Life changes after marriage. In addition to children or a new lifestyle, a spouse’s financial situation may evolve. Couples can enter agreements after they marry that can serve as a form of insurance to protect their rights if they ever divorce.
A postnuptial agreement is one of the marital agreements that set forth how a married couple will divide their property if they divorce. It is a contract similar to a prenuptial agreement and usually covers the same issues. However, a postnuptial agreement is signed after a couple marries.
In addition to covering what happens to marital property if the couple divorces or if a spouse dies, a postnuptial agreement also addresses other issues that are usually negotiated in a divorce. These include the disposition of other assets and spousal support.
Postnuptial agreements do not cover child support or custody where courts base their decisions upon the best interests of the child. These agreements may not address routine aspects of the spouses’ relationship.
There are many reasons that married couples may enter into a postnuptial agreement even years after they marry. First, a spouse may want to assure that they can keep an inheritance.
These agreements may also assure that a stay-at-home parent, who lost income or career opportunities, is compensated with assets or money. Spouses with children from a previous relationship enter these agreements to assure those children are awarded property if their parent dies or if there is a divorce.
Postnuptial agreements may also govern how a business is valued and divided, which is usually a very complicated divorce matter. These agreements can set forth a process for placing a value on the business or awarding it to a spouse in return for other nonbusiness property.
Repaying gifts and loans is also a common term. For example, a postnuptial agreement can assure that the parent’s house down payment is repaid.
There are legal requirements governing a postnuptial agreement. These should be written, entered voluntarily, fair and reasonable, and signed by the spouses. Both spouses must fully and fairly disclose all related information.
Spouses should have their own attorney assist them with negotiating these agreements to assure that they are entered knowingly and without duress. Attorneys can help protect their rights and prepare an agreement that meets North Carolina law and their needs.