Contrary to popular opinion, prenuptial agreements (often referred to simply as “prenups”) are not only for the very wealthy. While they certainly provide a number of advantages for those with considerable assets, prenuptial agreements can be beneficial for anyone about to wed.
No couple likes to think about the possibility of divorce, but all marriages end at some point, either due to divorce or death. Having a plan in place can help you and your family avoid a painful, costly, drawn-out battle when the marriage ends. Everyone will know what to expect.
Prenuptial agreements are legally binding contracts, but the terms will only be enforceable if certain prerequisites are handled properly. It is wise to enlist the assistance of an experienced prenuptial agreement attorney in Fairfax to help you with the process of creating a premarital agreement. At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, we have helped countless couples establish a custom prenuptial agreement plan that provides a solid foundation for marriage.
If you are interested in creating a prenuptial agreement with your soon-to-be spouse, contact our office for a consultation. To gain the most benefits from the process, it is helpful to begin discussions on the subject as early as possible.
How a Prenuptial Agreement Can Help Every Couple
A marriage joins two lives in numerous ways. While couples preparing for marriage may engage in counseling to consider how they feel about sharing emotions or their religious beliefs, they seldom take steps to prepare for the impact of sharing their financial lives. Yet financial issues are often the biggest source of conflict in a marriage and ugly disagreements about money matters often trigger resentment and discord that can lead to dissatisfaction and divorce.
When couples plan a prenuptial agreement, they must—by law—gain an understanding of each other’s financial situation. They must learn about the debts and liabilities the other partner has incurred, and know the assets the other partner has acquired. The conversations about these intense financial issues force couples to acknowledge their situation realistically and address their financial concerns in a way they might never do otherwise. This process increases their understanding of one another and helps build a stronger basis for their marriage.
Situations When it is Especially Important to Consider a Prenuptial Agreement
While prenuptial agreements provide protection and can strengthen the bond between couples in all situations, there are certain individuals who particularly benefit from the peace of mind prenuptial agreements can offer.
You should seriously consider creating a prenuptial agreement if you or your partner:
- Have significant assets or property
- Own or co-own interests in a closely-held business
- Have children from a previous relationship
- Are entering a later-in-life marriage and want to maintain separate assets
- Want to distinguish marital property from separate property
- Wish to clarify or eliminate the possibility of spousal support (alimony)
Regardless of your particular circumstances, our Fairfax prenuptial agreement attorneys can work with you to find a strategy that’s right for you and your spouse. We work through a collaborative approach to avoid conflict while ensuring that your specific needs are taken into account and that your prenuptial agreement is legally sound. Our goal is to facilitate effective communication and negotiation between you and your future spouse in order to reach a resolution that benefits all parties involved.
What You Can (and Can’t) Include in a Prenuptial Agreement
While prenups used to be used primarily as a tool to limit alimony and define property settlements in anticipation of divorce, couples now use prenuptial agreements to address responsibilities and rights during their marriage as well. Your attorney should carefully review your goals and objectives to determine the important terms to include in your agreement.
Your prenuptial agreement might include terms addressing:
- Each partner’s right to sell, buy, or manage certain property
- Descriptions of property to be held as separate, non-marital property
- Rights to life insurance benefits
- Terms for spousal support
- Choice of law to govern the terms
- Making a will or trust to carry out the terms
Virginia law does not allow parties to create an enforceable agreement about certain matters in advance, particularly matters that concern their children. That means a prenuptial agreement cannot specify custody arrangements or limit child support. Those decisions will be made later in accordance with the best interests of the children involved.
A Prenuptial Agreement Should Be a Joint Project
While a prenuptial agreement can strengthen a marriage relationship, it can also sabotage the relationship if one partner handles the matter unwisely. If you create an agreement on your own and present it to your partner days before the wedding demanding a signature, that partner can feel betrayed and worried for the future.
Instead, it is important to make the process of creating a prenuptial agreement a joint project. Allow plenty of time for thought and discussion—months if necessary. When you bring up the subject, explain to your partner the benefits you both gain from the process and the protections it can provide to both of your families. Each of you should consult your own individual attorney for guidance so that you can feel confident your interests are protected and that the agreement is fair and enforceable.
While you can change or revoke the terms of your premarital agreement later if you choose to do so, both of you must agree in writing.
Prenuptial Agreements FAQ
Are prenuptial agreements enforceable in Virginia?:
Virginia law allows courts to enforce the terms of prenuptial agreements if those terms and the document itself meets all legal requirements. Generally, the agreement must be in writing and both partners should receive fair and reasonable disclosure of the assets and debts of the other partner, or they must expressly waive their right to disclosure. They must also both sign the agreement voluntarily.
What makes a prenuptial agreement invalid?
A prenuptial agreement in Virginia will be deemed invalid, meaning it is not legally enforceable, if one party was coerced into signing it. An agreement will also be held invalid if the terms are “unconscionable” (grossly unfair) and both parties did not receive proper financial disclosure or legally waive their right to receive disclosure. Finally, a prenuptial agreement is based on anticipation of marriage, so if a marriage is found to be void, then the terms of the agreement are not enforceable except as necessary to avoid an “inequitable result.”
When can a prenup be overturned in VA?
If someone objects to the terms of a prenuptial agreement in Virginia, the court may refuse to enforce the agreement (overriding the validity) if any one of the following is true:
- The agreement is not in writing
- The agreement is not signed voluntarily by both parties
- The court determines that the agreement is unconscionable and both parties did not receive full disclosure of the other’s financial situation, or
- The court determines that the agreement is unconscionable and the party contesting the agreement did not legally waive their right to financial disclosure
- The marriage on which the agreement is predicated is void
What cannot be included in a prenup in VA?
A prenuptial agreement cannot be used to establish terms for children such as custody arrangements or limitations on child support. Courts base their decisions on the current best interests of the child, so the issues cannot be addressed in advance. Moreover, it is the child’s interests that govern these issues, not the convenience of the parents.
When can the terms of a prenup be changed in VA?
When a couple enters into a legally binding prenuptial agreement, they are free to amend the terms of the agreement or cancel that agreement at any time. Couples often update their agreements to account for changing circumstances, particularly when one partner starts a business. Both parties must agree in writing to the change or revocation.
How long before a wedding should a prenup be signed?
Virginia law does not set a required timeframe for the execution of prenuptial agreements. Technically, an agreement could be signed just moments before the wedding.
As a practical matter, it takes time to develop a thoughtful agreement, and both sides must have fair opportunity to consider the terms before signing, so it is best to start work on an agreement as early in the process as possible.
How long does a prenup last?
A valid prenuptial agreement takes effect when the marriage starts, and remains in force until legally revoked or until the marriage ends. Some prenuptial agreements include a sunset clause specifying that the agreement will automatically terminate on a certain date.
Contact Our Office Today to Learn How We Could Craft the Right Prenuptial Agreement for You
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of prenuptial agreements in your particular situation, we invite you to contact our office and schedule a consultation with one of the knowledgeable family law attorneys at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC. We have worked with individuals and couples in all types of situations, including those with considerable assets, multiple children, and other various circumstances. In every instance, we strive to find a solution centered on cooperation and fairness.
Reach out to us today to find out how we can help.