Premarital Agreements

Many Family Law Attorneys seldom have the opportunity to discuss Premarital Agreements with clients since many people fear that asking their future spouse to execute such an agreement may be off-putting to their future mate. When this question arises. However, we often respond by asking, “how well does your future spouse trust you”? By stating the obvious, we are in no way wishing to appear to be negative but merely to impart sound and objective advice.

It is our job as seasoned Family Law Attorneys to foresee future potential difficulties to protect our clients, and, in some cases, we can suggest the implementation of a Premarital Agreement before a new marriage. As a practical matter, such an agreement can even instill confidence in many of our clients that their new spouse is indeed in love with them and not their assets.

As a specialized Family Law Firm, Izzo & Associates interacts with many divorcing clients. Family Law Cases are guided by the Texas Family Code, which espouses the Children’s Best Interest Standard. Therefore, our family law judges, especially when children are involved, want to keep adult litigants as stable as possible throughout the process, to transition separating adults toward moving on with their lives and reducing the negative impacts of their separation on their children.

Specifically, as a matter of course, Izzo & Associate staff makes it a point to explain this important concept to our divorce clients so that they do not appear to the court as being mean-spirited, or vengeful. Such an appearance NEVER benefits our clients, and it can and does lead to poor final rulings. It is important to note, however, that even in most child custody disputes, the division of the litigant’s marital estate still causes the divorce to blow up.

Note: If Premarital Agreements had existed and were introduced into court, they would assuredly help to smooth out thousands of such cases, eliminating the waste of millions of dollars on attorneys, as well as millions of extra heartaches.

Many law firms often overlook additional benefits of Prenuptial Agreements. When advising any client with a sizable estate and income stream, whether they are fairly youthful or elderly, it may be very beneficial that upon their remarriage, they should consider executing a Premarital Agreement. Why? Simply, if the client has existing children, grandchildren, friends, or even charitable organizations who they wish to bequeath a large portion of their estate upon their death, their wishes might not be able to be honored without such an agreement.

A Premarital Agreement allows a couple planning to be married to agree in writing on exactly how they wish to characterize future income, the acquisition of assets, and the responsibility for debts that will be created during their marriage. As an example, the couple may agree that each spouse’s income during the marriage will remain his or her sole and separate property; one spouse will solely own the marital residence, or a plan is established as to how what would normally be joint bills, such as utilities, will be paid, and by whom. It is also possible in a Premarital Agreement for the parties to still anticipate the creation of specific community property and/or to allow for both parties to deposit funds into a joint bank account for their family’s common use. Such agreements also generally spell out exactly how any community assets or debts that may be created will subsequently be divided in the event of a divorce. Therefore, in such a case, the terms laid out and executed at the onset of their marriage in their Premarital Agreement will govern the division of all existing assets and debts at the time of a divorce, presumably eliminating the need to battle over them as part of a contested lawsuit.

Premarital Agreements can deal with various issues, including military and other pension benefits, retirement savings, investment and bank accounts, and family business interests. Such agreements are also sometimes utilized to specify beneficiaries regarding life insurance proceeds. Of special note, a Premarital Agreement can govern as to whether one spouse will pay spousal support to the other, for how much and for how long, if a divorce does occur, as well as even specifying that in the event a court does order support, the recipient must pay it back.

On the other side of the coin, a Premarital Agreement can take into consideration the fact that one spouse may be putting their career on hold to care for their children; assume specific family responsibilities, such as caretaking an elderly or sick relative; assume a support role to advance their spouse’s career; begin working at a lower rate of pay for a family business, or even helping to build their spouse’s pre-marriage solely owned business. All of these considerations can be weighed and considered to justify giving the non-working spouse, or a spouse exiting a high-paying career to aid in the marriage, a more significant share of future assets depending on the circumstances.

Ratification Agreement

Texas law was impacted several years ago through the appellate process, which created revised standards for what are currently considered to be legally binding Premarital and Postnuptial Agreements. Izzo & Associates responded to said changes by researching and adding new sections to our firm’s existing Premarital Agreements to strengthen them in case of a lower court challenge or an appeal. One specific feature of said changes involves the coupling of Izzo & Associates Premarital Agreements with a Postnuptial Ratification Agreement, WHICH WE STRONGLY NOW RECOMMEND. Such agreements should also contain exhibits of ALL existing assets and debts for each party to the agreement, and each party MUST have their own independently hired attorney review all documentation before its execution.

DO NOT FORGET that a Premarital Agreement is a Contract in Texas for which specific requirements must be met for it to be legally binding. Individuals considering the efficacy of entering into a Premarital Agreement should ALWAYS seek the advice of a well-qualified Family Law Firm well before entering into such a contract. This is especially important if your future spouse has suggested that his or her attorney can easily draw one up. NEVER SIGN such a document without your legal counsel being engaged to review it first, so they can advise you so that you will understand your options to protect your rights.

Postnuptial Agreements

A Postnuptial Agreement is similar to a Premarital Agreement. Its chief difference concerns the fact that it is entered into after a marriage has taken effect. Due to this, their legal enforceability can be more challenging to defend in court. Izzo & Associates’ Attorneys always want prospective clients considering a Postnuptial Agreement to be carefully advised of the significant pitfalls of relying on one.