Marital Agreements

There are several different types of agreements related to marriage. The main contract is the marriage contract itself, which is your agreement to marry your spouse. Other agreements that married persons may enter into include:

  • Prenuptial agreement: you and your spouse may enter into a contract before you get married that relates to the property and financial assets, like stocks, you each have before marriage and how your property and assets will be handled during, and potentially after the marriage.
  • Postnuptial agreement: you and your spouse may decide after you are married that you want to have a contract dealing with your property and assets, and how they will be divided in the event of divorce or death.
  • Separation agreement: you and your spouse may agree to live separately and apart from one another without getting divorced. The separation agreement addresses how you and your spouse want to handle child support, child custody and visitation, spousal maintenance, and dividing up your property and assets.
  • Marital settlement agreement: you and your spouse may agree to end your marriage and you may be able to agree on the details without getting the court involved. The marital settlement agreement, also called a stipulation of settlement addresses how you and your spouse want to handle your property and assets, spousal and child support obligations, and visitation and custody arrangements without court involvement.

While each of these agreements can usually be enforced by either spouse against the other, under certain circumstances, the agreements may be challenged and a court may find that the agreement is not valid based on its provisions not being fair and reasonable when made or they are unconscionable at the time of the judgment of divorce. An unconscionable agreement has been defined as one that no person in his or her senses and not under delusion would make on the one hand, and no honest and fair person would accept on the other hand, leaving a lot of latitude to the court to decide if the agreement is unconscionable.

Legal Editor: Pasquale J. Crispo, April 2015 (updated February 2019)

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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