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Should we sign a postnuptial agreement?

The success of many marriages depends upon the attitudes of the spouses toward joint finances. It's why many couples choose to sign prenuptial agreements before marrying.

But for others, prenups aren't on file when fiscal disasters loom on the horizon. But these couples still have the option to sign postnuptial agreements if they so choose.

What protections does a postnup offer?

Like prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements are legal contracts. Couples sign them at some point after getting married to designate how their financial resources shall be apportioned in the event they divorce.

Postnups are often useful when one of the spouses is fiscally irresponsible with community property funds. For instance, a postnup can specify that debts one spouse incurs will be solely the responsibility of that spouse to pay off if the two split up.

It should be noted, however, that creditors and civil courts do not have to honor a couple's postnuptial agreement and are still free to pursue both parties for debts incurred by one spouse during the marriage.

But these agreements are still helpful during divorce proceedings. They provide the court with additional insight into the relationship both spouses have with their finances.

Who needs postnups?

Spouses who have been married more than one time may decide to protect assets for children they had with former partners. Postnuptial agreements can provide some protections.

Couples attempting to work on a marriage already weakened by the infidelity of one spouse can use a postnup to demonstrate their intentions to rededicate themselves to their spouse and their marriage. The adulterous spouse can stipulate that the other receives the lion's share of the communally-owned resources should the marriage disintegrate due to a future indiscretion.

Another reason for a postnup may be to ensure that a spouse who stayed home to rear children and tend to domestic chores doesn't wind up destitute after a divorce because he or she lacks substantial work experience.

If you decide that a postnup is in order, both spouses need to retain separate counsel to review the agreement before it's signed and filed.

Source: ABC News, "Forget the Prenup: Why You May Need a Postnuptial Agreement," AJ Smith, accessed June 23, 2017

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