If you and your spouse signed a prenuptial (or premarital) agreement during your engagement, then you have likely known since your marriage what the general outcome of a divorce could be. Part of what makes a prenuptial agreement valuable is the ability to create guidelines for the division of property and the expectation of spousal support if the couple ever decides to divorce.
After all, divorce is a notoriously stressful and expensive process. Any steps you can take to minimize its impact on your finances could be a smart decision. As someone with a prenuptial agreement on the record, you may have questions about what your pre-existing marital contract will mean for you during the divorce process.
What impact does a premarital agreement typically have during divorce?
It pay expedite the process
When a married couple has an existing, valid prenuptial agreement that specifically allocates certain assets to each spouse, the actual court proceedings for their divorce can be quicker and less contentious because of that pre-existing agreement. This is especially true if there are no children of the marriage whose custody and support must still be determined.
For many couples, the existence of a prenuptial agreement hopefully means a lower-conflict, uncontested divorce. You can use the terms from within your prenuptial agreement to draft a property division settlement. In some cases, you can speed up the process and avoid going to court entirely.
Or, it may complicate the divorce
Although it is rarer, a prenuptial agreement might lead to a more complex divorce process. This generally happens when a spouse is trying to set aside the premarital agreement. If one spouse tries to claim that they signed under duress, without proper disclosures, or without an understanding of what the agreement meant, a judge might determine that it is not enforceable. Situations where one spouse challenges a premarital agreement can often lead to very drawn-out and contentious divorce proceedings at the first stage, when the court is determining the validity of the prenuptial agreement. However, if the agreement is found to be valid and enforceable, it then does make the remainder of the divorce process more straightforward.
If you find yourself thinking about divorce and worry about whether your prenuptial agreement will help or hinder the process, you may need to review the circumstances at the time of the signing with an attorney. Unless specific, unusual factors influence the situation, it is difficult to establish the necessary grounds to successfully challenge a prenuptial agreement. If you find yourself presented with a prenuptial agreement and are wondering how signing may influence the future, it is also wise to confer with an attorney. An attorney can also advise you as to what can — and cannot — be addressed by a premarital agreement.
Understanding the role of a prenuptial agreement in a divorce as a guide for property division matters and other key decisions can help those worrying about their upcoming divorce filings.