A prenuptial agreement is an agreement between two parties made in anticipation of marriage. The agreement is typically intended to address property and other monetary-related issues which may arise out of the marriage. Prenuptial agreements may be referred to by other terms such as an antenuptial agreement, prenuptial contract, premarital agreement or “prenup.”
Prenuptial agreements are governed by contract law in the state of Maryland. The purpose of such an agreement can vary, but they are essentially used for parties to agree on issues including:
When two parties become married, their property and finances often become intertwined. This is especially true for longer-term marriages where the parties have spent years commingling bank accounts, marital funds and other property. If the parties divorce and do not have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place, the marital claims of each spouse to marital property can result in a contentious and “messy” divorce process. By putting a prenuptial agreement in place prior to the marriage, the parties can protect their assets and have greater financial stability in the unfortunate event of a divorce.
While prenuptial agreements can address a wide variety of property and financial issues, there are certain issues that prenuptial agreements cannot address. For example, prenuptial agreements cannot determine custody or child support for any minor children that the parties have in common. The rationale behind this is that custody issues must be decided in “real time” in order to adequately address what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests at the time of divorce. In other words, what may be in the child’s best interests at the time the prenuptial agreement is entered into may not necessarily be what is in the child’s best interests years later during a divorce.
Valid prenuptial agreements will govern property and monetary issues in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements must be in writing and signed by both parties. Signatures to a prenuptial agreement are typically performed in the presence of a notary public (who provides a verification signature), other witnesses or an attorney.
Either spouse may challenge the prenuptial agreement if there is suspicion of fraud, duress, coercion, mistake, undue influence, incompetence or gross unfairness. It is important to note that it is generally difficult to challenge and void a prenuptial agreement. The burden is on the challenging spouse to prove the agreement’s lack of validity and unenforceability.
Experienced legal counsel can advise you regarding your rights under a prenuptial agreement. Robert Greenberg, Esq. and the law firm of Greenberg Legal Group LLC are proficient in drafting prenuptial agreements and guiding clients through this process. If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, please contact our office at (410) 650-4242 for further assistance.