Prenuptial agreements have become increasingly common in Virginia and throughout the United States. They are not just for the rich and famous, either. Given the high divorce rate in America, many people view prenuptial agreements as a way to protect themselves and their assets. Also, people are marrying later in life than they used to. As a result, both men and women are often wealthier when they enter into marriage and have more to lose should the marriage fail. Further, a party entering into a second or third marriage may have a family from a previous marriage that requires support. By signing a prenuptial agreement, parties are able to ensure that their financial interests are protected and that any family members from a previous marriage remain taken care of.
When a divorce occurs in Virginia, the parties’ property is subject to equitable distribution. What one spouse owned prior to the marriage can become transformed into “marital property” during the marriage and become subject to equitable distribution. Through a prenuptial agreement, the parties can dictate terms that would keep specified property separate (such that it would not be subject to equitable distribution) or even rule out equitable distribution altogether.
Generally, prenuptial agreements are allowed when they regulate the disposition of property on death/divorce or dictate spousal support terms. However, prenuptial agreements are generally not allowed when they seek to regulate the “incidents of marriage” (i.e. sexual relations, caretaking, and other aspects central to the marital relationship) Prenuptial agreements will be struck down if they in any way serve to encourage divorce.
Even if parties are already married, happily or unhappily, they can enter into postnuptial agreements with terms similar to those described above.
Whether you are currently married or are considering marriage, be it your first, second, third, etc., a pre- or postnuptial agreement may be right for you. An experienced family law attorney can also assist you in preparing a valid and enforceable agreement.
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