We’ve all heard the story or seen the episode on TV: the guy comes to the girl (or vice-versa) the night before the wedding and asks her to sign a piece of paper [prenuptial agreement] for property protection in the event of divorce. [Side note: if this is your story, that agreement may not be legally enforceable.] An often forgotten but, arguably, more practical and beneficial option is what is known legally as a postnuptial agreement.
The two documents, a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) vs. postnuptial (“postnup”) agreement, are essentially the same except that a prenup is drafted and signed before the marriage and a postnup is a contract entered into between married couples or those in a civil union. Both contracts are generally written to settle a couples affairs and assets in the event of a later divorce. Notably, a prenup has more legal requirements than a postnup agreement. However, because it comes with more legal requirements, some states view prenuptial agreements more favorably than postnuptial agreements.
Regardless, these contracts are recognized as valid in Pennsylvania so long as certain conditions are satisfied. When compared to other states, Pennsylvania is relatively undemanding when it comes to the requirements that must be satisfied to create a valid postnuptial agreement. The two major requirements in Pennsylvania are that there is a full disclosure of assets and no fraud. Therefore, even if the agreement if entirely one-sided to one of the two spouses, it can still be enforced. You should know that, unlike other states, Pennsylvania generally does not look to “fairness” itself as an element in determining the enforceability of the contract.
You might be thinking to yourself, “we’ve been married for X number of years, so it’s too late to enter into such a contract now.” Wrong! It’s never too late to protect your individual financial assets, and you should be aware of your rights to do so after you say “I do.” A common concern is that presenting your spouse with this option might lead to marital strife. This is an understood and appreciated concern, but a 2008 CNN Article titled “Quit fighting – get a postnuptial agreement” sheds some light on why these post-marriage contracts may be a factor in SAVING a marriage. In fact, the couple cited their postnuptial agreement as the reason why they made it to their 30th wedding anniversary.
If you are considering a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, an experienced and effective family law attorney is essential. Both forms of contract are complicated, as they should be, and require a proper accounting and disclosure. After reading the above, if you believe this option is a potential tool for you, contact the family law attorneys Michael Cassidy, Dennis Meakim, and Karen Angelucci at Howland Hess O’Connell. If you reside in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, we are licensed in your state.
Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourage all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.