Getting married is one of life’s biggest decisions – and greatest risks. North Carolina law provides a way to reduce the risk by allowing you to enter into a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is an agreement between two engaged parties about what will happen to their property if they divorce.
In order to be valid, a prenuptial agreement has to be in writing, and signed by both parties in the couple.
Crafting a prenuptial agreement may take some discussion with your spouse. Consider who should manage property in the event of a divorce; whether you would want certain property sold, or held by one spouse. Also consider property that is owned before the marriage. Will it continue to belong to the spouse bringing it into the marriage?
Much of the time, prenuptial agreements exist in order to protect one spouse’s or the other’s separate property. Spouses may wish to discuss how they will handle debts brought into the marriage, and leave these as separate property so that the person who incurred them is also the one who pays them off.
Additionally, future spouses can consider what will happen to property the couple acquires jointly during the marriage. Will anything purchased from the couple’s joint checking account be considered marital property? Will it be divided equally upon a divorce, or in some other way? In the same vein, how does the couple plan to pay for joint expenses? Will there be a joint account both will contribute to equally (or based on the percentage of each one’s income?) How about debt that is incurred during the marriage?
Another issue a couple may wish to consider is how they will deal with a marital residence. In whose name will the property be titled? Who will pay the mortgage, and how will the property be divided in the event of a divorce? Will it be sold, with the proceeds split? Will one party buy out the other spouse’s interest?
Spouses should also consider the question of spousal support (alimony.) How much will be necessary/fair?
In order to make sure a prenuptial agreement is valid, the parties must first make full disclosure of their financial situation – all assets, liabilities, and other debts. Neither party may be under “undue influence” – in other words, the agreement should be signed more than thirty days before the marriage, and both parties should have an attorney representing them. Finally, the prenuptial agreement must be fair – otherwise a court may strike it down.
Jonathan Meek is familiar with drafting prenuptial agreements that will be fair and enforceable for both spouses. Contact him today to discuss this important issue.