Some people think that the suggestion of a prenuptial agreement is the fastest way to end an engagement. However, prenuptial contracts are becoming more common. For many couples, a prenuptial agreement can offer security in marriage and may lead to fewer arguments about finances.
The rules governing prenuptial agreements vary from state to state. If you or your future spouse is considering a prenuptial agreement, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the particular rules of your state. This article provides an overview of prenuptial agreements in Oklahoma and explains the elements needed for an agreement to be enforceable. If after reading this article you have questions, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.
A prenuptial agreement, also called an “antenuptial agreement”, is a premarital contract between two future spouses regarding property, inheritance, support and alimony. An antenuptial agreement must be in writing and signed by both spouses to be binding. It can address property division and the rights of each spouse in a divorce or upon death. Nevertheless, a prenuptial agreement only takes effect once a couple marries and it can’t be modified after marriage. If the couple creates an agreement but doesn’t actually marry, the agreement is invalid.
Anyone who wants financial security in marriage or hopes to avoid a potentially messy divorce may need a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements come in all shapes and sizes. Individuals with large amounts of money or property may use a prenuptial agreement to safeguard assets. A less wealthy individual may use a premarital contract to keep control of his or her limited assets or to protect a child’s inheritance.
When two people get married, most of the property acquired by the couple becomes jointly owned. Without a premarital contract, property division is left up to state law. As such, a prenuptial agreement may be a good idea for anyone who wants to maintain control of his or her property in a divorce.
Generally, a prenuptial agreement resolves issues that would otherwise be decided by a judge in a divorce. For example, an agreement may cover one or more of the following issues:
A prenuptial agreement must be signed and in writing, but it doesn’t need to be notarized or witnessed to be enforceable. Matters regarding the care and custody of children aren’t permitted in prenuptial contracts. However, Oklahoma courts have upheld agreements that eliminate or increase the amount of money that a spouse would inherit under state law upon the other’s death.
Child support belongs to the child and can’t be contracted away by the child’s parents. Moreover, any custody decision must be based upon the best interests of a child. Thus, parents can’t create their own prenuptial agreements regarding future custody and support of their children.
A judge will review a child’s emotional and physical needs at the time of a custody proceeding. The court will throw out any portions of a prenuptial contract that try to resolve child custody, visitation or support. Although a judge can create a custody order that mirrors a custody arrangement contained in a prenup, the custody order must be considered independently and be based on the best interests of the child, not the child’s parents.
Unlike many other states, Oklahoma has not adopted the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act (UPAA), which sets forth certain requirements for prenuptial agreements. Instead, premarital contracts must follow the rules set by state laws.
Basic contract principles govern prenuptial agreements. Specifically, an agreement must be written and signed by the future spouses prior to their marriage. If a wedding never takes place, the prenuptial agreement won’t take effect.
The majority of prenuptial agreements are upheld, if the following factors exist:
Although each spouse must have a general understanding of the assets and debts of the other, that understanding doesn’t need to be perfect. In one Oklahoma case, a prenuptial agreement was upheld even though the husband’s attorney unintentionally represented that the husband’s assets were less than they actually were. Nevertheless, the agreement was still valid because the discrepancy in value wasn’t significant and the wife didn’t rely on the attorney’s statements.
In any case, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney before signing a prenuptial agreement. However, potential spouses shouldn’t use the same attorney when entering into a premarital contract because it may look like one spouse was coerced. Prenuptial agreements can be complicated; if you have additional questions consult a local family law attorney for advice.