Every year, more than 24,000 couples file for divorce in Washington State. Few people ever think about divorce when they’re on the precipice of getting married. The unfortunate reality is, in some cases, it’s wise for both parties to think ahead should they decide to divorce down the road.
Prenuptial agreements are often viewed as entering a marriage with a belief that it will fail. The truth is, entering into a prenuptial agreement is a simple way to secure your legal rights, should the marriage fail for any reason in the future. Oftentimes, having a marital agreement in place can provide both spouses with valuable peace of mind as they enter into the marriage process.
For more than 20 years, William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law, has been working with couples preparing to enter into both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Their firm proudly serves clients in Grays Harbor County and Pacific County, Washington.
Marital agreements address the rights and responsibilities of both spouses during the marriage, as well as how assets, liabilities, and other property might be divided if the marriage ends.
As implied by their titles, a prenuptial agreement is entered into by a couple before they are legally wed, which means before they obtain and sign their marriage license. A postnuptial agreement is drafted and signed after the couple is married.
Both agreements are designed to protect each party’s assets, share liabilities, and set parameters for things like division of assets and spousal support should the marriage fail or should one spouse die during the marriage. The latter is particularly important when protecting a business established by one party’s family or protecting the inheritance of children from previous relationships or the current marriage.
Many people believe marital agreements only protect the assets of a wealthy spouse from a poorer one. Others believe that marital agreements are only considered when one or both individuals believe the marriage will fail before it even begins. Another myth is that prenuptial and postnuptial agreements harm whichever spouse has a lower income.
The fact is that well-crafted marital agreements can protect both parties. For example, an agreement can encourage a wealthier spouse to not leave their partner “high and dry” in a divorce — particularly in a community property state like Washington where only marital property is subject to division — while still providing financial assistance to the other spouse.
Couples should consider a marital agreement in several instances, including when one party is considerably wealthier than the other. Other issues include but are not limited to when one or both individuals:
Enter into marriage with considerable debt;
Own valuable real estate property, businesses, or other assets;
Have been married before;
Have children from prior relationships.
In addition to protecting each spouse’s interests, marital agreements give both parties a legal contract that sets expectations and makes the process of dissolving the marriage smoother and less stressful.
Prenuptial agreements require that each party fully disclose all assets and debts. That knowledge is vital when couples entering marriage have conversations about their priorities and expectations for the marriage and the event of divorce. Once married, marital agreements can protect both parties when emotions, family, finances, and relationship changes.
There are several key factors to consider when evaluating a marital agreement to ensure its validity. These factors include:
The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties before a notary.
Both parties must fully disclose all assets, liabilities, and income and include a comprehensive list of them in the agreement.
The attorneys for each party must also sign the agreement, testifying that their client understood the agreement and did not sign under any duress.
If the couple signs a prenuptial agreement but does not end up getting married, the agreement is unenforceable. The agreement may also be unenforceable if the court finds that a party signed under coercion or duress if both parties were represented by the same attorney, or that either party failed to fully disclose all assets, liabilities, and income.
Regardless of why a couple is considering a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, marital agreements are not harbingers of divorce. They are designed to protect the interests of both parties in the event that the marriage does fail. What’s important is to consult your own family law attorney to ask questions, get answers, and draft an agreement that protects your best interests, whether you ever end up needing it or not.
William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law, works with clients from Grays Harbor County and Pacific County, Washington to craft marital agreements that not only protect their interests but stand up under the scrutiny of the court.
To find out more about the benefits of marital agreements, call William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law today to schedule an appointment.