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Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two people before they get married intended to address property and support issues in the event of divorce or death of one of the parties. The contract can result in a very different arrangement than would follow from applying Massachusetts divorce law. Two examples would be property that one party brings into a marraige: a prenuptial agreement can say that most or evenall of premarital property stays with the person who had it at the time of the marriage. A prenuptial agreement can also deal with alimony. Child custody, visitation rights, and child support are three areas that cannot be controlled by a prenuptial agreement; for those issues Massachusetts law determines the outcome.

Is a prenuptial enforceable?

Massachusetts law is clear that a pre-nuptial agreement can be valid and enforceable if it was fair and reasonable at the time it was signed,  and also fair and reasonable at the time it is to be enforced. At a minium, to be fair and reasonable at the time it was signed there must be complete disclosure of the financial circumstances of both parties: all assets, liabilities and income needs to be set forth. It is helpful but not absolutely required that each party had a lawyer. To be deemed fair the prenuptial agreement should provide for some reasonable distribution, either in the form of property division or alimony or both.

Is a prenuptial agreement for you?

In the most common case of two people getting married, it is a first marriage for both, they are relatively close in age, and neither brings substantial assets into the marriage. For such a couple there is little need for a prenuptial agreement.

If you were previously married and have children from that marriage that you wish to provide for, or if you bring substantial assets into the marriage, or if there is a large gap between your income and that of your fiance, a prenuptial agreement can be an appropriate tool to ensure that if the marriage ends you retain your assets for yourself or your children.

Postnuptial agreements

A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement in that it is a contract intended to set forth the rights of parties for property and support rather than relying on Massachusetts divorce law. It is different from a prenuptial agreement in that it is signed during the marriage, not before. As with a prenuptial agreement a postnuptial agreement must be deemed fair and reasonable both  at time of signing, including full disclosure of all financial circumstances, and fair and reasonable at time of divorce, but the standards, while similar, are not the same.

Need for a lawyer

Hiring a competent family law attorney, such as Sanford I. Furman, is helpful for several reasons. Attorney Furman can advise you if a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is right for you. Attorney Furman can draft such an aggreement for you or, if you are the other party, Attorney Furman can review the agreement and make sure it is fair and reasonable, discussing with you what you are sacrificing by signing such a document.

Having a competent family law attorney involved also helps assure that the agreement will satisfy the standards established by our courts for prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

If you are considering a prenuptial agreement before getting married, or a postnuptial agreement during your marriage, contact the Law Offices of Sanford I. Furman for a consultation. If your fiance has told you that she wants you to sign a prenuptial agreement before the wedding, or your spouse has told she wants you to sign a postnuptial agreement, Attorney Furman can advise you and can often negotiate changes in the language to better protect you.

Call today for an appointment for a free initial consultation at Attorney Furman’s offices in Wellesley or Westborough.