An Honest And Smart Approach To Family Law

Understanding prenuptial agreements

When you’re getting ready to marry the person you love, the last thing you want to think about is that you may one day divorce. Perhaps you think that will never happen to you and your love. And maybe it won’t, but more than 1 million Americans get divorced every year, and few of them thought that’s how their marriage would end.

When you look at things this way, you can see that preparing a prenuptial agreement can be a practical way of protecting yourself from a real possibility. In some ways, a prenuptial agreement can even strengthen a marriage because it helps the parties go into the marriage with a realistic set of expectations.

Property division

Property division is the process in which a divorcing couple splits their assets and debts. Under Arizona’s community property laws, almost everything either party acquires during a marriage is jointly owned by the spouses. This means that both parties have an equal claim to almost everything in the community property should they divorce.

Anything the parties owned before the marriage is considered separate property and does not have to be divided. However, there are many ways separate property can become mixed with community property during a marriage: For example, one spouse may draw on their separate savings when the couple purchases a home. What’s more, when a separately owned asset gathers value during the marriage, this added value is considered at least partly community property in divorce. The same holds true for debt.

A binding contract

As we have seen, property division can get quite complicated in divorce. Generally speaking, the more assets involved — and the more complex those assets are — the more challenging the property division process will be. A prenuptial agreement can help you get around some of this mess, should your marriage end in divorce.

A prenuptial agreement is a contract the parties sign before they are married. It is most frequently used to resolve property division issues in advance. For instance, a prenup may spell out that one asset or debt will be treated as separate property in divorce. A prenup can also set some terms for alimony (known in Arizona as spousal maintenance).

So long as the court finds that the contract was valid and the terms were not grossly unfair, it will hold this agreement binding if or when the parties divide their property in divorce.

Who should consider a prenuptial agreement?

A good prenuptial agreement can help simply property division in any kind of divorce, but some situations in which these agreements prove especially helpful include any marriage in which:

  • Either party has significant assets or debts
  • Either party owns or co-owns a business
  • Either party was married previously or has children from a prior relationship