Should I get a prenuptial (prenup) agreement ?

Many couples don't know the difference between a Pennsylvania prenuptial agreement and a Pennsylvania cohabitation agreement and are often left wondering if they should even bother getting one. Both types of agreements allow each person in the relationship to protect themselves and their rights as the relationship moves forward. There is a difference as to when a couple should enter into a prenuptial agreement and when a couple should use a cohabitation agreement.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement or prenup is a contract entered into by a couple in anticipation of their marriage. Prenuptial agreements usually outline the division of assets (personal property and real estate for example), debts and amounts of support, if any, that each party will be entitled to in the event of divorce or death.

Often a partner who wants a future spouse to sign a prenup has something that he or she wants to protect in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement can protect a family business, a treasured possession, and outline how premarital debts such as college loans and credit card bills will be paid should the couple divorce.

In Pennsylvania prenuptial agreements are presumed to be valid and will be enforced by a court. However, unlike with personal property, real estate and debt, all custody and child support proceedings will take place through the courts.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

The need for a cohabitation agreement or domestic partnership agreement, as they are sometimes called, usually arises for couples who are thinking of moving in together - this couple knows that they are looking to make a serious long-term commitment to each other.

Unlike married couples who have the option of going to family court to ask a judge for relief after the couple separates, couples who were never married do not have that option. For this reason it is important to outline property and inheritance rights before moving in together. Cohabitation agreements are enforceable by the courts, meaning that you can ask a judge for relief should you separate from your partner and a valid agreement exists.

While you may think that you can come to an agreement without an attorney, consulting an attorney will ensure that you are protected in the future because if an agreement is signed, and later you discover that you are not receiving your fair share, there may be little that can be done about it. A cohabitation agreement that fairly represents the interests of both people can provide security to the couple in moving forward in their relationship.

As with prenuptial agreements all custody and child support proceedings will take place through the courts, regardless of the fact that the couple were never married.

Entering into a prenuptial agreement or cohabitation agreement does not mean that you are setting your relationship or new marriage up for failure. Rather you are planning for the worst case scenario and hoping for the best. An experienced family law attorney who is familiar with Pennsylvania's cohabitation agreement and prenuptial agreement law will ensure your best interests are met and will be able to draft a valid agreement. For this reason it is important that if your partner presented you with either type of agreement that you seek out an attorney who will review the agreement with you and look out for your interests.

Do not leave the drafting and signing of your prenuptial agreement to the last minute. You want this task taken care of as far in advance of your wedding as possible and you want to provide you partner with the chance to have their own attorney review the agreement. Contact our office to schedule an appointment to speak to one of our attorneys about the drafting or reviewing of a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement. It would be our pleasure to assist you.

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