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With the divorce rates among American couples at 40 to 50 percent, it is common to see couples drawing up marital agreements, including prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements, to plan for their financial future.
While discussing marital agreements can make some couples feel uncomfortable, it isn’t only about self-preservation. In fact, you can think of marital agreements as a way to help ensure your partner’s welfare should anything ever change between you.
Marital agreements may ultimately help you better understand how painful and complicated divorce can be, which can in turn make your relationship with your partner stronger.
What Is a Marital Agreement?
No one can know the future, and some couples feel it is important to protect themselves and their future spouses from unforeseen circumstances. A marital agreement is a written contract between a couple that outlines how the couple’s assets will be divided up in the event of a future divorce or death.
Couples can enter into marital agreements before getting married or even after they are already married. However, for couples who are already contemplating divorce, it is too late to enter into a marital agreement.
The Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act (UPMAA)
Colorado marital agreement laws changed in 2014 when the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act (UPMAA) was adopted to offer more protection for couples who enter into marital agreements. Some of the major updates to the pre-existing Colorado law include:
- Marital agreements must be in writing and must be signed by both individuals.
- The law now requires that each party must voluntarily consent to the marital agreement and prohibits duress.
- If one of the parties didn’t have access to legal counsel, then the marital agreement can’t be enforced. Legal representation is not required, but anyone who is unrepresented must have had an opportunity to retain counsel, and if they don’t have the financial resources to retain counsel and the other party does, then the other party must pay for legal counsel if the unrepresented party desires it.
- The law requires each party to disclose financial information such as their income to the other party before entering into the agreement.
What a Marital Agreement Does
A marital agreement offers a sense of security to both parties entering a marriage and dictates what each partner can expect in the event that the marriage ends. Marital agreements cover:
- Alimony/Spousal Support – The marital agreement dictates how much spousal support is to be paid in the event of a divorce or a death.
- Assets and property – Marital agreements outline who will get what assets (or percentage of assets) and the assets each party will receive after a marriage dissolves or a partner passes away.
- Debt – The marital agreement also outlines what happens to any debt that is amassed in the marriage in the event of a divorce or death.
- Legal fees – If a couple decides to dissolve their marriage, a marital agreement can dictate who pays for any attorney fees either of you require.
Limitations on Marital Agreements
In Colorado, there are some restrictions on what marital agreements can cover. One major restriction is child support. Marital agreements cannot reduce or waive the responsibility of either parent to pay child support in the event of a divorce.
Marital agreements also cannot prohibit one party from pursuing legal action for domestic violence if it occurs during the marriage. Marital agreements also cannot punish either party for being the one to initiate divorce proceedings.
Types of Marital Agreements
Marital agreements typically fall into two categories: prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.
Prenuptial agreements are signed and agreed to before a couple enters into a marriage. Prenuptial agreements make sense for couples who are looking for a sense of security about the future, whatever it may hold, and who want to know what to expect in the event that their marriage dissolves.
For instance, if one of the two parties comes into the marriage with a significant amount of assets, then that person may want to protect those assets (including any increase in value of the assets throughout the marriage) through a marital agreement. On the other hand, if one of the two parties brings a major debt into the marriage, then it can be a good idea to disclose that in the marital agreement and to decide who will take on responsibility for that debt should the marriage end in divorce.
The experienced family attorneys at Halligan LLC can help you and your intended draw up a prenuptial agreement that outlines what each party is bringing to the marriage and what each party can expect to retain or be responsible for in the event of a divorce.
This type of agreement is an option for couples who are already married but still want to enter into a marital agreement. Sometimes, when one of the parties inherits a large amount of money, receives a large financial gift, or otherwise experiences a major change in financial circumstances, a couple may decide that it is in their best interest to enter into a marital agreement for the sake of security, given their change in circumstances.
For any type of marital agreement to be valid and enforceable by the courts, it must have been documented in writing, signed by both parties, have been voluntarily and not forcibly agreed to, not contain any unreasonable demands, not violate any pre-existing laws, and contain financial disclosures regarding income and property by both individuals in the marriage.
Contact an Attorney at Halligan LLC
If you and your fiancé or spouse are considering entering into a prenuptial or postnuptial marital agreement, the Colorado family law attorneys at Halligan LLC can help. We understand that drafting a marital agreement can be a delicate process, but our lawyers are adept at navigating these agreements in a way that works for everyone and can help you draw up a marital agreement that protects both you and your spouse no matter what the future brings. Call us at (720) 608-2361 or contact us online today for a consultation.