Generally, marriage starts with the expectation of happily spending the rest of your life with your partner. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many marriages end in divorce, and these separations often have a profound impact on every aspect of life.
Divorces can force people to surrender property, take on debt, and even pay spousal support to the other party for the foreseeable future. Making matters worse, these cases are notoriously unpredictable and can create animosity between the two parties for a long time after the case in court is resolved.
Drafting a marital agreement with an attorney’s assistance can help avoid financial devastation and the accompanying stress of litigation. Valid marital agreements are contracts and are legally binding and, in most cases, help people maintain control in the event of a potential divorce. A DC marital agreements lawyer can help people understand how spousal contracts work and draft documents that preserve their legal rights.
The Legal Effects of Marital Agreements
A marriage creates a legal bond between two people. According to the Code of the District of Columbia §16-910, courts must make an equitable distribution of property to the two parties when they divorce. The “equitable distribution” can leave one side with significantly fewer resources than when they entered the marriage, and a divorce decree can even require one spouse to provide financial support to the other.
One positive aspect to the statute is that it recognizes a “valid antenuptial or postnuptial agreement.” In fact, parties who have a valid marital agreement are not subject to a judge’s equitable distribution because they have essentially recognized up front what they consider to be fair for themselves, which takes the power to make life-changing decisions away from the court.
A marital agreement can specify which party takes control of personal property. It can also dictate who controls a family business, who keeps real estate, and whether either party can ask for alimony. The only thing that a marital agreement cannot provide for is custody or support for children; however, parties can still reach an agreement about these sometimes very contested and emotional issues. Family courts still retain the ultimate authority to enter court orders in the best interest of children and consider child support a right of the child. Even so, a DC spousal contracts attorney can help you create both marital agreements, which are powerful legal documents that protect you financially, as well as child custody and child support agreements.
The Various Forms of Marital Agreements
Two people who are married or in a domestic partnership can enter into a marital agreement or contract at any time. These agreements have the same legal effects no matter when couples create them. In addition, if a marriage does not end in a divorce, these documents are not enforceable.
The most well-known version of a marital agreement is the prenuptial agreement, or the antenuptial agreement. These are contracts into which people enter before they marry. A related contract is the postnuptial agreement. The only difference is that the parties enter into a postnuptial contract after they are married.
A separation agreement is another kind of spousal contract that likewise involves a couple’s property and debt. Parties create these documents after separation or divorce becomes a reality. Parties can reach the contractual agreement before, after, or during a separation or divorce in an attempt to shorten the legal process.
In other cases, the parties may realize that they agree to the terms of a divorce after one party files the case. In either event, a separation agreement can serve as a negotiated end to the equitable distribution of property and debt that must legally occur in a divorce. A marital agreements lawyer in Washington DC can provide more information about different kinds of spousal contracts.
A DC Marital Agreements Attorney Can Help to Provide Certainty for the Future
Divorces are notoriously complex and emotional legal battles. Both parties understand that they have the right to property, the ability to demand control of a business, or the right to ask for alimony. With the right help, many couples are able to avoid disputes about these issues by entering into a marital agreement.
Couples can create marital agreements at any time. These can address key issues that arise during a divorce and bind both parties to the terms of the contract. With rare exceptions, courts will deviate from the terms of a marital agreement. Even matters not addressed by a marital agreement such as a plan for the care and custody of children can be agreed to separately.
A DC marital agreements lawyer can help you evaluate your need for a spousal contract. These agreements are contracts that provide security and certainty in the case of a potential divorce, which helps you plan for your future. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.