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Understanding premarital agreements

For North Dakota couples who have made the all-important decision to get married, the idea of signing a contract addressing issues that commonly arise only when a couple wants to end the marriage seems counter-intuitive, and even somewhat destructive. Nevertheless, understanding the how's and why's of premarital agreements can go a long way toward eliminating the concerns of one or both spouses about financial issues that, if left unresolved, can be the precipitating cause of a divorce.

Under North Dakota law, a premarital agreement is a written contract between two people who intend to get married. Prenuptial agreements typically specify how certain assets will be distributed in the event of a divorce. If one spouse enters the marriage with significantly greater assets, the premarital agreement may specify how such assets will be distributed. A premarital agreement may require that one spouse waive their right to any assets owned by the other.

In order to be valid and enforceable, a premarital agreement must be signed by both parties prior to the marriage becoming official. Either prospective spouse can demand that the other prospective spouse make reasonable financial disclosures before signing the agreement. Each party has the right to have the draft agreement reviewed by an independent attorney.

Premarital agreements can be tailored to the specific requirements of any couple. Hiring an attorney to either prepare a draft or review a draft prepared by the other spouse's attorney is considered to be an essential precaution. A knowledgeable family law attorney can offer advice on the wisdom of certain provisions and can also aid in the understanding of complex financial issues. Premarital agreements need not be feared if both parties obtain independent legal advice before signing.

Source: legis.nd.gov, "Chapter 14-03.2 Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act," accessed on Jan. 28, 2018

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