A prenuptial agreement — also referred to as an antenuptial agreement or a premarital agreement — is a contract entered into by a couple in anticipation of their marriage. Premarital agreements in Pennsylvania usually outline the division of assets and debts and amount of support, if any, that each party will be entitled to in the event of divorce or death. Although prenuptial agreements can be binding on issues of division of property, spousal support and alimony, Pennsylvania law states that prenuptial agreements are not binding on issues of child custody and, on occasion, child support. It is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible if you are even considering entering a pre-nuptial agreement. Limiting the amount of time that a party has to consider such an agreement can be a significant factor in later overturning an agreement.
A person who wants a future spouse to sign a prenuptial agreement often has something he or she wants to protect from the Pennsylvania equitable distribution process in the event the marriage fails. One or both of the people planning to marry may want to avoid the risk of a major loss of assets, income, or a family business in the event of a divorce. Other reasons future spouses may wish to have a prenuptial agreement drafted prior to their marriage is to outline how premarital debts such as college loans, tax debs, or credit card bills would be paid in the event of a divorce. People marrying for a second or third time also might desire to make sure that certain assets or personal belongings are passed on to the children or grandchildren of prior marriages rather than to a current spouse.
In Pennsylvania, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are considered the same as any other contract parties may enter into and, therefore, are presumed to be valid and enforceable. This presumption can be overcome only if clear and convincing evidence is presented by the spouse seeking to set aside the agreement that the agreement was entered into under fraud, duress, or coercion or that there was not a full and fair disclosure of assets and liabilities of each spouse at the time of the agreement and a waiver of the disclosure was not included in the agreement. In fact, prenuptial and post nuptial agreements are valid and enforceable even if one spouse or prospective spouse does not retain an attorney to review the agreement before they sign the agreement. For this reason, it is strongly encouraged that both parties to any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement obtain independent advice of the legal counsel of their choice.