Dannenbaum Law Firm, PLLC

What couples in Virginia need to know about prenups

The recent secret wedding of Justin Bieber and model Hailey Baldwin may not be of interest to all Virginia couples. However, the fact that the pop singer has considerably more wealth than his bride illustrates the importance of planning ahead when a marriage involves noticeable net worth discrepancies. The pair reportedly did not consider a prenuptial agreement, which could result in a big payday for Baldwin in the event of a divorce.

The purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to establish how a couple will divide assets in the event of divorce or one spouse's death. Typically, such an agreement has to be as fair as possible and based on a full disclosure of each party's assets. However, "fairness" depends on specific circumstances. For example, if a marriage ends after 20 years, it would be reasonable for the higher-earning spouse to ensure that the lower earner is appropriately provided for.

In regard to assets, some prenups cover what would happen if an inheritance boosts one or both spouse's bank account. Also, prenups normally stipulate arrangements for assets that will be accumulated during the marriage, not what each individual had going into the union (premarital assets). A prenup can address alimony, but not child support or custody involving future offspring. Lastly, it's generally recommended that the presentation of a pre-marriage agreement from one partner to the other occur as far in advance of the wedding date as possible. Otherwise, attempts may be made to overturn the prenup.

Even if a couple enters a marriage without a prenup, like Bieber and Baldwin did, a family law attorney can prepare a post-nuptial agreement. In some cases, such agreements require one party to offer the other spouse something of value in exchange for signing the post-nup, such as stocks, real estate, or cash. It's also possible to amend an existing prenup at any time after a marriage.

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