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Wayne Family Law Attorney Discusses Prenuptial or Premarital Agreements

Many people get engaged over the winter holidays or around Valentine’s Day. If you or anyone that you knew got engaged over the past few months, then you may be wondering, “is a prenuptial agreement necessary?” Although the Pennsylvania Divorce Code has been written to protect the interests of both high-wage earning spouses and financially-dependent spouses in the event of a divorce, there are many situations in which family law attorneys recommend a prenuptial agreement. For example, if one spouse has an interest in a family business, children from a prior marriage, or the potential for a large inheritance or trust distribution, then a prenuptial agreement can help protect those interests even further.

When deciding whether or not you should sign a prenuptial agreement, which can also be called a premarital agreement, the most important thing that you can do is learn about what your rights and obligations would be in the event of a divorce. In other words, without a prenuptial agreement, what does the law provide? The family law attorneys at Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman LLC can help you understand what a divorce would look like without a prenuptial agreement so that you know what you might be gaining or giving up by signing a prenuptial agreement.

For instance, in Pennsylvania the marital assets and liabilities are not necessarily divided equally (50%/50%), but are instead divided equitably. That means that the court looks at a long list of factors to determine what a fair distribution of the marital estate would be, and it could end up that 60% of the estate will be going to one spouse. But as part of a prenuptial agreement you and your spouse could decide that the assets and liabilities will simply be divided equally, no matter what the situation is when you separate. Similarly, the law provides for the lower-wage earning spouse to receive post-divorce alimony if he or she has unmet needs and other circumstances warrant it. But as part of a prenuptial agreement the parties can both agree to waive alimony.

Prenuptial agreements can vary greatly in terms of scope. Some prenuptial agreements completely change how finances would be handled in the event of a divorce, such as by stating that each spouse would just retain the assets or liabilities in their individual names, no matter when or how the asset was acquired or liability incurred. This is in contrast to Pennsylvania law, which generally states (with a few exceptions) that any asset acquired or liability incurred during the marriage is marital property, regardless of which spouse holds title.

On the other hand, if you or your potential spouse do not want to make any general waivers as part of a premarital agreement, you can instead craft a premarital agreement that is very narrow in scope and only addresses a specific issue. For example, if one spouse owns a small, privately-held company, a premarital agreement could simply address how the marital value of the company will be determined in the event of a divorce or separation, so that neither party needs to expend thousands of dollars for a business valuation.

It is important to note that for a premarital agreement to be binding and enforceable, there needs to be full and fair disclosure of all assets, liabilities and income. See Simeone v. Simeone, 581 A.2d 162 (Pa. 1990). This means that each party must have been made aware of everything that the other party owns, owes and earns, so that they are each making an informed decision when entering into the agreement. This exchange of documents and information can take some time, so it is important not to wait until the last minute to pursue having a prenuptial agreement drafted. But as long as there was an honest disclosure of all of the finances, then a prenuptial agreement will not be overturned just because a party later thinks it is unfair, because they did not consult with an attorney, or because it was signed only a few days before the wedding.

Call Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman LLC for Skilled Family Law Attorneys in Wayne

The family law attorneys at Vetrano | Vetrano & Feinman LLC work with clients in Wayne and other areas near Philadelphia’s Main Line. We understand that the negotiation of a prenuptial agreement is a delicate matter that requires a balance of strong advocacy with tempered sensitivity. The goal is always to draft an agreement that protects our client’s interests without offending the other party or causing undue stress leading up to the wedding. If you are interested in discussing a prenuptial agreement, please contact us today for a consultation.

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