One of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of modern family law is the prenuptial contract. Many people believe that prenuptial contracts are only suitable for wealthy couples who want to protect their assets from divorce, and many assume that the suggestion of creating a prenuptial contract is a sign of lack of belief that the marriage will last. The reality is that a prenuptial contract provides peace of mind and financial security, even if you believe you aren’t exactly wealthy.
If you have children from a previous marriage, complex assets, a family business, or other factors in your life that your new marriage could potentially influence, it is probably best to consider a prenuptial contract before marrying. An experienced Columbia, MO family law attorney can help you decide whether a prenuptial contract is suitable for your situation and guide you and your spouse-to-be through the drafting process.
Why You Need Legal Counsel for Drafting a Prenuptial Agreement
It’s not uncommon for people to believe that they can handle drafting their own prenuptial contracts without the assistance of an attorney. The reality is that the average person is unlikely to be able to craft a legally binding and enforceable prenuptial agreement without the help of an attorney. You might be able to draw up a framework for the agreement you envision and bring it to an attorney for fine-tuning and legal review, but ultimately you are going to need to hire an experienced Columbia, MO family law lawyer to assist you in creating your prenuptial contract.
An experienced attorney can help you determine what terms and provisions your prenuptial contract should include for your unique situation. Every marriage is different, and every marrying spouse has different goals and needs. Additionally, if you plan to draw up your prenuptial contract in Columbia, MO, remember that Missouri has not adopted the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act, so all prenuptial contracts’ enforceability is determined by case law and state statutes. This is yet another reason why it is crucial to hire a reliable Columbia, MO family law attorney to assist you in drafting your contract.
A prenuptial contract drafted by an attorney can provide you and your fiancée with the peace of mind you need to enter your marriage with greater confidence. Consider a few valuable tips to assist you in this process.
Be Honest and Provide Complete Information
Financial disclosure is an essential part of creating a prenuptial contract. These agreements revolve around financial matters. It is essential for both spouses to provide the attorney drafting the prenuptial agreement with complete and accurate financial records. Never attempt to hide assets from your spouse-to-be at this phase of prenuptial contract development. Inevitably, these hidden assets will come to light one way or another, and not only will the discovery of your hiding assets damage your relationship, but it will also render your contract unenforceable.
Missouri state law requires marrying spouses signing a prenuptial agreement to enter the agreement “freely, fairly, willingly, understandingly, in good faith, and with full disclosure.” If you are uncertain as to whether your financial disclosure documents are as complete and accurate as required by state law, your Columbia, MO family law attorney can help you gather any other documentation you require.
Ensure Your Contract Is Conscionable
Missouri state law also requires a prenuptial contract to be “conscionable” for it to be legally enforceable. This means you and your spouse must meet specific criteria as you draft and sign your prenuptial agreement for it to be enforceable:
- Both you and your spouse-to-be must have equal access to your own respective attorneys.
- You must draft the proposed prenuptial agreement with enough time before your wedding so that you and your spouse-to-be can revise the agreement if necessary.
- Both you and your spouse-to-be must provide complete and accurate financial disclosure. This must include a full accounting of your respective assets and their values.
- Both of you must be fully informed of all your legal rights as they pertain to your prenuptial agreement and Missouri family law.
- You and your spouse-to-be must have relatively equivalent bargaining positions. This means the two of you should be relatively close in age and have similar levels of education, employment, and sophistication.
These are only the criteria for conscionability that apply as you begin the contract drafting process. It’s also vital to know what you cannot include in your prenuptial contract if you want to ensure it is legally conscionable under Missouri state law.
Your prenuptial contract cannot include any terms related to illegal activities. Additionally, your prenuptial agreement cannot contain any provisions that seem to encourage or incentivize divorce. Prenuptial contracts focus on financial issues, and while you can include a postnuptial agreement that can act as a guide for divorce if the two of you decide to end your marriage, you cannot include any terms or provisions for personal issues, such as where you will spend your vacations, conditions for physical intimacy, or provisions for custody of your children.
Sign Your Prenuptial Agreement With Confidence
Missouri state law also upholds several other provisions for prenuptial agreements to be considered legally enforceable. For example, you cannot sign a prenuptial agreement if you are under the age of 18, and a prenup is legally unenforceable if either signing party signs under duress or threat of any kind.
Ultimately, a lot of work goes into creating a legally enforceable and reliable prenuptial agreement, but you and your spouse-to-be will likely find that the process of discussing everything included in your prenuptial agreement actually brings you closer as a couple. This process can allow you to have difficult conversations as early as possible so both of you understand each others’ goals, needs, intentions, and concerns. Remember to revisit your prenuptial agreement every few years to ensure it remains enforceable and so that you can make timely adjustments if necessary. The most important thing to remember if you want to have true peace of mind and financial security from your prenuptial agreement is to contact an experienced Columbia, MO family law attorney to help you create it.