Tacoma, WA Family Law Attorneys Experienced in Drafting and Negotiating Prenuptial Agreements
Serving Families in the Bonney Lake, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Puyallup, University Place Areas of Washington State
If you are getting ready to tie the knot, amidst all of the preparations, it is important not to overlook the legal consequences of marriage. Your life changes from the moment you get married, and one area where this has particular legal relevance is your financial and property rights. Despite popular misconception, there are a number of reasons to consider a prenuptial agreement beyond “preparing for divorce.” These days, more and more couples are realizing the benefits of entering into these agreements.
Who Should Consider a Prenuptial Agreement?
All individuals planning to get married should at least consider the prospect of entering into a prenuptial agreement. In some circumstances, entering into a prenuptial agreement may not strictly be necessary. But, with the potential for circumstances to change significantly over the course of a years-long or decades-long marriage, spouses-to-be should explore their options so that they can reach an informed conclusion about what makes the most sense for their personal and family circumstances.
There are a number of circumstances under which entering into a prenuptial agreement will generally be recommended. Keep in mind, of course, that each couple’s circumstances are unique, and financial, family, and other considerations will all weigh into the decision of whether to sign a prenup. Broadly speaking, the following are all examples of circumstances in which fiancés may want to consider entering into a prenuptial agreement:
- Either party has been married previously
- Either party has children from a prior relationship
- Either party is bringing substantial wealth into the marriage
- Either party has the potential to receive a substantial inheritance during the marriage
- Either party owns a business or intends to open a business in the future
- The parties wish to depart from the default rules regarding separate and community property
- The parties wish to establish provisions regarding maintenance (alimony) in the event that they get divorced or file for a legal separation
- The parties wish to formally establish roles and responsibilities during their marriage (e.g., who will pay bills)
- The parties wish to formally establish procedures for resolving disagreements that arise during their marriage
Importantly, there are some issues that cannot be addressed in a prenuptial agreement. For example, the Washington courts generally will not enforce premarital provisions for child custody or child support. Child custody arrangements (called “parenting plans” in Washington) must take into consideration the children’s best interests at the relevant point in time, and child support calculations are made according to a statutory formula that uses the spouses’ then-current income and expenses. In addition, if certain provisions of a prenuptial agreement are overly one-sided (such as provisions for spousal maintenance), the courts may simply decide that they should not be enforced.
Drafting Enforceable Prenuptial Agreements
This last point brings up another important issue: The enforceability of prenuptial agreements in general. In Washington, the default rule is that prenuptial agreements are enforceable. However, if one spouse lacks legal representation, if one spouse misrepresents his or her financial circumstances at the time the agreement is executed, or if the spouses fail to adhere to the terms of the agreement during their marriage, these are all issues that could potentially render a prenup unenforceable.
Common Provisions in Prenuptial Agreements
With all of these considerations in mind, fiancés in Washington have a significant degree of flexibility when it comes to crafting the terms of their prenuptial agreements. There is no standard “form” of prenuptial agreement, and couples are free to choose the issues they do (and don’t) want to cover in their prenups. Some of the types of provisions that couples should consider when discussing the possibility of a prenuptial agreement include:
- Provisions clarifying how the marriage will (and won’t) affect the inheritance rights of the spouses’ blood relatives.
- Provisions regarding liability for debts that one spouse brings into the marriage.
- Provisions for saving the spouses’ respective incomes and managing credit card debt.
- Provisions for managing major expenses, such as real estate purchases or spouses’ tuition.
- Provisions establishing that one spouse’s business or private practice will remain his or hers in the event of a divorce.
This list is not exhaustive, and the provisions listed here certainly will not be relevant to all couples. To learn more about the options that are available, schedule an initial consultation with our Washington family law lawyers today.
Schedule an Initial Consultation at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.
For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney, contact Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. in Tacoma, WA. You can reach us at (253) 272-2997, or submit your contact information online and a member of our team will be in touch as soon as possible.