Marital Agreements – Seven Things to Consider Before You Sign


Marital agreements can be a useful tool for parties as they prepare to get married or even after they are married. Partners enter marital agreements for a variety of reasons, including protecting family property, settling various matters that may arise during a divorce, and providing for children from a previous relationship. Before you consider signing a marital agreement, there are many things that you should consider. A Pennsylvania marital agreements lawyer can guide you through the process and provide valuable advice as you work through the various elements of your marital agreement.

Important Things That Should Factor into Your Choice to Enter a Marital Agreement

1. You must disclose all assets and liabilities.

Both parties to a marital agreement must disclose all assets and liabilities as a part of the negotiation of the agreement. Therefore, it can be very helpful if you compile the most recent statements for all financial accounts and liabilities. You also want to gather together copies of your tax returns for the past few years, titles to real estate, and a list of personal property.

2. How do you want to structure alimony and spousal support?

There are several ways that you can handle alimony and spousal support in a marital agreement. Your Pennsylvania marital agreements lawyer will explain your legal rights under Pennsylvania laws. However, you and your partner may choose to waive alimony in your marital agreement. You may also agree to limit alimony based on the length of the marriage or deny alimony for spousal misconduct. Because spousal support has a significant impact on other areas, including retirement planning and tax planning, you want to be very careful when you agree to the terms of alimony and spousal support in a marital agreement.

3. Child Support and Child Custody

Marital agreements cannot be used to set child support or agree to the terms of child custody. The courts agree that the best interests of the child take precedence over the terms of a  marital agreement. Therefore, the court could say that terms related to custody and child support are invalid or it could void the entire agreement.

4. Timing

You need to begin negotiating a pre-marital agreement a few months before your wedding date. First, it can take weeks to negotiate the terms of the agreement with your attorneys and draft the agreement for the parties to sign. Furthermore, agreements signed within days or weeks of a wedding may give the appearance that the agreement was forced by one of the parties as a “requirement” for the marriage.

5. Family Businesses

If you own a family business, you need to consider if you want to exclude your spouse from the business.  In some cases, other family members may not want your spouse to have any say in the business or any interest in the business. You should discuss these issues with your family members well in advance of negotiating the marital agreement.

6. The Agreement Should be Equitable

If a marital agreement is one-sided, the agreement may not be upheld by the court if a spouse contests the agreement. A marital agreement should be equitable and fair to both parties. Working with an experienced Pennsylvania marital agreements lawyer can ensure that both parties receive fair treatment throughout the negotiations and in the final agreement.

7. Both Parties Should Have Independent Counsel

To ensure that both parties are treated fairly, each person should have his or her own attorney. The attorneys work together to help the parties negotiate the terms of the marital agreement.  However, each attorney protects his or her client’s best interests throughout the process. The attorneys listen to their client’s wishes and goals and then work to negotiate a marital agreement that contains terms that are as close as possible to those requested by the client.

Call a Pennsylvania Marital Agreements Lawyer for More Information

If you are considering a premarital agreement or post-marital agreement, you need the advice and support of an attorney. Contact our Pennsylvania family law attorneys to request a consultation to learn more about marital agreements.