples need prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. Couples who own little to no assets usually don’t need to create these contracts. Couples getting married for the first time also typically don’t need them unless one of the spouses expects to receive an inheritance.

Still, prenups can safeguard what income and other assets spouses accumulate during their marriage. This is also true for unearned income, which typically comes in the form of bequests or distributions from trusts.

How prenups affect spousal support

Prenups can eliminate the need to provide spousal support, known as alimony, after divorce if the couples decide to put it in writing. They can also specify how much money a spouse receives as alimony.

Handshake deals or verbal agreements regarding what happens to marital assets likely won’t hold up in court. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, on the other hand, are legal contracts.