The occasion of a marriage is a joyful one, but it is nonetheless imperative to protect yourself and your assets with a solid prenuptial agreement. Rather than weakening the bonds of a couple, this agreement can be a demonstration of your respect for yourselves and each other – it looks to the future and aims to protect you both from any potential events that could disrupt your lives and financial security. Unfortunately, many couples who are engaged to be married do not know exactly what a prenuptial agreement is or how to go about getting one.
Our legal team at The Valley Law Group can help answer your questions regarding how to obtain a prenup and other aspects of the process you may be curious about. We know your upcoming nuptials are an exciting and happy time, and we want to help you approach your future with the security and peace of mind you deserve.
What Is a Prenup?
In Arizona, a prenuptial agreement is often referred to as a prenup. It is simply a legally binding contract written and signed by two people prior to their marriage, which outlines each person’s financial rights and responsibilities while the couple remains married. In the event of a future divorce, it describes what will happen to their assets, debts, and other financial holdings.
Many people mistakenly go into a marriage believing that their assets and debts are safe in the hands of the state in the event of a divorce or that a divorce will not impact them financially. However, creating a prenup is crucial for any couple with assets or debts. Prenups are even more important for those with significant property or financial holdings.
For instance, couples who own a business together, who have children from a previous relationship, are marrying later in life, or who have inherited a large sum should protect themselves from future conflict over these assets with a prenup. Even couples who do not feel they have assets significant enough to quibble over can still benefit from a prenup because it can help avoid or eliminate future legal disputes down the road.
Common Items in an AZ Prenup
While each prenuptial agreement is unique according to the couple’s assets, debts, and personal preferences, there are some common items that are typical to this document.
Any family law attorney will certainly include the following:
- Division of property in the event of a divorce or separation
- Each spouse’s financial obligations during the course of the marriage
- Payment of pre-marital debt in the event of a divorce or separation
- Each spouse’s rights and responsibilities regarding any children from the marriage
- Each spouse’s rights and responsibilities regarding any children from previous marriages or relationships
- Any other topics that the spouses wish to include in the agreement
Protections a Prenup Offers
Couples with significant assets or debts are the best candidates for a prenup, but any couple can see the benefits of creating one. The agreement offers future protection and benefits that many couples approaching marriage do not consider in the whirlwind of planning their ceremonies, celebrations, honeymoon, and future family.
In general, the agreement should help provide the following:
- Protection for your assets in the event of a divorce or separation.
- An outline of how your assets will be divided in the event of a divorce or separation.
- Protection for your business interests in the event of a divorce or separation.
- The limit of your financial liability in the event of a divorce or separation.
How Do I Get a Prenuptial Agreement in AZ?
The process of deciding whether or not to get a prenup involves discussion and decision-making with your partner prior to your wedding and legal marriage. Remember: anyone can benefit from a prenup, not just those who have significant assets or debt. Consider that divorce can occur for couples from all economic walks of life. Going through a separation and divorce is already wrought with stress and difficulties, so it is important to consider how having a prenup in place can help ease the challenges of this process should it occur.
Consider these critical steps to securing a valid prenup before your wedding date:
1. Determine Whether You Need a Prenup
If you or your partner are of advanced age, have children from previous marriages, are a couple with an imbalance of wealth, or have significant assets between the two of you, it is highly recommended that you create a solid prenup to protect your future financial security. You deserve access to your assets and the peace of mind that comes with knowing they will be distributed fairly if the marriage ends.
For blended families, it is imperative to ensure your children are protected from handling any fallout with step-siblings in the event of a divorce. Both parties ultimately deserve protection for their existing assets and future life.
2. Hire a Family Law Attorney
Each spouse should have an attorney to protect their best interests and create a prenup that helps avoid disagreement down the line. Keep in mind that one attorney is not legally allowed to represent both parties. A dedicated family law attorney will be able to offer you a consultation with recommendations about how best to move forward to secure your assets and plan for your future protection. Then, your attorney can help you draft, review, and finalize your prenup.
3. Communicate About Finances
As you prepare to meet with your attorney, take the time to communicate with your future spouse about your assets as well as your debts. Topics to include in this conversation are things like your respective credit ratings, any shared expenses you plan on having, your bank accounts and whether they will be joint or separate, whether or not both spouses plan on working full-time, part-time, or at all, and of course, plans for existing and future children.
Once you have spoken about your current finances and future plans for work and family, create a list of each spouse’s assets and debts so that all relevant financial information is transparent to all involved. Be as detailed as possible about all relevant financial information so that the prenup will closely match your financial circumstances and goals and so that the likelihood of a challenge is significantly decreased.
4. Draft the Prenuptial Agreement
Arizona state law specifically outlines what types of things can be included in a prenup and what cannot, so this part of the process requires research and time. That’s why a family law attorney with a strong reputation can be such a valuable asset during the drafting process.
As mentioned, a thorough list of assets is necessary and should include the following information:
- Property that will be kept separate in the event of a separation or divorce, to be kept in the original owner’s name
- Property that will be shared between both parties, as well as how any marital property will be divided in the event of a separation or divorce
- Existing debts and how they will be paid, whether it be the responsibility of one spouse or both through marital property
- An outline of financial support (spousal support) to be paid by either party in the event of the dissolution of the marriage
- A statement defining who is responsible for paying bills, who will handle shared finances, what type of bank accounts will be joint or separate, and how any large purchases will be made
- A statement regarding the potential sale of the marital home and division of the proceeds in the event of a separation or divorce
- A statement outlining how both parties will pay taxes either may owe and whether they will be filed separately or jointly
- A sunset clause, if desired, specifying an end date to the prenuptial agreement
5. Ensure the Prenup Is Fair and Valid
A prenup must be beneficial to both parties, and it can be challenged and ultimately set aside if a judge deems it unfair to one party or otherwise unbalanced. In order for a prenup to be declared legally valid, it must be executed in the proper time period, drafted in writing, declared fair to both parties, be signed and dated by both parties, signed by witnesses, officially notarized, and presented to the court in triplicate. We recommend a skilled family law attorney assist with the drafting and review process to ensure it follows the correct regulations of the state.
More About Signing the Prenup
After you’ve drafted a legally valid prenup, the question becomes, “What is the process of signing a prenup? It is important to remember at this point that the prenup must be deemed legally valid for signing (as listed above.) A prenup becomes effective when the parties actually marry each other, and not before, and the signing must take place before the marriage.
The process of signing a prenup in Arizona occurs after the documents meet the following requirements:
- It must be executed before the marriage takes place
- The agreement must be fair
- Full and fair disclosure of each party’s finances is evident
- Each party must have the opportunity to consult with an attorney before signing the agreement
Once these requirements are fulfilled, both parties may sign the prenup in the presence of two witnesses who are not related to either party. The document must be signed by a notary public. At this time, the prenup is legally valid unless a judge renders it invalid due to improprieties or unfairness.
Prenup Creation FAQs
These common questions often arise as couples are considering creating a prenup.
Our legal Team Can Help Secure Your Future Assets with a Prenup
We have built an outstanding reputation in the family law community of Phoenix, AZ, and take a hands-on approach to working with soon-to-be newlyweds.
To learn more about how we can help you with the process of getting a prenup, contact us today.
Jonathan Roeder, Founder/Director of Marketing of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.