Money and property are often subjects of disagreement between couples and are among the most common reasons for divorce. Contracts between fiancés or spouses spelling out these matters can help set expectations that help preserve the marriage. They also can ease the process of dissolving the marriage and govern how the spouses will manage their joint interests while living apart.

Contact a Fairfield marital agreements lawyer for information about how a contract might benefit you and your fiancé or spouse. A local family attorney can draft a marital agreement or review one someone else has prepared. Each party should have their own legal counsel to ensure they understand the contract and how its terms will impact their rights.

Requirements for All Marital Agreements

A marital agreement is a contract, and like all contracts, the parties must comply with certain formalities for it to be enforceable. Marital agreements must be in writing and signed by each party.

One party commonly has more financial sophistication or resources than the other in a marital agreement. Thus, these contracts often benefit one spouse more than the other. Courts will enforce one-sided agreements if the parties entered into them willingly and with an understanding of the rights they give up in the agreement.

Complete financial disclosure by both spouses is a prerequisite to a fair marital agreement. Both parties must have the opportunity to consult with an independent attorney in Fairfield to ensure they understand the other’s disclosure and what the marital agreement will mean regarding their property and other rights during the marriage and if the relationship ends.

Types of Marital Agreements

The law recognizes different kinds of marital agreements. They differ based primarily on the couple’s relationship with each other when the contract is created, which impacts their obligations toward each other.

Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement (prenup) is a contract fiancés sign before they marry that takes effect when they marry. Prenups typically identify certain property each party desires to treat as separate property during the marriage and can address issues like the division of property if the couple divorces. Some couples use a prenup to describe how they will manage their joint property during the marriage.

Once a prenup is signed and the couple is married, the agreement cannot be revoked unless both parties agree.

Postnuptial Agreement

Married couples may enter a postnuptial agreement. It can cover all the issues a prenup covers and any other matters relevant to the couple’s situation. Many couples use a postnuptial agreement to replace a prenup that is no longer fair or workable due to unanticipated circumstances.

Sometimes, a postnuptial contract formalizes a couple’s agreement to preserve a marriage after one party’s misconduct. Couples also use postnuptial agreements to shield one spouse from the other’s debts or protect a spouse’s interest in a partnership or family business.

Separation Agreement

When couples decide to live separately on a permanent or temporary basis, they may enter a separation agreement. The separation agreement often deals with issues like which spouse remains in the family home, who pays the mortgage and household expenses, whether one spouse receives maintenance payments, and how the couple will co-parent their children.

A separation agreement can be submitted to the court and be issued as a formal court order. If the couple eventually divorces, a separation agreement can form the basis of a divorce settlement agreement.

Notably, provisions in marital agreements regarding child custody issues usually are not enforceable. Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-56 requires that any decisions regarding child custody, visitation, and support reflect the children’s best interests at the time.

Challenging a Marital Contract

Sometimes, during a divorce, one party will seek to enforce a marital agreement, and the other will ask the court to invalidate it. A well-drafted contract will typically withstand judicial scrutiny, but some circumstances may cause a judge to set aside all or part of a marital agreement.

A judge could invalidate a marital agreement if either side did not fully disclose their debts and assets. If one party was subject to undue pressure to sign the contract, the court might find they did not enter the contract voluntarily. Courts often invalidate prenups when one party presented the agreement only a short time before the wedding and the other party did not have time to seek independent legal counsel and get an objective opinion about the agreement.

Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-36g allows a court to invalidate a prenup if it was unconscionable when it was signed or when a party attempts to enforce it. Sometimes, changes to a couple’s financial position during the marriage mean that an agreement that met the basic fairness test when signed becomes unreasonably one-sided or unconscionable when the couple divorces. A seasoned Fairfield marital contracts attorney may suggest a couple enter a postnuptial agreement if their prenup has become unconscionable or challenge the enforcement of the prenup during a divorce.

Consult a Fairfield Attorney About Marital Agreements

Contracts between couples can ease many aspects of marriage and divorce. However, ensuring the contract will stand up in court is critical.

Consult an experienced Fairfield marital agreements lawyer if you need a marital contract drafted or reviewed. Call today.

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