Is a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement right for your Texas marriage?

As times change, so does your need for premarital financial protection. A generation ago, prenuptial agreements were commonly only used in marriages where there was a significant income or net worth disparity between the parties. The "average" couple wasn't as likely to draft a prenup, instead relying on the Texas legislature's concept of community property distribution. Typically, if the mom (or dad) stayed home with the children and chose to forego career or educational opportunities, any financial disparity would be handled through the use of alimony or equitable property settlement if the marriage ended. As the saying goes, the times are changing.

Nowadays, couples of all wealth levels can benefit from a solidly crafted, equitable and enforceable premarital agreement. These agreements can be used to dictate how certain property will be apportioned upon a divorce, protect assets for children of a former relationship, address important issues about child-rearing (like what religion the children will be if the couple are of different faiths or where the children will attend school if one spouse has a legacy at a particular institution) and set forth terms of any future spousal support payments.

Of unique importance to particular couples

Prenups can be especially useful for couples where one spouse has a higher earning capacity because the other made educational or career sacrifices in order to devote herself (traditionally, this has been a woman, but nowadays there are many stay-at-home dads as well) to domestic responsibilities.

In choosing to forego his or her own career opportunities in favor of a spouse, the lesser-earning spouse may very well have missed out on:

  • Learning marketable skills
  • Making important industry networking connections
  • Gaining experience in the latest technologies

Because so many jobs nowadays are the product of networking and embracing change, it could be more difficult for a stay-at-home spouse to jump back into the workplace now than it was a few decades ago.

This is where a prenup could be extremely beneficial; a prenup can dictate that a certain amount of alimony/ spousal support be paid to the lesser-earning spouse commensurate with the time and training it will take for him or her to become financially self-sufficient in today's job market and make enough money to live at the approximate standard of living established during the marriage. Such a document could be drafted prior to the marriage or after the wedding has taken place, in which case it would be called a "post-nuptial agreement" or "post-nup" instead.

A key point to remember

An important note: many couples choose to hire independent counsel when discussing the terms of a prenup, and this is certainly a smart choice. Having your own counsel will ensure that your needs are met, your legal rights are protected by the document, that the agreement itself is equitable, and that there aren't terms in the agreement that could potentially render it void or unenforceable. For example, it is acceptable to set the amount and length of any future alimony award in a prenup, but these documents can never be used to contract away one spouse's parental rights or to prevent one spouse from collecting child support from the other after a break-up.

Do you still have questions about how Texas prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements work, or how they could fit into your marriage? For answers, seek the advice of a family law attorney in your area with experience handling these versatile documents.