What should I include in my New York prenuptial agreement?

Many people wrongly believe that a prenuptial agreement is only for the wealthy. In truth, these contracts can benefit a wide range of married couples in New York. Not only do they ease the decisions that must be made following a divorce, but they also provide a legal foundation for the protection of someone’s assets. A report from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers states that in 2013, 63 percent of divorce attorneys surveyed said they had seen an increase in the number of premarital contracts.

When drafting these documents, it is essential to know what the law requires and what good sense says should be included. The following are pieces that most prenuptial agreements in New York should have:

Full and fair disclosure

A valid prenuptial agreement in New York should include a complete disclosure of each party’s financial circumstances. In other words, both spouses should be honest when providing information regarding assets and debts. Defrauding a spouse could invalidate the terms of the agreement.

Other eligibility requirements include the following:

  • It must be in writing and signed before the marriage.
  • Both parties signed the document before a notary public.
  • Both spouses are mentally competent and 18 or older.

If any of these is violated, a court may not recognize the legality of the document.

Property division

The driving force behind most prenuptial agreements is each party’s right to his or her property. The document can outline which assets will return to which spouse in the event of a divorce, regardless of whether or not the asset is owned jointly or separately. It is also possible to divide debts and determine each party’s right to sell, buy or transfer property.

Alimony and other benefits

A prenuptial agreement may legally determine how much alimony either spouse would receive following a divorce. The amount and duration of spousal support may be written into the terms of the contract. The document may also outline the death benefits a spouse may receive from a life insurance policy.

Child custody and support

Though a prenuptial agreement in New York could outline issues pertaining to children, such as support payments and custody situations, it is important to point out that a judge has the discretion to determine if, upon the divorce, the terms of the agreement serve the children’s best interests. For example, the agreement can discuss support for children that came from a previous marriage. However, it cannot definitively determine these issues for an unborn child.

Even the most thorough agreement could fail to mention an important item if a couple enters into one without proper advice. Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a family law attorney in New York.