The Legal Document You Hope You Never Need: The Pre-Nuptial Agreement

A legal document which is often considered, but not often used, is the pre-nuptial agreement.

Needless to say, the suggestion of a pre-nuptial agreement to your future spouse can be terribly uncomfortable since a pre-nuptial agreement focuses upon the unexpected demise of your anticipated marriage.

However, if the difficulty of the conversation can be overcome, the use of a pre-nuptial can be wise for both parties since it guarantees a speedy resolution of marital issues in the event of divorce.

The speedy resolution of a divorce has the benefit of not only lessening the emotional trauma of the divorce, but also the saving of the significant monies which would otherwise be spent on attorney fees.

A typical pre-nuptial agreement addresses a broad range of issues.

For example, a pre-nuptial agreement often details whether the financially disadvantaged spouse will be entitled to receive alimony from his or her spouse. If alimony is to be paid, the agreement usually includes a provision regarding the number of years that alimony will be paid, as well as the weekly or monthly amount which will be paid.

Usually, the amount of the alimony payment is stated as an agreed percentage of the difference in the parties’ net incomes.

A pre-nuptial agreement also details the manner in which the parties’ assets are going to be divided in the event of a divorce.

If you do not have a pre-nuptial agreement, the division of your assets can be a difficult issue. This is because Pennsylvania divorce law does not require that your marital assets be divided evenly. Rather, Pennsylvania divorce law provides that marital assets are to divided “equitably”.

The uncertainty as to what constitutes an “equitable” division leaves a great deal of room for argument in a contested divorce. Therefore, in most cases, a pre-nuptial agreement will state that the marital assets are to be divided evenly.

A pre-nuptial agreement occasionally provides that certain items, such as a business interest, a retirement account, or an asset owned prior to the marriage, are to be fully retained by the spouse who earned or purchased that item.

Additionally, a pre-nuptial agreement usually details the manner in which the marital debts are to be divided in the event of divorce. In some cases, it is agreed that these debts are going to be divided evenly, while in other cases it is agreed that each debt is to be retained by the spouse who incurred the debt.

Individuals who are considering a pre-nuptial agreement should not commit themselves to its terms unless those terms are fully understood, as it can obviously have a significant impact upon your rights.

Regardless, the use of a pre-nuptial agreement should be considered by all individuals who intend to marry, as it will undoubtedly minimize the emotional and financial turmoil which is often involved in pursuing a divorce.

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