A prenuptial agreement sets in place the rights and duties of marriage (or civil) partners in the event of divorce. These agreements have become more common in many first marriages and are now very common in second and subsequent marriages. This fact makes sense if you consider that many people are today more sensitive to their rights and duties in marriage and want to address the separation and distribution of their assets in the event of divorce. Having such an agreement is even more important if there are minor children from previous marriages in the situation, or the married couple intends to have their own children as well.
Each of the various states have specific legal requirements for the creation and formation of a binding prenuptial agreement. The policies supporting these requirements are intended to ensure that each party is fully aware of the terms and consequences of such agreements, and the agreement is completely voluntary. All states typically require that both parties can consult with their own attorney before signing such an agreement.
Similar considerations—and related rules—apply when married couples (or civil partners) enter into post-nuptial or “separation” agreements, after the marriage is legally in place, which divide certain assets in the marriage. Such agreements are often used for estate and asset planning purposes, and the consequences are similarly very important to understand for both partners.
The stakes are very high under any of these agreements. It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney before signing off, whether you are seeking such an agreement or reacting to a request from your partner.