Legal Eagles: How Property is Viewed in Case of Divorce
You and your partner are getting married. Do you need a prenuptial agreement?
You might. For both LGBTQ and straight couples, getting married automatically creates certain legal rights and obligations between you and your spouse concerning “marital property.” That’s true whether the “marital property” is land and buildings or cars and jewelry.
The legal rights and obligations may be contrary to how you’d like your property to be distributed if you ever get divorced. That’s a reason to plan for the future if you want to retain control over your financial affairs should the worst happen.
A prenup, also called a premarital agreement, is a legally binding contract entered before marriage that gives you that control. Most commonly, premarital agreements resolve financial matters such as how property and spousal support will be handled should the marriage end in divorce. A prenup can waive any claims for alimony. Along with proper estate planning documents, a prenup can even outline what happens to financial interests, such as investments, when one spouse dies.
If you own real estate, investments, retirement accounts or some combination of the three; if you and your partner wish to keep your respective financial commitments and estates separated; or if you or your partner have children, then entering into a premarital agreement with your partner may be the wisest financial decision you will make.
Contrary to popular belief, prenups are not just for the wealthy. They can be used to address other financial concerns, however modest. A prenup can also lay out guidelines on other issues, such as management of property during marriage or, less typically, allocation of household responsibilities between the spouses.
Each state has laws that address how property will be handled and distributed between divorcing couples. In North Carolina, the law is called “equitable distribution.” Under equitable distribution, property is classified as “marital,” “separate” or “divisible.” Property that you bring into the marriage, or that you inherit or receive as a gift from someone other than your spouse, is your separate property. Your spouse has no legal claim to your separate property.
ABOUT ELIZABETH HODGES
firstname.lastname@example.org | 704.377.7213
In her family law practice, Beth handles equitable distribution, alimony, child support, and child custody cases, among others. Her cases also include drafting of premarital agreements, separation agreements, postnuptial agreements, parenting agreements and property settlement agreements. She has settled numerous cases through mediation and arbitration, in addition to resolving cases through litigation.
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