July 29, 2022

Protecting Yourself in Divorce with Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements have been increasing in popularity in recent years across the United States. As a collaborative family law firm in Wilmington, North Carolina, we’ve seen similar trends. While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why these agreements are on the rise, many family law experts and data analysts point to millennials and adult children of divorce driving the increase.

Michael & Russell co-owner and attorney Ashley-Nicole Russell has researched the statistics surrounding prenuptial and postnuptial agreements over the past few years. As she wrote in her book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, she explains that much of the millennial generation has been impacted by the divorce of their parents more than any other generation. For these individuals, a prenuptial agreement may be considered when marriage is on the table. Through our family law practice in Wilmington, North Carolina, we’ve talked with many engaged couples who have expressed this sentiment when discussing prenuptial agreements. While they’re more common for those previously affected by the reality of divorce, we’ve seen prenuptials agreements with all types of couples and marriages.

Is a Prenuptial Agreement Right for You?

If you and your partner are considering a prenuptial agreement, also called a prenup, you might have some questions about whether it’s the right decision for your relationship and your future. In our professional outlook, only you and your soon-to-be-spouse can make that call; however, we do think it’s at least worth a detailed conversation.

A prenup is a legally binding document that allows the spouses to determine how they would split assets and debts if their marriage doesn’t work out. Since it is drafted and signed prior to getting married, the couple is often able to make potential decisions about divorce without the conflict that often comes with separation. These types of agreements have become extremely popular in recent years as more and more individuals are entering marriages with significant assets including such as wealth, investments, properties, and more. It’s important to point out that prenups aren’t just for the rich and famous. They can also be used to in cases where one partner has a significant debt or if there are other risks or liabilities.  In addition, they are quite popular among business owners who want to protect their companies or small businesses. In the event that a marriage ends in divorce, there is a chance that without a prenup, the other spouse could be entitled to half of the business and its assets.

When to Consider a Postnuptial Agreement

Similar to prenuptial agreements, we’ve also seen a recent increase in couples seeking postnuptial agreements, or postnups for short. As the name implies, these types of agreements are drafted and created after a couple is already married. This can happen at any point during the marriage whether the couple is recently married or has been married for several decades. There are a variety of reasons why spouses may consider these types of agreements, but they are often used when initial situations change or a couple has children. Postnups are helpful in addressing personal, professional, or financial related developments during the marriage. For instance, these agreements are quite common if a married couple has children and one of the spouses leaves a well-paying full-time job to stay home and take care of the kids. In this situation, the couple may want to consider drafting an agreement that addresses the familial circumstance since it changed significantly from where it was when the couple got married.

An added benefit of a postnuptial agreement is that the spouses can determine how they would want to handle a potential divorce. This is always easier to do before any major issues or conflict begin. A postnup can help lay out an organized and well-developed plan for the future if the couple eventually decides to divorce. Rather than resorting to divorce litigation as a result of tension or emotional uncertainty in the heat of the moment, a couple can have a healthier divorce if they already agreed upon an alternative dispute resolution through their postnuptial agreement. This might involve collaborative law, mediation, or settlement negotiation. Couples we work with often commit to keeping their family legal matters out-of-court as a way to reduce unnecessary drama, conflict, and turmoil for themselves and their children. Having this type of determination drafted in a postnuptial agreement will help ensure that if a divorce looms, it will be handled in a non-adversarial manner.

How to Discuss These Agreements with Your Partner

If you’re considering a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, we know that it can certainly be a difficult conversation to have with your spouse or soon-to-be-spouse. We suggest being upfront and honest with your significant other from the very start. While every situation is different, it’s a good idea to bring it up in a private setting where you can share your personal thoughts and feelings. Perhaps you can share why you’ve been researching these types of documents and what you’ve learned about them. Remember that it’s just a conversation. It’s also okay to admit if you’re still learning or trying to figure out if a prenup or postnup is a good fit for you, your partner, and your relationship.  Be sure to ask for their opinion and feedback so they feel heard and understood as well.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to – and you probably shouldn’t – come to a final decision in the first conversation. A prenup may be something that is discussed over several days, weeks, or months leading up to a wedding. Meanwhile a postnup could be a discussion that takes place several years after getting married. In fact, some couples we have worked with admit that they considered a prenup prior to tying the knot, but ultimately decided against it or ran out of time before their wedding day. When they came to our office, they were already married but wanted to revisit the idea. Our legal team helped these couples create postnuptial agreements that worked for their unique family situations. These situations are a great reminder that it’s never too late to implement a postnuptial agreement.

We’re Here to Serve as a Resource

When it comes to prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, we’re here to help every step of the way. Michael & Russell has more than 25 years of combined family law experience in helping to create and finalize these types of agreements. Through our training in collaborative law, our attorneys use this process to allow the couple to control how they want the agreement drafted since they know their family and their needs better than anyone else. Our attorneys guide the couple through the process by providing them with the materials and facts they need to make informed decisions in a safe space and judgment-free zone.

Through our New Hanover County office, we are dedicated to providing family law services to all of southeastern North Carolina. Our attorneys, Ashley Michael and Ashley-Nicole Russell, can also represent families across North Carolina through virtual family law services.

If you’re interested in scheduling a consultation with Michael & Russell for a prenup or postnup, please reach out to our Wilmington-based legal team. You can contact us directly by phone at 910-255-5722 to learn more about scheduling a confidential and private consultation for your family law needs.