Prenuptial Agreements: The Important Document You (Hopefully) Never Use
It is a sad fact that far too many marriages end in divorce. Still, no one wants to believe their relationship could be one of the unlucky ones. For this reason, very few married couples in Virginia have a premarital agreement in place.
Virginia Premarital Agreement Act
Virginia recognizes the legality and enforceability of premarital contracts in the Virginia Code §20-147. Both parties must provide the other a full, honest disclosure of all assets and debts before signing the agreement. To hold up in court, an agreement must be a written, legal document that is executed voluntarily. The agreement goes into effect at the time of marriage and can only be amended or revoked by a separate agreement signed by both parties. Any issues of enforceability and unconscionability must be decided in court.
Should I Sign a Prenuptial Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement allows you to protect your financial and personal interests, while setting marital expectations with your future spouse through complete and honest disclosure. Anyone may choose to sign a premarital agreement, but a couple is especially encouraged to consider a prenuptial agreement if:
- one or both parties have significant assets;
- one or both parties have significant debt;
- one party is much wealthier than the other;
- either party has been married before;
- either party has children from a previous relationship;
- either party is over the age of 50 at the time of marriage; or
- the parties are also partners in business.
What Is Included in a Virginia Premarital Agreement?
A prenuptial agreement often includes guidelines for financial practices both during the marriage and in case of divorce. Some issues included in a premarital agreement include:
During the marriage:
- personal and financial responsibilities
- management of property, assets, and debt
- management of business holdings
- guidelines for modifying the agreement
In the event of divorce:
- division of assets and debts
- spousal support
- estate plans
- guidelines for resolving disputes
Premarital agreements can NOT include:
- anything illegal
- child support or custody agreements
- “unconscionable” provisions (The Court will not uphold anything too unreasonable or unfair.)
Post-marital Agreements in Virginia
Occasionally, a couple will realize they want to clarify their financial expectations after they are already married. Other times, a couple that has been married for a long time needs to modify an existing agreement. In these cases, post-marital agreements can be executed to sort out any financial issues that occur during marriage. Virginia has no state-mandated “sunset clause” dictating the expiration date of prenuptial agreements. Many couples choose to include a sunset clause, agreeing the premarital agreement will be void after a certain number of years. Every couple is encouraged to reevaluate and modify the terms of their agreement if your financial situation has changed substantially, for better or worse, since you have been married.
Need a Prenup or Post-Nuptial Agreement? Call a Family Law Attorney
The Leesburg family law attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC have extensive experience with premarital, post-marital, and unmarried partnership agreements. Contact us today to take control of your financial situation and set your marriage up for success.