Marital Agreements

Everyone wants their marriage to be a “happily ever after” moment. But we know all too well how frequently the exact opposite happens–two people who once saw themselves as best friends and soulmates end up fighting tooth and nail over everything they built together in a divorce proceeding.

That’s why some couples take the precautionary steps of drafting agreements in advance to help govern a potential split. A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” as it is colloquially called) is one example. A postnuptial agreement is another. As the name of these marital agreements implies, the former is signed before the wedding, the latter takes place after the couple is married.

Both agreements are governed under standard contract law in the state of Tennessee, and working with a lawyer will be very important in helping you decide what provisions to include in the agreement that you and your spouse end up signing.

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What a Prenuptial Marital Agreement Does

A common purpose of the agreement would be to manage distribution of property and assets, and to define rights and obligations. This commonly takes place when one party is coming into the marriage with considerably more assets than the person they are marrying.

There’s a stereotype out there that sees prenuptial agreements in these situations as merely a safeguard against a gold-digging spouse. While that does happen, there are also very complex, real-world situations that require sound contractual advice and have nothing to do with the motivations of either party.

For example, an estate can include a business that the husband will inherit, but that he and his wife both work for as high-level management employees. Furthermore, the wife owns substantial stock in the company. How do you divide that up? This is just one example of a complicated situation that no standard, boiler-plate legal language can address.

Other provisions that might be included in a prenup are:

  • A requirement that one or both parties carry a certain amount of life insurance
  • Establishing whether a surviving spouse can stay in the family home in the event of the other’s death
  • Identifying certain properties as belonging to one spouse prior to the marriage. This is important, because in the event of a divorce, Tennessee is not a community property state. Assets are not split 50/50. Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, which means assets are divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Knowing who owned what before the marriage is a vital part of deciding what’s equitable.

Do you need a marital agreement drafted in Williamson County? Call Julia E. Stovall Attorney At Law, today at 615-239-1374 or contact us online to schedule a meeting.

Post-nuptial Agreements

A postnuptial agreement will cover a lot of the same ground as a prenup. The couple may use this time to establish how assets will be passed if one or the other dies. Or, the couple may be anticipating that divorce is in their future and this post-nuptial agreement will establish rights and responsibilities if it does.

Part of this can include outlining an alimony plan, including a decision to waive alimony altogether. However, be aware that if children are involved, couples cannot make custody decisions in advance. Child custody law insists that the best interest of the children take priority, and nothing can be settled without the approval of a family court judge when the time comes.

While custody can’t be settled, inheritance issues related to the children can be worked out. In the case of blended families, the marital agreement might choose to spell out different arrangements for each child, depending on who their biological parent was.

Alternatively, let’s consider the spouse who gave up their job to be at home with the children. Perhaps a single parent with three kids married another single parent with two kids. They’re all under the age of 18 and one of the parents has a job that’s good enough to support the family. Collectively, the newly married couple believes their family will be better off with one parent at home.

It was a good plan and it made sense for you and your family at the time. However, upon divorce, you’ll have some issues to work out. The parent who stayed at home fell behind in their career and must now start up again, now with children to support. The unfortunate reality is that this problem is common. We can prepare for it by developing a far-sighted marital agreement that will identify how everyone involved will be cared for in the event of a divorce

Will the Agreement Stand Up in Court?

Marital agreements are no different than any other form of contract in the state of Tennessee. The red flags that judges will look for include the following:

  • Full disclosure of assets and accurate assessment of their values at the time the agreement was signed
  • If one party is seen to lack legal sophistication and/or good representation
  • That the agreement be perceived as reasonably fair to both parties
  • That there is no evidence of coercion–the state of Tennessee will find this particularly relevant in post-nuptial agreements where the threat of domestic violence may be a concern

Julia E. Stovall has fought for clients in family court in Brentwood, Franklin, Nolensville and throughout Williamson County for 30 years. Call today at 615-239-1374 or contact me online to schedule a meeting.

Is There Any Going Back?

Like any contract, a marital agreement can be renegotiated, or even ended altogether, at a later time so long as both parties are willing. In that regard, it’s advisable that a modification or termination process be included in the original agreement.

I’ve been fighting for the rights of my clients in Williamson County courts for 30 years. As a sole practitioner, I’ll take the time to get to know you and understand what values are most important to you. You’ll never be just a number to me. You can call me today at 615-239-1374 or send me an email online and we can talk about what you’re going through and how I can help.

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