A premarital agreement, often called a prenuptial agreement, is a contract entered into prior to marriage that sets out obligations and rights of the spouses in the event of divorce or death.  A premarital agreement becomes effective only upon the marriage.

Premarital agreements are often a difficult subject of conversation between a couple in love because the suggestion of the need of one implies an unfortunate outcome – divorce.

North Carolina law on prenuptial agreements are governed by the state’s version of Uniform Premarital Agreement Act fount in Chapter 52B of the General Statutes.   The law sets out the requirements: a prenuptial agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. At the time the engaged couple marry, their prenuptial agreement becomes a legally binding contract.

If you are planning to get married and want a premarital agreement, you should bring it up as early as possible in the process.  Be direct about your concerns with your fiancée and not accusatory.  Explain that a premarital agreement will make things much simpler in the event either of you ever want a divorce.  You should expect the discussion and ultimate signing of the agreement to stretch over a few weeks.

It is very important that your and your fiancée do not use the same attorney for the agreement or wait to the last minute.   Doing either of these things makes the validity of the agreement easier to attack late on.

A premarital agreement may be amended or revoked after the marriage occurs if you and your spouse mutually agree and an appropriately executed revocation or amendment is made.

The contents of the agreement vary from couple to couple because circumstances are different for everyone.  Usually premarital agreements arrange financial matters between the married couple. Premarital agreements also settle the rights and obligations of the to manage and control certain property during the marriage.  Agreements can cover both property brought into the marriage be either spouse.  Prenuptial agreements ensure that the separate property of one spouse owned prior to the marriage remains their separate property  during and after the marriage.   The prenuptial agreement usually discusses how real property (such as a primary home or vacation home) will be paid for, titled and disposed of upon a divorce of death of a spouse.

A premarital agreement may be used to outline the procedure for payment of joint and separate expenses during the marriage.  Often couples establish a joint account for payment of routine bills and expenses and otherwise keep separate accounts

Alimony, postseparation support, and spousal support may be included in a premarital agreement togetehr with issues of  inheritance and spousal rights in the event of a death.


Scott Allen is a divorce attorney in Raleigh, NC with over twenty years of experience in all areas of family law litigation and settlement. He can be reached at 919.863.4183 and his email is sallen@allenspence.com