What prenups are and what they cover

Despite the fact that state laws already exist surrounding how property and other assets will be divided in the event of either your spouse's death or a divorce, many couples elect to have a prenuptial agreement drafted to protect their interests. As a result, if you have a prenup in place, a judge will take into account the terms of your agreement in rendering decisions before finalizing your divorce.

Aside from serving the role of taking finances out of the state's hands and placing it instead in those of the couple, it's intended to protect not just one party's interests, but those of both people involved. Both parties must consult with legal counsel before signing a prenup to ensure that the agreement does not adversely impact one party at the cost of another and that it's properly executed before filing it.

Among some of the more common areas of interest that prenups cover, the division of property is one. If one of the spouses enters into the marriage with property that is one's own name and keeps it as such for the duration of a relationship, he or she can readily document on the prenup that the person wishes for the property to remain his or hers alone in the event of a divorce.

In contrast, a prenup can be used to delineate who is the designated owner of marital property as well. Additionally, a prenup can establish the couple's guidelines for deciding how much alimony, spousal or child support the less economically solvent spouse will receive in the event of a divorce. It can speak to child custody and visitation preferences as well.

It can also be used to document pre-marital debt that either spouse may have. Unless it's documented, it can be argued that this type of debt was accumulated as a couple, thus resulting in both parties being liable for repaying it.

As noted above, not only must couples seek the counsel of separate attorneys prior to signing a prenup, but couples must voluntarily enter into the agreement and accurately list their assets for the agreement to be upheld. It a party might have been forced into signing the agreement or it comes off as inequitable, the prenup stands to be nullified.

If you're looking to have a prenup agreement drafted to protect your assets, a Manhattan divorce attorney can provide guidance in your particular case.

Source: nycbar.org, "Prenuptial agreements," accessed April 21, 2017

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