While there's nothing less romantic than being handed a prenuptial (or premarital) agreement before walking down the aisle, it underscores the fact that marriage is itself a contractual relationship. Sure, love brought you together. But clear-minded pragmatism will help ensure a long and happy marriage, which in some cases may require a prenup. For instance, someone with a family business may want to reassure relatives that her marriage will not jeopardize ownership or management of the company should it end in divorce.
In Pennsylvania, premarital agreements are presumed to be valid unless one of the parties is able to prove that there was a lack of full and fair disclosure. For instance, one of the parties may have deliberately failed to disclose that he owns $500,000 worth of stock in order to hide that asset. But proving this failure to disclose is fairly difficult in Pennsylvania, as established through case law ("clear and convincing" evidence is required). It should be noted that the Keystone State has not adopted the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act (which has been adopted by more than half of U.S. states).
Pennsylvania Prenuptial Agreements: The Basics
Should you or shouldn't you sign that prenup? Your partner may have a very good reason for wanting a premarital agreement, but it's important to understand what they actually do. While an attorney can best understand the finer points of state law, the following "plain English" summary will help you be better informed.
Pennsylvania Statutes Title 23 Pa.C.S.A. Domestic Relations Section 3106
Statutory Definition of "Premarital Agreement"
The term "premarital agreement" means an agreement between prospective spouses made in contemplation of marriage and to be effective upon marriage.
Issues a Premarital Agreement May Address
In Pennsylvania, a premarital agreement may address any of the following matters:
- Each spouse's right to property owned by either spouse;
- Either spouse's claim for spousal support (alimony);
- Property/debt division in the event of a divorce or death;
- Each spouse's right to buy and sell (or spend) assets during the course of the marriage;
- Rights to gifts or inheritances acquired by the other spouse;
- Matters related to a family business (management, ownership, etc.);
- Claims for death benefits from the other spouse's insurance; and
- Any other valid matters to which both parties agree.
However, prenuptial agreements in Pennsylvania may not address any of the following:
- Child support;
- Child custody;
- Alimony paid before divorce is finalized; or
- Matters related to religious upbringing.
Modification and Revocation
Premarital agreements may be modified or revoked only through mutual agreement of the terms under consideration.
Unenforceable Prenuptial Agreements
Premarital agreements in Pennsylvania typically will be enforced unless either party is able to prove:
- One of the spouses was coerced into signing or otherwise didn't enter into the contract voluntarily; or
- The agreement is unconscionable because:
- A spouse failed to provide a full disclosure of their assets and debts;
- The spouse claiming fraud didn't waive (in writing) their right to disclosure of other finances; and
- The spouse claiming fraud didn't have adequate knowledge of the undisclosed finances.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
Pennsylvania Prenuptial Agreements: Related Resources
Considering a Prenup? Meet With a Pennsylvania Lawyer First
As you can see, whether you need a prenuptial (or premarital) agreement depends solely on your particular situation. But even if makes sense for you, it's important to fully understand what it is you're signing. Before you sign a prenup, you should consider meeting with a Pennsylvania family law attorney with experience in this area.