Marriage can be romantic and exciting, but it is also comes with legal obligations which may encompass significant financial consequences. Laws govern how a couple must divide their assets and debts if the relationship ends in divorce.
Many couples may prefer to make their own decisions about property, spousal support, and other personal issues. They can work with a skilled attorney to develop an agreement that describes their wishes and would be enforceable in court. A Boca Raton marital agreements lawyer has a firm grasp of this complex area of law and could help you craft an agreement that will withstand judicial scrutiny if the agreement is challenged by your spouse.
How the Law Determines Property Division and Support
Marital property is any income, property, asset, or debt that either spouse acquired during the marriage. Non-marital property is assets or debts either spouse owned before marriage or acquired during the marriage through gift or inheritance. If a couple divorces, each spouse keeps their non-marital property, but they must divide their marital property equitably. In this context, equitable can mean fair under the circumstances.
When a judge must oversee the equitable distribution process, they often seek to make the division as equal as possible, with each spouse leaving the marriage with roughly 50 percent of the property. However, when one spouse has significantly more valuable non-marital property than the other, a judge might award the less wealthy spouse more of the marital property. Similarly, a financially disadvantaged spouse might have a strong claim for spousal support after divorce.
When a couple has a valid marital agreement, courts will respect their wishes regarding property division and spousal support. Couples could work with a Boca Raton lawyer to create a contract regarding these issues before or during marriage. The document could guide the proceedings if they eventually decide to divorce.
A contract a couple signs before marriage is called a premarital agreement, a prenuptial agreement, or a prenup. Florida Statute § 61-079 explains the requirements for a valid prenup. A prenup must be in writing, and both people need to sign it to be enforceable by either person.
The prenuptial agreement can establish the couple’s preferences regarding which property is subject to equitable distribution. A prenup allows a couple with children from prior relationships to preserve property for their children that might otherwise be marital property. Even if the couple does not have children, a premarital contract allows them to decide what property each can keep.
A prenup could also address spousal support, ownership and distribution of a life insurance policy, and how the spouses decide on buying, selling, encumbering, or managing their marital property. Even though the spouses sign the prenup before marriage, it is not binding until the marriage occurs. An attorney in Boca Raton could help a couple draft or review a premarital agreement.
A court will enforce a prenup unless one spouse can prove they did not sign it voluntarily or their signature resulted from fraud, coercion, or duress. If they can prove the agreement is unfair and they did not receive full or accurate disclosure of the other spouse’s financial condition or waive the right to the disclosure, a judge might set aside the agreement. Courts are less likely to overturn a prenuptial agreement if both spouses had adequate time to discuss the agreement with their private and independent attorney before signing.
Agreements Signed During the Marriage
Couples have many reasons for creating contracts during the marriage. They might have a prenup that no longer seems fair or appropriate, and they enter a marital agreement that supersedes the prenup. The couple might not have a prenup, but their finances have become complicated, and describing their agreements in a formal, enforceable document is a prudent step. The couple might be preparing for a divorce and hoping to retain control of the financial aspects of the process. Finally, couples sometimes enter marital agreements if one spouse commits an offense against the marriage and the wronged spouse seeks protection through a financial penalty.
Like prenups, both people must sign the marital agreement. Both spouses must fully disclose their assets and debts—incomplete or inaccurate disclosure is grounds for voiding the agreement. Marital agreements require consideration, meaning the document must state each spouse is giving something to the other in return for the agreement.
Both spouses should have their own Boca Raton attorney review the contract before signing. A court is less likely to find an agreement unenforceable if each spouse got an independent legal review.
Contact a Boca Raton Marital Agreements Attorney for Help
Discussing financial issues might not seem like a romantic way to spend time with your partner, but it could have a beneficial effect on your relationship in the long run. Even if the marriage ends, an enforceable prenup or postnuptial agreement could reduce the stress of a split.
A Boca Raton marital agreement lawyer could help a couple formalize their agreement in writing or review an agreement for one of the spouses. Schedule an appointment today to discuss your contract.