Contrary to popular belief, premarital and postmarital agreements (which most non-lawyers call prenuptial and postnuptial agreements or “prenups” and “postnups” for short) aren’t just tools for the wealthy and frequently divorced. Signing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can help a couple protect their individual assets and clarify expectations before and during the marriage. Prenups and postnups can also control what happens in case a couple separates and eventually divorces.
For various reasons, many people want to know whether you can sign a prenup if you’re already married. The answer is no, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put a marital agreement in place — it just needs to be a postnuptial or postmarital agreement.
In this blog, we’ll explain when you can sign a prenup and discuss the difference between prenups and postnups. We’ll also describe some scenarios where creating a marriage agreement may be the right choice.
For the rest of this article, we’ll refer to marital agreements as prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements or prenups and postnups since that’s what most people call them. Just remember that prenuptial agreement and premarital agreement are different terms for the same thing, and the same is true for postnuptial agreement and postmarital agreement.
When Can I Sign a Prenup?
Prenuptial agreements are legal agreements that couples sign before getting married. A prenuptial agreement can create a structure for the financial aspects of the relationship during the marriage, and it can also control how assets and property get divided if the marriage ends in a separation and divorce.
As we mentioned earlier, North Carolina law says you can only sign a prenuptial agreement before you get married. However, if you’re looking for ways to protect your assets after you’ve already gotten married, a postnuptial agreement is a good option. Like a prenup, a postnup describes how you and your spouse will divide property in the event of a split; the only difference is that you sign the postnup after the wedding.
How Are Postnups Different Than Prenups in North Carolina?
Like prenups, postnups describe what will happen to a couple’s assets in the event of a separation and divorce. Prenups can include stipulations for spousal support, but they can’t settle issues of child custody and child support. On the other hand, postnups usually can’t settle issues of spousal support. This is one of the main differences between prenups and postnups.
It might be possible for you and your spouse to use the same lawyer to create a postnuptial agreement, but we strongly discourage it. Instead, we recommend you and your spouse seek independent attorneys, which will help protect both parties and ensure that all the important issues get addressed.
You can also get a postnuptial agreement even if you already have a prenuptial agreement. The new agreement will replace the old one. So, if you and your spouse are no longer happy with the terms of your prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement may be a good solution.
Is a Prenup or Postnup Right for Me?
No matter where you are in your marriage, it’s never wrong to think about protecting your assets. Married couples separate and divorce for all kinds of reasons, from infidelity to the spouses growing and changing as people over time. And signing a marital agreement, whether it’s a prenup or postnup, doesn’t mean your marriage is on shaky ground. In fact, working with your partner to create a marital agreement can spark some healthy conversations about finances and other practical matters.
Here are a few potential scenarios where a prenup or postnup can prove useful:
- You or your spouse have children from previous marriages. When families blend, it can create legal complications down the road, so you may want to protect your child’s inheritance in case you die unexpectedly or the marriage ends. A prenup or postnup can protect your wishes and provide for your child’s future.
- One of you acquires an inheritance and wants to keep it separate. Inheritances technically count as separate property in a divorce, but it’s very easy to lose that protection by commingling your inheritance with marital property. A prenup or postnup can clearly define an inheritance and make sure it stays with you in case the marriage ends.
- One of you makes a financial decision the other doesn’t agree with. Let’s say your spouse prefers to make high-risk investments, and you’re not comfortable with the potential losses. In that case, a marital agreement can protect you from the fallout in case an investment goes bust.
What if My Spouse and I Already Plan to Separate?
If you and your spouse already know you want to separate or divorce and you don’t have a prenup or postnup in place, then you shouldn’t create a postnup now. Instead, you need a separation agreement.
A separation agreement is a document you and your spouse sign when you expect to separate within 30 days. Separation agreements aren’t limited like postnups — they can resolve all aspects of separation and divorce. If you and your spouse are on good enough terms to work out a separation agreement, then you can separate peacefully and minimize the amount of time and money spent.
If you have questions about prenuptial and postnuptial agreements or separation agreements, get in touch with an experienced family law attorney. Only an attorney can give you expert advice based on your unique circumstances.
Have Questions About Prenups and Postnups in North Carolina? Myers Law Firm Can Help
If you have questions about drafting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or about how an existing agreement will affect your divorce case, the team at Myers Law Firm is here to help. We can answer any questions you may have and address your issues with legal solutions tailored to your unique needs.
While we pride ourselves in handling divorce issues peaceably and with compassion, we won’t hesitate to fight aggressively to protect your rights. To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us online by filling out our online contact form.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.