The basics of prenuptial agreements

By Elizabeth Smith Owen, Attorney At Law

Prenuptial agreements, often called antenuptial or premarital agreements, are contracts between prospective spouses made before marriage.

The content of prenuptial agreements can vary, but they generally define prospective spouses’ non-marital and marital property, as well as include provisions for division of property and spousal support in the event of separation or divorce.

Why a prenuptial agreement matters

Such arrangements are particularly important in the contemplation of second or subsequent marriages, which have a higher rate of separation and divorce. Twenty-three percent of second marriages end in the first five years. Also, prospective spouses in these situations are often marrying later in life, after accumulating substantial wealth – so they have more assets to protect.

If properly drafted and executed, prenuptial agreements can be highly effective in the unfortunate event of separation or divorce.

Full financial disclosures from both prospective spouses are required for a prenuptial agreement to be valid.

These agreements must be in writing, and voluntarily executed. That means, not executed by promising, “if you sign this I will marry you” or a threatening, “I can’t marry you unless you sign this agreement.”

With two divorces happening every minute in this country, a prenuptial agreement can be a worthy investment. Both prospective spouses should be represented by competent legal counsel before executing a prenuptial agreement.

Elizabeth Smith Owen is a family law attorney at Morton & Gettys Law Firm in Rock Hill, SC. She can be reached at (803) 366-3388 or

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