PRENUPTIAL AND POSTNUPTIAL AGREEMENTS IN FLORIDA
Whether you are entering into a first marriage or a subsequent marriage, or you want to better define your financial relationship in an existing marriage, you may have been curious about Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements. Further, if you want an innovative and tailored process with a goal of preserving and enhancing relationships, Family Diplomacy offers a Collaborative Marriage Planning option that may be right for your family.
A Prenuptial Agreement is simply a contract between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage. Prenuptial Agreements are often used to define the rights of the parties as to property and debts and as to alimony and spousal support. All parties hope that Prenuptial Agreements will be tucked away in a drawer, never to be used again, but they can save both spouses a lot of heartache, time, and money as Prenuptial Agreements tell the court what the parties want in the event of divorce.
Please note that an attorney can only represent one party in the drafting of a Prenuptial Agreement, and both parties will need to exchange financial information and documents as part of the drafting process. It is best to begin the prenuptial drafting/negotiating process at least six months prior to a wedding date.
COLLABORATIVE MARRIAGE PLANNING
Most people who are contemplating marriage do not want to think about divorce. For these people, Family Diplomacy is bringing an innovative process to Tampa Bay: Collaborative Marriage Planning.
Collaborative Marriage Planning focuses not on dissolution of the fiances’ eventual marriage, but on married life itself. It is a process that fosters transparency and full financial and emotional disclosure between the soon-to-be spouses, while offering a private framework to handle disputes that may arise.
In the process, each fiance is represented by a separate Collaborative lawyer whose sole purpose is to help them reach an understanding. Unlike many traditional Prenuptial attorneys, Collaborative lawyers do not attempt to negotiate to “win” at the expense of the other fiance; rather, each lawyer focuses on his or her client’s interests and helps develop options which satisfy both fiances’ needs.
Oftentimes, when clients are getting married, they tip-toe around tough issues so they do not offend their partner. To engage in these difficult conversations, Collaborative Marriage Planning includes a neutral facilitator, generally a licensed mental health professional. The neutral facilitator ensures that tough issues are addressed, both fiancés voices are heard during the meetings, and all discussions remain constructive and respectful. As a bonus, the neutral facilitator will teach clients dispute resolution skills that can help promote long and happy marriages.
When developing any Prenuptial Agreement, whether through the traditional method or via Collaborative Marriage Planning, full financial disclosure between the fiances is essential. For traditional agreements, one of the biggest reasons why Prenuptial Agreements are deemed invalid by a judge during divorce is that one or both parties did not have an understanding of the other’s finances when they signed it. In Collaborative Marriage Planning, full financial disclosure is equally important, if not more so, as it spurs those difficult conversations about how fiancés want to handle their money during married life.
For this reason a neutral financial professional, generally a Collaboratively-trained accountant or financial planner, is retained in Collaborative Marriage Planning. The financial professional serves as a central repository for documents (such as tax returns, checking and savings account statements, retirement statements, investment portfolios, deeds to real estate, etc.) and will review and help clients understand these documents and their options much more quickly (and less expensively) than either of the fiances’ attorneys. Depending on the clients’ needs, the financial professional may also help with tax planning, business formation, or retirement and investment planning. The financial professional can even help the soon-to-be spouses prepare budgets to meet their household goals. Moreover, the financial professional will contribute to the discussion of whether and how the clients will want separate and/or joint accounts during married life and how to strike the right balance of interdependence and financial independence.
Collaborative Premarital Agreements can ultimately end up serving the same purpose as traditional prenuptial agreements, and address issues such as spousal support and the division of property in the event of divorce. However, this will be a byproduct, and not the main focus, of Collaborative Marriage Planning.
Postnuptial Agreements are like Prenuptial Agreements, except they are drafted and executed during the marriage rather than prior to the marriage. Sometimes Postnuptial Agreements are created as the parties are coming into significant assets or debts, and they want to define how these assets and debts will be handled during or (in the event of divorce) after the marriage.
As Florida does not recognized “Legal Separations,” Postnuptial Agreements can be drafted to help parties define their rights as they are going through a trial separation. Not only can they discuss the division of assets or debts and the provision of alimony/spousal maintenance, once a Postnuptial Agreement is executed it may be submitted to a Court to address immediate issues of child support and a parenting plan as part of an action unconnected to a divorce.
For the same reasons that Family Diplomacy recommends fiances utilizing Collaborative Marriage Planning, we also highly recommend the Collaborative Process to those spouse who want a Postnuptial Agreement.