What is a postnuptial agreement anyway?
It’s not as common to hear about these as it is to hear about prenuptial agreements. A postnuptial agreement is largely like a prenuptial agreement, but it is agreed to and signed by each member of the couple after the couple is already married. Keep in mind too, though, that courts may continue to favor prenuptial agreements over postnuptial agreements (search ‘postnuptial agreement’ on http://www.americanbar.org to read more about this difference).
Traditionally, prenuptial agreements conjure up images of disputes before the marriage as couples argue about financial issues and try to decipher whether their partner loves them for themselves or just for their money (in the case of a large disparity in income or assets between individuals). But prenuptial agreements as well as postnuptial agreements can be helpful and increase intimacy and trust as couples communicate about important issues to arrive at decisions that will cover financial and property matters in case of either one’s death or divorce. These agreements, if done properly with the assistance of lawyers, essentially make matters easier and clearer if those situations should arise. Having such an agreement can help alleviate the unknown in court and adjust some of the decisions a judge might otherwise have to make to be more in line with what a couple has pre-specified.
Did you know that one issue that can be addressed in postnuptial agreements can be matters about ownership and/or custody arrangements about your beloved pet dog or cat in case of a separation or divorce? It may surprise you to find out that in most U.S. states, including Florida, pets are still legally treated as property to be equitably divided during dissolution (divorce) proceedings. And what you consider equitable is not necessarily what a court would consider as equitable under laws they would need to follow. So instead of your pet being considered a valued family member with potential arrangements made for shared custody or visitations, most courts will determine your pet to be similar to a toaster or a car with a decision imposed as to which person will get this property (pet) and that’s that from then on.
Overcoming the Stigma Associated with Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Having a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can help you and your partner reach decisions about many things, including property division, alimony, bills, and even your family’s pet. Although you make many discoveries about each other and make decisions about all sorts of issues both before and after your marriage, sometimes couples avoid discussing certain uncomfortable topics. Postnuptial agreements can help couples reach agreements on touchy subjects and can be used after months or years, as your situation changes- for instance, you can include decisions about pets that came into your lives prior to your marriage as well as pets that joined your family after your marriage.
Keep in mind that making such formal agreements can be seen as another responsible thing that you do as part of becoming a responsible married couple. After all, you buy life insurance even though you don’t plan on dying young or leaving your spouse before you’re both old and grey. So even though you don’t plan on divorcing your spouse either, think of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement as a useful tool that can help you both in case things do not go as you both currently envision for your future rather than as an assault on your love and commitment. You can decide things before animosity and strong emotions cloud your judgment. Remember too that most contracts like a car lease or a home mortgage have clauses that specify what happens if something goes wrong, even though you don’t plan on defaulting on loans or having a need to break a lease when you sign those documents.
Similarly, drawing up a suitable prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can be a prudent thing to do. And, you’ll both like knowing that you are determining and agreeing together as to what is equitable for your lives, rather than leaving it entirely in the hands of the courts.
If you still decide you don’t want to put your wishes down in a legally drawn up document, at least take the opportunity to have pointed discussions with your partner about financial, debt, child, pet and property issues. Communicating about such important issues that are not necessarily part of your daily dialogue can go a long way towards strengthening your bond and creating a mutual resolve towards a shared vision for your marriage.
For advice about current laws and legal questions about prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, consult an attorney in Florida for assistance. Enroll at http://FLPremaritalCourse.com for additional premarital preparation. Most counties in Florida accept our Certificate of Completion that qualifies Florida residents for a discount on their Florida marriage license and a waiver of the 3 day marriage waiting period.