Pittsburgh Family Law Services, P.C. Blog

All you wanted to know about prenuptial agreements but were afraid to ask: what is a prenuptial agreement and what does it do?

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It’s April and that means the start of wedding season! This time of the year we get a lot of questions about prenuptial agreements. Over the years, we’ve heard numerous misunderstandings about what can be in an agreement like this, who needs one, and when they need to be signed. If you’re planning a wedding and aren’t sure whether a prenuptial agreement will work, the next series of articles will go through the various issues involved so you know what to think about. 

The first question you may be asking yourself is: “what exactly is a prenuptial agreement, and what does it do?” It helps to think of marriage as a contract that two people enter into. The marriage functions similarly to a business partnership. Just like a business needs to plan for how every owner will be compensated if it dissolves, a marriage partnership that ends needs to compensate each spouse appropriately. Pennsylvania has an elaborate definition of what can and cannot be allocated between divorcing spouses. It defines what is considered “marital property,” and therefore what can be divided in a divorce. This definition includes assets which you acquire during marriage that are only in your name. Retirement plans, houses that one person purchases, stocks, etc. can all be marital property even if the other person’s name has never been connected with it.  Pennsylvania also determines when a spouse is required to financially support the other. There’s even a specific formula to determine the amount.

A prenuptial agreement changes the default that exists in Pennsylvania. You can waive rights you would ordinarily have, or you can obtain more rights than you would be entitled to. When drafted well, this contract clearly defines what is considered “marital property,” and outlines what each person will receive and what debts each person will be responsible for if the marriage ends.  A prenuptial agreement creates your own rules so that the Pennsylvania default rules matter less and less.  This in turn creates a far more streamlined division of property and saves substantial time and resources should you ultimately separate or divorce.  This is just a brief overview of the benefit of a prenuptial agreement. In our next series of articles, we will explore specific scenarios when an agreement will be particularly beneficial.  

If you want to know more about how a prenuptial agreement can protect you from the default division of assets in Pennsylvania, please contact our office at (412) 371-4500.