Getting married is an exciting milestone in a relationship. But along with the celebration comes the merging of two lives – and all the legal and financial entanglements that go with it. This new reality might get you wondering: “Can I get a prenuptial agreement after the wedding?”
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Prenuptial agreements, commonly known as prenups, must be signed prior to marriage while a couple is still single. But there is an option for already married couples to consider: the postnuptial agreement.
What Exactly Is a Prenuptial Agreement?
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what a prenup is.
A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract signed by two people before they are married. It allows them to spell out things like:
- How assets and debts will be divided if the marriage ends
- Who gets what property
- The amount of spousal support or alimony
- Inheritance rights
The key thing is that prenups must be signed before “I do.” They allow couples to protect their financial interests and clarify responsibilities in case they split up down the road.
Prenups are not just for the rich and famous. They can provide peace of mind for all sorts of couples.
For example, prenups may make sense when:
- One person owns a business or has significantly more assets. A prenup protects those assets if the marriage dissolves.
- One or both partners have children from a previous relationship. A prenup can assure inheritances for those kids.
- One spouse plans to sacrifice their career to raise a family. A prenup can outline spousal support.
Why You Can’t Get a Post-Marriage Prenup
So why does the timing matter so much? Why can’t you just get a prenup after the wedding bells chime?
It all comes down to the legal nature of prenups. They are meant to be prepared and signed while a couple is still single.
Once you say “I do,” you become legally bound to each other in the eyes of the law. Marital property laws kick in. You are now financially tied together, for better or worse.
Trying to create a prenup after marrying defeats the entire purpose. Prenups are designed to lay out financial agreements before that legal union is formalized.
Consider a Postnuptial Agreement Instead
Now that prenups are off the table, you may feel out of options. But there is still a way married couples can put legal protections in place: the postnuptial agreement.
A postnup is similar to a prenup but is signed after a couple gets hitched. Hence the prefix “post,” meaning “after.”
Postnuptial agreements allow already married spouses to:
- Clarify who owns what property
- Define inheritance rights
- Set expectations for spousal support if the marriage dissolves
- Protect assets like businesses, investments, and real estate
The main difference from prenups is simply the timing. Postnups let couples revisit financial issues and create legally binding contracts, even if they didn’t get a prenup before rushing down the aisle.
Must Haves for a Valid Postnuptial Agreement
Postnups and prenups share many technical requirements to be considered valid and enforceable. These include:
Written contract: Postnups must be in writing, not just a verbal agreement. They require an official document that is signed and executed properly.
Full financial disclosure: Both spouses must completely disclose personal assets, debts, income, and any other financial information. Complete transparency is essential.
Time to review: Each spouse must have adequate time to review the postnup and understand the terms. This often means taking time to consult with an attorney.
Voluntary signing: Both parties must enter into the postnuptial agreement voluntarily, without force or coercion. It is not valid if one spouse strong-arms the other.
Notarization: A notary public must witness the signatures and stamp the postnup document. This helps confirm the agreement is authentic.
As long as these key conditions are met, a thoughtfully crafted postnup has a good chance of holding up in court if challenged down the road.
When Postnuptial Agreements Come in Handy
Postnups are not just for couples heading toward divorce court. There are many scenarios where a postnuptial makes good sense, such as:
Changed Financial Circumstances
What if one spouse comes into a large inheritance or income boost during the marriage? Or you finally pay off significant debt?
Major changes like these can upset the financial balance in unforeseen ways. A postnup allows you to re-contract terms that reflect new realities.
Entrepreneurs should pay special attention. Without proper legal protections, your spouse may be entitled to part of your business in a divorce settlement.
A postnuptial agreement can limit their claim to business assets and keep your company firmly in your control.
If one partner makes significantly more money, a postnup can limit any future spousal support obligations. The higher earner can define reasonable support terms upfront.
A spouse who leaves their career to raise kids faces higher economic risks. By outlining spousal support in a postnup, the stay-at-home parent can feel more financially secure.
When remarrying, a postnup ensures inheritance assets go to children from a previous marriage. It helps clarify financial matters for all family members.
While signing a prenup is off the table after you say “I do,” postnuptial agreements offer a flexible solution for already married couples. They allow you to revisit how assets and debts are divided if the marriage ends. Postnups also clarify spousal support and inheritance rights.
So if you find yourself asking “can I get a prenup after marriage?” – the answer lies in considering a postnuptial agreement instead. Sit down with your spouse and have an open, honest talk about your financial future together. And don’t be afraid to ask for legal guidance. With a little forethought and maturity, a postnup can help you both feel more secure.