“If I sign a prenuptial agreement, it’s like expecting a divorce.”
“We don’t have any money, why would we need a prenuptial agreement?”
“I don’t want to pay alimony.”
If a family law attorney has heard these statements once, she’s heard them a thousand times.
In Virginia, we refer to prenuptial agreements as premarital agreements. A premarital agreement is a contract between two people intending to marry. Parties to a premarital agreement may contract about the following:
- the rights and obligations of the parties in property (no matter when and where they get that property)
- the right to buy, sell, use, transfer, etc. property
- what will happen to the property upon separation, divorce, death or any other event
- the obligation to pay alimony (spousal support)
- the making of estate planning documents such as a will or trust; and
- almost any other matter so long as it does not violate Virginia public policy or criminal statute.
To be enforceable, a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. The parties must sign the agreement voluntarily. Generally, a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial debts should be made before signing an agreement. For more detail, see Virginia Code Section 20-151.
Premarital agreements can protect property existing at the time of the marriage. Premarital agreements can prevent or limit spousal support payments. While these can be benefits, for sure, there are other benefits.
- A well-written premarital agreement can decide in advance of separation or divorce what who will maintain possession, control and ownership of any property acquired during the marriage.
- A premarital agreement allows parties to have more control of their assets and money in the event of a separation and divorce. To be sure, a divorcing couple can always enter into a separation agreement; however, emotions tend to run very high at this stage and a separation agreement can sometimes be more difficult to reach. A premarital agreement can work as the parties’ separation agreement.
- Finally, in Virginia, in most cases, parties must live separated for a period of one year to be finally divorced. If parties have no children, a premarital agreement can reduced that time to six months.