What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

Prenuptial agreements are powerful legal tools that can alter the rights and options of individuals who choose to get married. They are drafted and executed before couples formalize their unions through marriage, though partners who do not enter prenups can create postnuptial agreements if they wish to do so. Marriage-based agreements often help couples establish their expectations about their money, assets, and debts and how those matters should be handled in the event the couples divorce.

There are certain terms that prenuptial agreements cannot contain. For example, couples cannot contract to break laws through the execution of their prenuptial agreements. Similarly, they may not work out any arrangements for the custody and care of their kids in such agreements. Child custody matters are based on the best interests of the affected children and courts must be able to protect the needs of any and children who may or may not yet be born.

Prenuptial agreements cannot be drafted and executed under duress or coercion. They are legally binding agreements but if a person is forced or pressured into creating one, they cannot be said to have voluntarily contracted away certain legal rights and privileges.

In some cases, couples may seek to use their prenuptial agreements to settle personal disagreements or personal points of contention. In most cases these terms will be invalidated in a prenup. Because there are many topics that prenuptial agreements may not cover, it can be beneficial to individuals to seek the counsel of family law attorneys before entering into them.

The existence of a prenuptial agreement during a divorce can change the way that a couple divides up its property and settles matters related to the parties wealth and debt. Prenuptial agreements that do not violate the law, contain prohibited provisions, or involve parties who were coerced into signing them may be controlling as individuals end their marriages.