Almost everyone has heard of prenuptial agreements, even if it’s only because of the difficulties they are portrayed to create on sitcoms and television dramas. However, many have never heard of a postnuptial agreement. For that reason, it is important to dispel the myths regarding prenuptials and postnuptials and understand how these contracts work.

What Are These Agreements?

When you enter a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, you are signing a contract either before your marriage, or after it has ended. In both cases, you are outlining and agreeing to the rights of each spouse should one of you pass away, or should you decide to divorce. The basic difference between the two is regarding when they were written and executed.

If you are engaged to be married and enter into such a contract, it is referred to as a prenuptial or antenuptial agreement. If you enter into one of these contracts after you are already married, the term used is postnuptial agreement. For all intents and purposes, this is the only true difference between the two types of contracts. For this reason, the details explained here apply to both agreements.

Why Do Couples Choose to Enter Into a Prenup or Postnup?

There are various reasons to enter into a legal agreement with a future or current spouse, but there are three groups among which these types of agreements are most common:

  • Individuals who are getting married for the first time and possess significant assets. This may include financial wealth, tangible property they already own, or the expectation of a substantial inheritance in the future. When the situation is based on a future inheritance, it is common for the individual’s family or parents to encourage the couple to sign this contract.
  • Individuals who have been married before and suffered through a particularly difficult divorce process. After going through a nasty divorce, many people want to take measures to ensure that they never have to face such an ordeal again.
  • Individuals who have children from a previous relationship and wish to ensure that they are taking the proper measures to protect the interests of their children.

Regardless of the reason for signing a contract with your spouse, it is essential to have an experienced attorney on your side to ensure each party is satisfied with the terms. When this is the case, the agreement should not cause contention in the marriage.

Why Get a Postnuptial Agreement if You Don’t Already Have a Prenup?

There are several reasons spouses choose to create a postnup after they are married. For example, the financial status of either one of the parties may change in a way they had not expected, such as receiving a large, unforeseen inheritance. A postnuptial agreement can help the spouse to protect the inheritance from becoming marital property before claiming it. In other situations, one party may have become more successful than the other, causing their financial roles to become altered from their original state. This can make the terms of property distribution agreed upon in a prenup irrelevant or unfair. In this scenario, the postnuptial is a means of renegotiating the terms of the prenuptial.

Other reasons for getting a postnup may include one party becoming chronically ill or physically disabled, or the behavior of the parties. In the former circumstance, the spouse may need the security of the agreement for reasons such as hospice care, retirement benefits, long-term care, or health insurance. In the latter, the situation may involve an estranged, abusive, or cheating spouse, so the agreement may act as a means of laying out terms for a future separation.

Are All Prenups and Postnups Basically the Same?

Since every relationship is unique, there are always unique arrangements for prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. One of the most common types of these contracts is for both parties to agree to keep the assets they have when they enter into the marriage but to split those they acquire after they are married. In other cases, the spouses wish to keep their assets completely separate, even after the wedding day. Yet another scenario involves individuals who wish to create an agreement that splits their assets based on how long their marriage lasts.

How Are These Agreements Enforced in St. Charles, MO?

In the state of Missouri, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can only be enforced if both spouses provide full disclosure and enter the agreement freely, fairly, and with understanding of its terms. The contract must also not be unconscionable. The fairness, or conscionability, of the agreement is settled upon as of the date the agreement is made. For this reason, if an individual is considering entering into such a contract, they must contemplate whether it will protect their interests if the circumstances change.

The best way to put this decision into perspective is to consider a person who is working and supporting themselves when they enter into the agreement. The contract may include provisions stating that they waive all claims to alimony in the case of divorce. The contract will likely be enforced as long as it was fair when the individual signed it, even if that person eventually becomes unemployed or disabled and unable to support themselves when the contract is being enforced. Attention to details like this are the reason it is wise to consult a St. Charles divorce and family law attorney before entering into any prenuptial or postnuptial contract.

There are certain steps that individuals can take to ensure that their prenuptial or postnuptial agreement holds up in court. For example, both parties should have separate attorneys. This helps to guarantee that each spouse fully understood what the contract meant and signed it voluntarily. It is also a wise idea to sign prenuptial agreements well in advance of the wedding day. This prevents either party from claiming at a later time that they signed the contract under intense pressure at the final moment before they were married.

It is also vital for each spouse to completely and fully disclose each of their assets when the agreement is created. If the time ever arises that the contract is challenged, the courts will consider whether the individuals completely and fully disclosed all their financial liabilities and assets. Finally, a prenup or postnup should be fair to each party and not favor one over the other.

Reach out to a Prenuptial Lawyer With Experience

If you are considering a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, it is essential to work with an attorney who has the knowledge necessary to prepare these types of agreements. If an unfortunate event arises in your marriage and you are facing a divorce, it is also crucial to have a St. Charles divorce attorney on your side. The attorneys at Stange Law Firm can help you to challenge the validity of an agreement or enforce the same, depending on your situation. Visit our website today to learn more about how we can help you to understand and benefit from an agreement.