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Frequently asked questions about prenuptial agreements

1. What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a contract made between two individuals prior to marriage. The contract outlines the terms for division of property, spousal support in the event of a divorce, and in some cases expenses during marriage. Other matters that may be resolved within the prenuptial agreement include:

  • Spouse's rights to inheritances received by the other spouse
  • Operation and management of a family business
  • Other matters as agreed to by each party

Pennsylvania discerns the difference between a unilateral contract and a prenuptial agreement. Unlike a unilateral release, the terms of a prenuptial agreement only take effect if the couple goes through with the marriage.

2. Do only wealthy individuals need prenuptial agreements?

No. A prenuptial agreement is beneficial in any situation where the parties want provide for financial security in the marriage. This also aids in reducing protracted divorce proceedings.

3. Can child custody and support issues be enforced through provisions provided within a prenuptial agreement?

No, a premarital contract will not resolve child custody or support issues. The rights of the child are of concern when discussing custody and support matters rather than the right of the parents. Any issues pertaining to child custody or support would be addressed at the time the parents separate.

4. Are there other issues that my prenuptial agreement cannot include?

Yes, in addition to child and custody issues, prenuptial agreements cannot resolve issues such as:

  • A child's religious upbringing
  • Temporary alimony pending finalization of a divorce
  • Any matters that would be illegal or violate public policy
  • While both parties may waive their rights to alimony in the event of a divorce, the court may reconsider in cases where one spouse would be left financially crippled as a result of the divorce.

5. Will my prenuptial agreement be enforceable in Pennsylvania?

Precluding exceptions, prenuptial agreements are enforceable in Pennsylvania. As Pennsylvania has not adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA), prenuptial agreements are regulated by state law and court decisions.

A prenuptial agreement may be set aside in cases where:

  • One spouse was coerced into signing the agreement
  • The agreement is found to be significantly unfair because at the time of the agreement:
    • Full disclosure of assets and debts was not and the defrauded spouse did not have sufficient knowledge of the other spouse's financial situation
    • The waiver of marital rights was not made in writing by the defrauded spouse

Prenuptial agreements are a business transaction and are governed by general contract provisions in the state of Pennsylvania. They can be complicated, and it is best to have an attorney versed in these matters to assist you. If you have any questions regarding prenuptial agreements, contact Rowe Law Offices, P.C. at 610-816-0935 (Berks County), 717-382-8360 (Lancaster County), 570-362-6837 (Schuylkill County) or 866-232-1913.

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