The Safety Net: Marital Settlement Agreements
What is a Marital Agreement?
A marital agreement is a legally binding agreement entered into before or during a legal marriage.
Do I Need an Agreement For My Marriage?
If you intend to get married, or are already married, then you might need a marital agreement.
Why Get a Marital Agreement?
The main reason why many couples decide to draft marital agreements is to protect their interests in property and family from the uncertainties associated with death or divorce. In the absence of a marital agreement, the distribution of a couple’s assets may be dictated by state laws that don’t necessarily serve the couple’s best interests, so drafting an agreement before (known as a prenuptial agreement) or during a legal marriage can serve to protect the couple and their family from the expenses and uncertainty of potential legal proceedings.
What If You Already Have a Marital Agreement With Your Spouse?
Even if you have already drafted and signed an agreement with your current spouse, you should consider having it reviewed by a qualified attorney. As the circumstances of a marriage evolve over time, the spirit and letter of the original marriage agreement may be forgotten or misunderstood. In order to keep your marital agreement legally valid, you should consider reviewing and updating it periodically or when a significant financial or emotional change occurs within the context of the marriage.
How Do I Obtain a Marital Agreement?
The most important thing you will need in order to obtain a legally binding marital agreement is the consent of your spouse. Without their consent, the contract does not technically exist and is therefore not enforceable. And although verbal contracts are legally binding, they are often times hard to prove in court, so it is important that you put down any agreement in writing and have it recognized by an official entity of some sort, usually someone with the authority to notarize documents. It is important, however, that you consult a qualified attorney before attempting to draft a marital agreement. Without the knowledge and expertise of an attorney, the chances of drafting a legally valid marital agreement drop considerably. Once you and your spouse have discussed the details of a possible marital agreement, you should consult an attorney who specializes in family law and has relevant experience drafting marital agreements in the state where you intend to get married or are already married.