Divorce Library – Premarital Agreements Faqs

  What is a premarital agreement?


A Premarital Agreement is an agreement between your prospective spouse and you made in contemplation of marriage. It is effective upon marriage. If you don’t get married, it has no legal effect.

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  What does it do?


A Premarital Agreement allows your prospective spouse and you to define the property rights each of you will have during the marriage – and if the two of you divorce. Premarital Agreements may also affect your respective rights to income during the marriage and spousal support upon legal separation or divorce.

Premarital Agreements may not be used to pre-determine custody, visitation or child support. Any attempt to do so would be void.

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  Why might I need a premarital agreement?


A Premarital Agreement allows your prospective spouse and you to define their rights to property or support in ways that differ from the rights the two of you may have under the laws of the state in which the two of you reside – or the state in which you might someday get divorced.

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  Aren’t premarital agreements only for the wealthy?


Not necessarily. While it is often the case that prospective spouses with substantial assets and income have Premarital Agreements to protect their property and income, Premarital Agreements are also especially useful in the following situations:

  • Your prospective spouse or you have children from a prior marriage, and want to protect assets owned prior to marriage so that those assets go to the children;
  • You may eventually move from a community property state like California, where assets and debts are generally split 50/50, to an equitable division state, where assets may be split unequally; or
  • Your prospective spouse and you want to keep your financial affairs separate during the marriage.

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  Can’t I just download a form document from the internet or something from a book?


You could, but since each state has different laws regarding property and support, you have no way of knowing the legal effect of the document you are signing when the agreement has to be enforced. In the end, what you save on the cost of having a Premarital Agreement drafted correctly by an expert divorce lawyer will be lost several times over if you divorce and the agreement you prepared yourself turns out to be unenforceable.

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