How to know if you need a post-nuptial agreement

How to know if you need a post-nuptial agreement

By Susan Kim, Stephanie Graham. CREATED Aug 31, 2012 - UPDATED: Aug 31, 2012

A post-nuptial agreement helps to cover your assets, but how do you know if you need one? Brian Morache and his wife Mariam are past divorcees who recently tied the knot.

"Both of us have been married twice. Her first one ended OK, the second one was a nightmare," Brian says.

This time, Mariam wanted to protect her assets, so she and Brian signed a post-nuptial agreement.

A post-nup is a legally binding document that's similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, but is signed after a couple says their vows. With divorce rates and litigation costs on the rise, Ken Altshuler with the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says a growing number of couples are looking into these so-called 'marital contracts'.

"Any two people who feel that they're in conflict and feel that a marriage may be dissolved should try and define what they would do in the event of a divorce in advance. It does bring clarity to the situation," Altshuler says.

Some happy couples are also signing post-nups for a sense of security. The terms of the agreement can deal with practically anything, from checking and savings accounts, to debt and child support, to personal property. Altshuler points out, "We have many instances where people talk about who is going to have custody of the pet. I've had different pieces of china and silverware that were divided in advance."

For Brian and his wife, working out who gets what was simple. Brian notes, "What we come into the marriage with is what we would each leave with."

Brian and Mariam were lucky. Allison Pescosolido, co-founder of divorce detox, says post-nups can often be tricky to approach.

"Both people are going to have to give up what their ideal is. You also want to walk away if it starts getting heated and set a specific time to get back together," Pescosolido says.

Pescosolido also recommends reaching out to a therapist. No matter how you choose to go about it, the most important thing is a full disclosure--finances, assets, and debts."

Otherwise, the post-nup could be thrown out in court. Brian and Mariam look forward to a lifetime of love, but consider the post-nup a kind of insurance policy.

"Its almost like putting on a life jacket when you're going to go boating. You don't anticipate using it, but you want it there."

Currently, Ohio is the only state that prohibits post-nuptial agreements. For more information on how post-nups are handled in Wisconsin, contact a lawyer in your community.