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Prenups and postnups are about more than just dividing assets

What is behind many divorces? Some may say disagreements about money and a lack of communication between spouses are two primary reasons a couple may decide to end their marriage. However, executing a prenuptial agreement (called a premarital agreement in Virginia) or a postnuptial agreement (called a marital agreement in Virginia) can help couples open up the door to discussions on the touchy subject of finances, in a manner that allows them to be open and honest with one another. This can help set the stage for positive communication between the spouses in the future. And, if the marriage does not last, a prenuptial agreement can make the divorce process run smoother.

When people in Virginia think of prenuptial agreements, they may think all this document does is divide assets. While this can be part of a prenuptial agreement, there are other financial issues it can address. For example, a prenup can also address who will retain which marital debts in the event of a divorce. It can establish how much a party will pay in alimony if the couple divorces, and for how long. It can even say that the parties have an obligation to execute an estate plan that addresses who will retain what property in the event of the death of one of the spouses. Finally, it can establish which state’s laws will be followed if the prenup needs to be enforced. Postnuptial agreements can address many of these same topics. The difference is that a prenup is executed before a marriage and a postnup is executed after the couple is married.

There are limits, however, to what can be included in a prenup or postnup. A prenup or postnup cannot say how much a parent will pay in child support. It also cannot address child custody and visitation issues. This is because these decisions must be made in accordance with the child’s best interests at the time that the parties to the prenup or postnup are getting a divorce.

As this shows, there are many reasons why a couple might want to execute a prenup or postnup, and not all of these reasons are based on the possibility of divorce. In the end, when couples are able to communicate about difficult financial topics in a healthy and productive manner, it can both strengthen their marriage as well as be of assistance in the event of a divorce.

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