It used to be that prenuptial agreements were just for wealthy people, but they have become increasingly common. No one wants to think about a future breakup while planning a wedding, but divorce is a reality of modern life, and so many people consider it wise to write a prenuptial agreement even though they hope to never need it.Prenuptial agreements, known as premarital agreements in Kansas law, are technically contracts, although unlike most contracts, no consideration (such as money) is exchanged to complete the deal. In a typical premarital agreement, the prospective spouses spell out what their rights and responsibilities would be during the marriage and/or in the event that their marriage ends. This can be as specific as the couple would like, right down to the religion in which the kids will be raised and who does the housework. It can be healthy for a couple to discuss and agree to these issues prior to marriage, though courts usually do not enforce such personal and private choices, especially those pertaining to child custody decisions (due to the Court’s Best Interest of the Child standard). Instead, the courts focus on where property should or should not go in the event of the dissolution of the marriage due to death or divorce. To be valid under Kansas law, a premarital contract must be in writing; willingly entered into by both spouses; and the prospective spouses have to know enough about each others’ circumstances to make an informed choice about their own rights and responsibilities. In premarital contracts, the prospective spouses can agree to many different provisions relating to property, spousal support (AKA alimony), which state’s law would govern interpretation and enforcement of the premarital contract, and even whether or not a will is required to carry out the provisions of the premarital agreement. Basically, as long as a provision about property is not illegal, the prospective spouses can include it. Premarital agreements go into effect when the prospective spouses marry, and after that, any modifications to the premarital agreement must also be in writing and signed by both parties. Like the original premarital agreement, the modified agreement does not need consideration to be enforceable. A premarital agreement, or certain provisions within it, may not always be enforceable for reasons that are not readily apparent to the average bride or groom. For instance, child support cannot be adversely affected by a premarital agreement. And if someone fails to disclose all of their financial assets to the other party, then that other party did not make an informed choice when signing the agreement. The courts also put a lot of weight on whether the parties each had independent legal counsel. Because so many rights are at stake in a premarital agreement, it is wise to consult your own qualified Kansas family law attorney before entering into one — no matter how much you love your soon-to-be spouse. Sometimes spouses decide after they have already married that they need an agreement that covers many of the same issues as a premarital agreement would have. This is actually possible — it is called a post-marital agreement — and again, it is important that you are properly informed and advised by a Kansas family law attorney prior to signing. Taking care of yourself and your assets does not mean you love your fiancé any less. Let us help you take care of the financial aspects of a future divorce (that you hope never occurs) now, while your relationship is young; after all, its better to negotiate with the one for whom your heart beats than with the one who broke it.By Beth Crosland, J.D.Hillary Stirling, research assistant
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