Premarital and postmarital settlement agreements have a poor reputation, raising eyebrows and doubts when the subject is first mentioned. Many people believe that these contracts weaken marriages by seeding distrust between spouses. Others believe that such agreements are simply a tool for wealthy individuals to deprive their spouses of their property rights during divorce.
The truth is that properly drafted and utilized marital agreements can strengthen your marriage, and provide protection and peace of mind to both you and your spouse in the unfortunate event of divorce. The key is in how these documents are created, and by whom. Your property rights and prosperity are in good hands at the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving Ltd. From our decades of collective experience litigating over disputed assets (and poorly constructed agreements), we know what specific issues to address and what specific language to incorporate to prevent future conflicts and hedge against legal challenges.
Our attorneys have knowledgeably assisted couples in the Chicago area, statewide Illinois, and across the United States. We have extensive experience negotiating and drafting premarital (prenuptial) agreements and postmarital (postnuptial) agreements, as well as challenging such agreements when procured by fraud or duress. Our lawyers also handle cohabitation agreements between unwed couples who want to protect their own interests or formally extend rights to their partners.
Limiting Strife During Marriage And Divorce
A marital agreement is a contract between married spouses or consenting individuals planning to marry that addresses various issues that might arise during marriage or in the course of divorce. Property issues are often the main point of controversy. A marital agreement that defines each spouse's individual property and also lays out guidelines for property division in case of separation can greatly simplify and expedite what is commonly one of the most complex parts of divorce. This is especially appropriate in cases where spouses own a business or other complex, significant assets and real estate. Marital agreements cannot dictate child custody terms or negate child support obligations. The agreements can address lump-sum alimony, confidentiality agreements, continuation of an ex-spouse's health insurance and other applicable matters. The more issues that are resolved upfront, the less there will be to fight about if your marriage is one day dissolved.
Marital agreements generally fall into one of two categories:
- Prenuptial agreements — Marital agreements that engaged couples negotiate prior to marriage are known as prenuptial agreements. Such "prenup" agreements are common in cases where one or both partners have substantial individual assets or anticipate acquiring them in the future. They are also common in second marriages, to protect inheritance rights of children from the previous marriage. In any marriage, these agreements are an excellent opportunity for spouses-to-be to seriously consider many of the issues that come with marriage, and to resolve them preemptively.
- Postnuptial agreements — Marital agreements entered after the marriage has taken place are called postnuptial agreements and have multiple purposes. Couples often enter these agreements in anticipation of divorce in order to expedite the process. They may also be useful in cases where your circumstances change subsequent to the marriage, such as through the creation of a business. Lastly, couples who have run into unanticipated disagreements or issues during their marriages may want to consider resolving them through a postnuptial agreement. These agreements may resolve the areas of conflict and keep the marriage intact.
Marriage is no longer the presumptive arrangement, even for couples who are together for many years. In an earlier era, people tended to marry young and living together outside of marriage was scandalous. In recent generations, people are getting married at a later age, if at all, and have fewer misgivings about living together.
However, cohabitating couples acquire property together and, over time, their assets and financial affairs can become legally intertwined. A cohabitation agreement serves a similar purpose to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. It outlines how your property and debts would be distributed in the event of a breakup, and may address accountability for mortgage and rent obligations, bills and insurance, and other shared expenses. Cohabitation agreements may also designate the other person as a conservator for one's medical care or financial affairs in the event of incapacitation.
Preemptively Resolving Marital Issues
At The Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, we are enthusiastic advocates for the usefulness of Illinois prenuptial, postnuptial and cohabitation agreements, and we have helped many clients in the Chicago area negotiate and draft these valuable documents. Contact our Chicago office by phone at 312-702-0862 and contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.