What is a postnuptial agreement and why are they on the rise?

Family Lawyer

A postnuptial agreement is a type of marital agreement. It serves the same purpose as a prenuptial agreement, but it is signed after a couple is married. There are many different reasons a couple may seek out a postnuptial agreement. In the past, there has been a stigma attached to obtaining a postnuptial agreement. People have associated them with infidelity or as a sign of problems within a marriage. However, according to a survey of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers members, the most common reasons for wanting a postnuptial agreement today have to do with wealth management. The top things couples address are property division, spousal maintenance, and retirement accounts.  This survey also revealed that around 50% of divorce lawyers reported an increase in spouses seeking these agreements over a three-year period.

So why are postnuptial agreements on the rise? It is worth noting that the demand for prenuptial agreements has also increased in recent years. One of the main reasons for the increase in both types of agreement is the growing number of women that are entering and staying in the workforce. When one or both individuals have accumulated personal wealth, it is common for them to want to protect it in the event of a potential separation. Conversely, some couples choose to enter into an agreement when one spouse gives up their career to become a stay at home parent. The agreement can offer the new stay at home parent assurance that in the event of a separation or divorce they will be taken care of financially.

Other popular reasons for postnuptial agreements include protecting an inherence and protecting one spouse from the other’s debt. Protection of an inheritance, whether it is money or property, is big reason some couple opt for a postnuptial agreement. In order to ensure that in the event a couple does separate, the inheritance remains untouched, couples may seek a postnuptial agreement. Postnuptial agreements can also help to protect one spouse from the other spouses’ debts, personal or business related.

Often, when one or both parties experience an unforeseeable increase in net worth over the course of a marriage, a postnuptial agreement comes into play. Bill and Melinda gates famously did not have a prenuptial agreement. Instead, their upcoming divorce will be handled according to their separation contract, also known as a postnuptial agreement. So, if in the excitement of preparing to marry, a couple elects not to get a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement gives them a way to outline a separation agreement once the excitement of a new marriage has worn off or anything about their situation changes. 

Despite the popular interpretation of postnuptial agreements as a sign a marriage is headed for failure, it can actually help a couple to rebuild their relationship. The agreement, once handled, helps to sort out some of the more contested elements of separations like finances or property division. Once those are settled, the couple, if they wish, can focus fully on repairing their marriage rather than worrying about all the what ifs that accompany a separation.

Whatever a couples reasoning may be, a postnuptial agreement can help them to resolve issues in their marriage. Postnuptial agreements will likely continue to rise in popularity in the coming years as more people become aware of them and the benefits they can offer. As they become more common, the negative associations many people have with marital agreements may begin to disappear and they will be seen instead as tools for creating a happy, successful marriage.  For help with planning, contact a Family Lawyer in Arlington, TX, like the offices of the Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC.