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Understanding prenuptial agreements

A prenuptial agreement, entered into before marriage, can serve as a way for Massachusetts couples to decide how to apportion their assets in the event of a divorce. Especially for high-asset couples, a valid prenup can protect property and cut down on potential litigation.

Massachusetts law does not require your prenup to cover any particular topic. Common issues contained in prenups include alimony, classification of particular property as separate and division of assets. For an effective prenup, avoid using stock forms. Your attorney can help you by drafting a document that covers your individual circumstances.

Representation and full disclosure

General requirements for validity include having both parties represented by a lawyer and full financial disclosure by both parties. If it later turns out one of the parties hid information about debts, property or other relevant matters, the other may contest it. Courts may also invalidate a prenup that either party signed due to undue pressure or that contains extremely unfair provisions.

Changing the terms

Sometimes a couple's financial and other circumstances can change greatly during the marriage. The prenuptial agreement you signed several years ago may no longer address your current reality. Upon the consent of both parties, the agreement can be revoked or modified to better reflect your current wishes.

Giving up rights

Spouses may waive or limit any rights to alimony they may have. However, in the event of a complete waiver or a strict limitation, courts may look very closely at the circumstances and whether any unfair tactics impelled the spouse to give up these rights.

Child custody or support provisions may be invalid

Generally speaking, prenuptial agreements cannot cover custody and child support issues. Courts determine these based on the children's best interests; in particular, a parent may not give up the right to child support on behalf of the child. However, courts are more likely to allow child support provisions to stand when they stipulate an amount that exceeds the legally mandated child support guidelines.

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