There are three instances in which a written agreement between the parties may prove beneficial in avoiding later entanglement in property and support disputes. The most common among these relationship agreements is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a contract entered into prior to the marriage, addressing the division of the parties’ assets and liabilities if divorce or separation occur, and may also address issues of estate planning on the death of one of the parties. Finally, a Pre-Nuptial Agreement in most instances can validly address whether spousal support will be paid in the event a divorce or separation occurs.
I have had some clients in the past express discomfort with the idea of entering into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement because it creates tension between them and their prospective spouse and because it feels as though they are anticipating a failure of their marriage. Nonetheless, nearly one-half of all marriages end in divorce. Accordingly, it is often prudent to enter into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. In fact, once parties have reached middle age, the ability of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement to address difficult issues such as the division of assets and liabilities, spousal support, and preserving a portion of their estate for their own family, is often significant and, in fact, ultimately helpful to both individuals.
After their marriage, spouses can enter in to a Post-Nuptial Agreement. In Oregon, Post- Nuptial Agreements are closely scrutinized by the Courts but, nonetheless, may be upheld if fair to both parties. A Post-Nuptial Agreement, while relatively rare, may aid the parties in resolving disputes that have arisen during their marriage regarding a division of assets and liabilities.
Finally, couples who choose to live together may enter into a “Cohabitation Agreement” to avoid conflict if their relationship should fail and the parties move apart. Of course, the rights and liabilities of the parties in such a relationship are highly dependent upon the facts of each case and require, at the very least, consultation with an attorney familiar with the concepts of “domestic partnership,” whether the couple is opposite sex or same sex. While it is preferable to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement before living together, it is not required. The purpose of any CoHabitation Agreement is to set forth the understanding of the parties and to protect their respective interests in their assets.
Please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, a Post-Nuptial Agreement or a Cohabitation Agreement.