Things Before the Ring: Understanding Prenuptial Agreements

“Before we get married, I need you to sign a pre-nup.”


If those words have been spoken to you by your future spouse or if you’re the one saying those words to your future husband or wife, the most common anticipated reaction is an immediate, perhaps unanticipated question of trust. Either you may think “they don’t trust me”, or you are anticipating that your future husband or wife is now asking themselves this exact question.


“What’s the point of getting married if you don’t trust me?”


“You must think I’m after your money.”


Why are you planning our divorce when we’re not even married yet?”


If you’re having these thoughts right now or if your future spouse has asked you these questions or something similar lately, this is typical. These deductions are commonplace, albeit they are not always accurate.


Pre-martial contracts, or post-martial contracts completed after a marriage has already occurred, can be a beneficial tool for couples who want a possible future divorce or dissolution of marriage to be a less litigious process overall. When executed correctly, these “just-in-case” agreements can make the usually complicated and “roller-coaster” process of a divorce a bit smoother. While you may have to litigate issues involving the custody or support of minor children, the process of dividing your marital assets may be less complicated with this contract in place.


Pre-marital agreements, or pre-nuptial agreements as they are commonly known, are contracts between a future couple and often determine how assets and debts will be divided if the marriage doesn’t work out as expected. These agreements may also govern how alimony, or what is defined as spousal support in Virginia and Maryland, shall be provided to a spouse after a marriage has ended. These agreements may also include choice of law rules regarding which state’s laws will govern the agreement, as well as an arbitration clause which dictates how the parties may settle any disputes arising out of the contract in arbitration or mediation instead of resorting to going to court.

These agreements, much like any contract, require an element of “fairness” to both parties. This means that if both parties have not been provided the opportunity to review the contract with their own counsel, if the agreement seems grossly unfair to one party without that party’s knowledge, or if there was not a fair and reasonable disclosure of all property and assets by both parties, the agreement’s validity and therefore enforceability, may be challenged. 


When executed correctly, these agreements may be especially helpful for parties with complicated inheritances, trusts, wills, or other complicated personal or real property matters to consider. A pre-marital agreement that oversees how such property is to be divided, or not divided, could potentially keep you both out of court and make a divorce less expensive overall.


Lastly, the creation and litigation of premarital contracts may be overwhelming, fraught with emotion and time consuming, but they do not have to be. They are above all things, fact-specific. These agreements require a meticulous attorney with an in-depth understanding of estate planning, contract law, family law, and the ways in which those things intersect. Some pre-martial contract litigation is quite simple, while others undergo a complicated and emotional process. Hiring the right attorney at the first opportunity will not only save you money, but ease your fears and overall anxiety.


We at A. Clarke Law have not only had the experience of helping families through complicated litigation but are successful mediators and negotiators in disputes outside of the courtroom, while at all times remaining sensitive to a family’s unique needs.


Allow me to make the process “Christal Clear” and help you to achieve your peace of mind.