Prenuptial contracts exist to provide clarity and security to marrying couples. While many continue to hold negative connotations about prenuptial contracts, the reality is that while they may not exactly be romantic, they allow a marrying couple to have difficult conversations early in their relationship. Many couples find that the process of reviewing their goals, hopes, and priorities for one another brings them closer and allows them to start their marriage on more open and honest terms.

A prenuptial agreement can be incredibly advantageous in many situations, but only if the contract is legally valid and enforceable. Unfortunately, there are many ways a prenuptial contract could become invalidated. It’s not uncommon for people to believe their prenuptial agreements are enforceable only to later discover they were drafted on fraudulent grounds. If you need to draft a prenuptial agreement, or if you and your spouse already have one and want to verify its enforceability, it’s best to consult a Columbia, MO family law attorney as soon as you can.

How to Draft an Enforceable Prenuptial Agreement in Columbia, MO

The first step in creating a prenuptial agreement that is both legal and enforceable is ensuring the agreement is signed under appropriate conditions and meets the state’s requirements. A prenuptial agreement should be drafted in writing and signed in person by both spouses in view of formal witnesses. Both spouses must sign willingly and be of sound mind at the time of their signing.

It is not legal to draft a prenuptial agreement under duress or threat of violence. It is also illegal to attempt to coerce someone to sign a one-sided prenuptial agreement. Additionally, even if both parties agree to sign the prenuptial agreement, the court will not enforce it if it was drafted in a clearly one-sided manner.

It’s vital to ensure the prenuptial agreement meets the legal requirements set forth by Missouri state law. You and your soon-to-be spouse must work closely to develop your prenuptial agreement and ensure it covers all of the issues you and your significant other deem appropriate for your current situation and future goals.

What Can a Prenuptial Agreement Cover?

When you get married, your marriage has a profound effect on your property rights, real estate titles, and financial rights. The goal of a prenuptial agreement is to specifically address or negate some of the default changes that occur once married. Essentially, your marriage could potentially have negative financial implications for your future without a prenuptial agreement. This contract effectively allows you and your spouse to identify possible future complications and get ahead of them, providing your future selves with a guide as to how to proceed.

One of the most common uses for prenuptial agreements in Columbia, MO is to clarify separate property ownership. Missouri is an equitable distribution state, so it’s possible for spouses’ individual assets to eventually become marital assets subject to division in divorce. With a prenuptial agreement, you and your spouse can essentially outline your property rights in the event of a future divorce. Your contract can stipulate which assets remain separate property and which become subject to division in divorce. You can also law foundational rules for answering complex financial questions in divorce or dividing certain assets.

Prenuptial agreements are also advantageous for people who have children and standing divorce decrees from previous marriages. Drafting a prenuptial agreement allows them to ensure children from a previous marriage will continue to be supported and safeguard their inheritance. A prenuptial agreement can also cover property distribution and establish additional financial protections for children from previous relationships.

Every prenuptial agreement is different. Marrying couples will have unique priorities as they draft their prenuptial contracts. However, an essential consideration for any prenuptial contract is a clause that clearly outlines responsibility for debts in divorce. Equitable distribution states like Missouri strive for as close to an even division of both property and debt as possible. You and your spouse should not only establish rules for handling your existing debts going into your marriage but also additional rules for debts you accumulate in the future.

Altering Your Prenuptial Contract

A solidly drafted prenuptial contract can cover a multitude of variables, but it cannot cover every subject you and your spouse must discuss if you eventually divorce. For example, a prenuptial contract may not include any rules for determining child custody or child support; the court must oversee any arrangements made concerning child care and custody. Whenever the Columbia, MO family court rules in any family court case, they must seek to protect the best interests of any children involved in the case.

If you and your spouse have children, you cannot include any terms for child support or custody in your prenup, but that does not mean you cannot adjust your prenuptial contract if your circumstances change after a few years of marriage. Losing a job, a failed investment, a sudden illness, or unexpected injury are just some of the things that can potentially render portions of a prenuptial contract ineffective or unreasonable.

Modifying a prenuptial contract works like revising any other contract; the parties meet under legal counsel’s supervision to discuss the proposed change and add a formal addendum to their prenup.

Contesting Enforceability

It’s vital to invest in reliable legal counsel as you work toward drafting your prenuptial contract. When a prenuptial contract comes into play in a divorce case, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to seek grounds to contest the enforceability of the contract. If there is any reason to believe the prenuptial contract was created on fraudulent or coercive grounds, a judge will likely refuse to consider the contract in divorce proceedings.

If you and your spouse take the time to draft a prenuptial contract, you should have peace of mind that it will provide certainty and peace of mind for the beginning of your marriage. If you need to contest your prenuptial contract or your spouse has unfairly challenged your prenuptial contract and aren’t sure how to respond, contact an experienced Columbia, MO divorce attorney as soon as possible for a prenuptial contract review.