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Guide to Postnups and Prenups in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania couples who want to protect their assets or other lifestyle terms in the event of a divorce have two different options based on whether they considering marriage or already married.

Couples preparing to wed may consider a prenuptial agreement, also called a “prenup.”  A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed before the couple marries and states what will happen if one party breaches the contract and offers grounds for divorce.

The most common reason for a prenuptial agreement is to ensure premarital assets remain with the original owner in the event of a divorce, according to Bankrate.  It can also protect funds received during the marriage through inheritance or a business operated by one spouse.  Women’s Health suggests that while prenups can benefit partners with a significant difference assets or debt, it is also beneficial when one or both is bringing a child from a previous relationship into the marriage, so the child’s interests can be protected in the event of a divorce or death.

Philadelphia family lawyer Thomas Petrelli compares a prenuptial agreement to an insurance policy. Just as property insurance protects a home in the event of fire, theft or other damage; a prenuptial agreement protects both parties in the event of a divorce.

Couples seeking a prenup should ensure:

  1. The document is equitable and represents both parties fairly. A one sided prenup is not likely to be hold up in court.
  2. All important details, including who gets to keep the family pet should be included in the agreement.
  3. Both spouses obtain legal counsel to ensure their interests are protected and that both parties understand the agreement before signing.

Married Pennsylvania couples who did not sign prenuptial agreements but would like to prepare a contract to protect themselves in the event of a divorce can sign a postnuptial agreement, or“postnup.” Postnuptial agreements are the married couple’s equivalent to a prenup.

Legal Lookout advises “Postnuptial agreements are not just for newlyweds. Spouses at various stages in their marriage sign postnups for various reasons.” However, Wall Street Journal warns that postnups are not recognized in all states. For example, Ohio does not recognize postnups, and Minnesota only recognizes the agreement if both spouses are represented by his or her own attorney. Pennsylvania has no fairness criteria regarding postnuptial agreements, according to the Post-Gazette. PA residents can use a postnup to modify or eliminate  a spouses’ claim on estate, as the state does not allow one spouse to disinherit the other through a will or estate plan,  according to Post.

Postnups can be more than a missed opportunity at a prenup. The document can also be used to update or modify a prenuptial agreement, Wall Street Journal reports.

ABC News suggests signing a postnup is if one spouse has left the workforce to take care of the children.  This could help secure the financial future of the parent who gave up their career to raise a family.

Talking to a family lawyer about a postnuptial agreement does not necessarily mean divorce is imminent. Postnuptial agreement mediation has been effective in helping many Pennsylvania couples not just “patch up” their relationship, but making the matrimonial bond stronger and more solid than before.

Signing a prenuptial agreement is no longer considered taboo.  The number of engaged couples choosing to obtain a prenuptial agreements is on the rise, and the number of married couples signing postnuptial agreements is also experiencing an upward trend.  A new generation understands the importance of protecting ones finances and dividing up assets and debts in the event of an unfortunate legal separation.  To learn more about how a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement can benefit you and your partner, contact a Pennsylvania family law attorney.

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Thomas Petrelli, is the founder and named partner at Family Law firm of Petrelli Law, P.C. The firm provides a unique and dependable approach to family law. The firm's commitment to exploring and building the client/lawyer relationship to ensure that all your needs are met.

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