Matrimonial attorneys are routinely sought by individuals seeking a prenuptial agreement (also known as a "prenup" or "antenupital" agreement) before tying the knot. Neither marriage nor a prenup is something that should be entered into lightly, no matter if this is your first marriage or a subsequent one. Here's what you need to know:
The purpose of a prenuptial agreement is defined by the client. No two prenuptial agreements are created equal but there are commonalities among them. Parties must disclose their assets, liabilities and income. This is done, in part, by attaching items such as copies of tax returns and an inventory of each party's assets and liabilities. Some people simply use the agreement to specifically state what their non-marital assets are and that these assets will remain non-marital. Some set forth what assets will be considered marital assets versus non-marital assets and then go further to define the percentage of distribution in the event of divorce or death. If a client has children from a prior relationship or adopted, it is often important for them to ensure that those children will receive a portion of the marital assets upon their death. Individuals also may want to include the amount and/or duration of alimony or that if they divorce, neither party will seek alimony or spousal support. Others choose to include language that each party pays their own attorney's fees in the event of the divorce or that one party will pay a set amount of attorney's fees for the other party.
One attorney should not represent both parties. Each fiance, regardless of whether the marriage is between individuals of same or different genders, has his/her own interests that must be protected. Typically, their positions in a prenuptial agreement are inconsistent so each should retainer separate legal counsel.
There should be an initial discovery meeting. The purpose of an initial meeting with a family law attorney (or attorneys) regarding a prenuptial agreement is to discuss what each individual is seeking to accomplish through the agreement. This will allow the initial drafting attorney to tailor the agreement to the client's specific needs.
The rule of law that applies should be defined in the agreement. Every state has its own matrimonial laws. This is ever apparent in the same sex marriage laws which have been the subject of changing law and media attention of late. As a result, it is important to define in the agreement, which state's law applies.
Expect a straightforward process. Unlike many areas of the law, the prenuptial agreement process is rather straight forward but there are always emotions at play. What typically happens is that one of the individuals will meet with a family law lawyer who will provide options and ideas, based on what the client is trying to accomplish. The attorney will then provide legal counsel and draft a proposed agreement that complies with the laws of Pennsylvania. After the prenuptial agreement is drafted, the lawyer will meet with the client to explain it and discuss any requested changes. Once the prenup is prepared, a draft will be sent to the other party, or their attorney if they are represented. Often, the other fiance will have requested revisions. There are routinely discussions and negotiations before a final agreement is reached and executed.
Some parties seek out a divorce attorney to prepare the prenup just prior to the marriage. I strongly recommend that individuals engaged to be married take the time to plan ahead for a prenuptial agreement. If you have assets that you want to ensure are protected, consult with a family lawyer to determine your options. Schedule an initial consultation several months prior to the wedding to avoid unnecessary stress. This way, you can stand at the head of the proverbial aisle assured that your concerns have been addressed.