Postnuptial Agreements

In the past few years, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), the number of couples seeking postnuptial agreements during their marriage has increased.

The AAML poll found that 51 percent of divorce attorneys reported more couples signing the agreements, which function as contracts describing the ownership of property.

Postnuptial agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements in that they determine who gets what after a divorce, among other provisions. A previous AAML survey found that attorneys had also seen a rise in postnups from 2002 to 2007.

AAML President Kenneth Altshuler says couples write postnuptial agreements when “there’s been a dramatic change in the financial circumstances of one party. If you win the lottery, or somebody all of a sudden inherits a large sum of money, or someone inherits a business from their family.”

In a perfect world, the couple might hope to share the new asset in perpetuity during a long and happy marriage. In reality, divorces happen and spouses can save an expensive and acrimonious court battle in the unfortunate event that they separate if they make it clear exactly who owns what.

The specter of divorce can actually spur the signing of a postnup — the other reason Altshuler cites. “Typically there’s got to be something not going overly well in the marriage. All of a sudden, they start thinking, ‘Wow, if this doesn’t work out, this is going to become a major problem. Let’s talk about now what will happen so we avoid fighting about it we get a divorce.’”

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