A Prenuptial or Antenuptial Agreement is a contract made between two parties prior to their marriage date. The primary purpose of a Prenuptial Agreement, also known as an Antenuptial Agreement, is to protect, define, limit or waive assets each party may have acquired prior to their marriage date. The Prenuptial Agreement can address each parties, rights in the event of a death, separation or divorce after the marriage date. For example, the protection of a parties' interest in a family business which may increase in value during the marriage provides safety and security for the other owners of the business who may be the party's parents or siblings.
The Agreement may also define or determine the equitable distribution of marital property in the event of a divorce such as determining which assets should be included in a marital estate, determine the value of those assets now, and to determine the percentage of the marital estate each party will receive rather than leaving it to an arbitrary decision by the trial court during a lengthy and expensive litigation process. Party's who have similar income earning potentials may also wish to limit or waive the right of the other party's ability to sue for spousal support or alimony.
Many years of experience have taught me it is important to recognize a Prenuptial Agreement is not intended to take away rights of the other party, but rather, to determine the rights in advance, should a spouse die unexpectedly during the marriage or file a divorce seeking a windfall or financial gain from the other spouse. Prenuptial Agreements are important for parties contemplating a second marriage where there are grown children or grandchildren and each party wishes to protect the inheritance rights of their own children.
Prenuptial agreements help parties who intend to marry to determine financial expectations and protect both parties from often expensive, intrusive and lengthy litigation in family court. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a pro-enforcement jurisdiction and prenuptial contracts are a common discussion between parties who are engaged or plan to marry.