Prenuptial Agreements in Washington, DC

While many people are only familiar with prenuptial agreements from what they see on television, which usually involves a plot where one of the parties refuses to sign the agreement, prenuptial agreements are routinely signed and are often necessary to give both parties financial peace of mind when entering a marriage.

One of the common misconceptions is that a prenuptial agreement is designed to prevent a wealthy spouse from having to give his or her spouse a great deal of money in the event of a divorce.  In reality, a prenuptial agreement is fundamentally based upon the principle of fairness.

Prenuptial Agreement Requirements

The first thing that should be noted is that, while people commonly call these agreements prenuptial agreements, Title 46, Chapter 5 of the Code of the District of Columbia uses the term “Premarital Agreements.”  Here are some of the requirements and effects of a premarital agreement in the District of Columbia:

  • A premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties.
  • The prenuptial agreement may pertain to spousal support, creation or modification of a will, trust, or other financial arrangement, the right to proceeds from a life insurance policy, and any other matter that is not illegal and not adverse to public policy.
  • A premarital agreement in Washington, DC can include a choice of law provision.
  • A premarital agreement can become effective when the marriage is entered into or when the domestic partnership is created. It should be noted that now that same-sex marriage is legal, there are likely to be fewer domestic partnerships.
  • The agreement must be entered into voluntarily.
  • The agreement cannot be unconscionable when it was created.
  • The other party must have been provided with reasonable disclosure of the financial obligations of the other party.

This last point is one of the aspects that goes to fundamental fairness.  If one party wishes for his or her fiancé to sign a prenuptial agreement in Washington, DC, prior to the marriage, he or she must reasonably disclose the extent of his or her assets. In other words, you cannot hide assets from your fiancé and still ask him or her to sign a prenuptial agreement.  The reason for this is because, in order for your fiancé to enter into the agreement voluntarily, he or she must have full knowledge of the implications of signing the agreement.  In other words, if your fiancé doesn’t know what he or she is giving up by signing the agreement, it is not a fair agreement, and courts may invalidate it during a divorce.

Postnuptial Agreements

While we typically think of a prenuptial agreement as a document signed prior to marriage, the law also provides for a way to sign a similar document during marriage.  While this was not allowed at common law, in today’s modern legal system, it is possible to have a valid postnuptial agreement.   While these agreements are typically associated with disagreements, a postnuptial agreement can actually have the opposite effect by resolving conflict and making parties feel more secure in their decision to remain married.

The family law attorneys at DiPietro Family Law Group have years of experience handling domestic relations cases in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland.  Contact us to schedule a consultation today at (202) 609-7446.

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