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What can a prenup do?

Couples in Arizona can enter a prenuptial agreement before their marriage that requires the disclosure of their assets and can help resolve issues if the couple ever divorce. These agreements, however, have advantages and disadvantages.

For couples in a community property state, like Arizona, a prenup may help protect their financial assets. A couple in this state equally share assets, debt and property regardless of the spouse named on titles, documents and deeds. This is burdensome for a spouse who made greater contributions to the marriage.

A prenup may allow the spouses to designate who owns the property and asset division instead of the court. It can also assure that a spouse does not obtain custody of the other spouse's family heirlooms or other property they owned before marriage.

These agreements may also assure that a spouse does not receive money or property that were intended for the children. This is especially significant where the couple has children from separate marriages to prevent one set of children having an unequal share.

Finally, this agreement can help reduce the likelihood of conflict, especially in a high asset divorce, if the marriage ends. A written agreement can reduce litigation and negotiations over matters that were earlier resolved under calmer circumstances.

There are downsides. First, a prenup may be considered as an indication that the marriage has a chance of failure or that a spouse will not fight to keep it intact. Prenuptial agreements are less effective if circumstances ever change. Unless the agreements are updated, it may contain terms that complicate relatively simple issues.

A prenup may also influence one of the spouse's lifestyles after divorce because it may decide property or asset division. A spouse, accordingly, may have to make changes because they possess less funds and property when their marriage ends. Finally, a judge can invalidate all or part of a prenup. A court can throw out terms that are unfair, coerced illegal or unreasonable.

Each spouse should obtain their own attorney to help assure that their rights are protected and there is transparency during negotiations. An attorney can help assure that a prenup complies with Arizona's laws and is enforceable.

Source: Prenupitalagreements.org, "The pros and cons of prenuptial agreements," Accessed Oct. 24, 2017

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