Post-Nuptial Agreements

There is a misconception that divorces always end in long, expensive, and bitterly fought trials over who is going to get the cake mixer or the antique vase. The truth, however, is that in most divorces the division of property results in a negotiated settlement and the parties never see the inside of a courtroom. These settlements are referred to by various names, including post-nuptial agreements and property settlement agreements.

The family law attorneys at Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C. are very experienced at negotiating and drafting post-nuptial agreements in Pennsylvania. Securing a post-nuptial agreement is traditionally achieved in three phases: evaluation, negotiation/resolution, and drafting/execution. We provide our clients with sophisticated, compassionate, thorough, and, when necessary, aggressive representation through each phase of the process.

During the evaluation phase, our goal is to inventory the marital estate. The marital estate is all of the property owned by the husband and wife at the time of separation. The marital estate can include real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, automobiles, business interests, collections of art or firearms, and other less tangible property. For example, the increase in value during the length of the marriage in non-marital property owned by only the husband or the wife is considered to be marital. In order to properly inventory the marital estate, we typically seek information and documentation establishing when property was obtained, how much property is worth, where property is located, and how property is deeded or titled. Securing this information may require formal discovery between the spouses and hiring experts, such as a real estate appraiser or forensic accountant. The more information a person can secure at this early stage, the better position he or she will be in to efficiently and creatively negotiate an equitable division of the marital estate.

During the negotiation phase, the goal is to achieve a fair and equitable division of the marital based on the unique circumstances of each divorce. Therefore a sophisticated understanding of equitable distribution in Pennsylvania is essential for a favorable resolution. Equitable distribution is the division of the marital estate based on the eleven factors contained in 23 Pa.C.S. § 3502(a). Nevertheless, if the parties are in agreement on how to divide some or all of the marital property, then the law grants couples wide latitude to creatively respond to the needs of each spouse as they transition out of the marriage. While every negotiation is unique, the goal is always to utilize the information obtained during the evaluation phase to represent our clients' interests and secure a resolution that best positions them for the next chapter of their lives.

A proper negotiation which results in a comprehensive resolution must also take into account a variety of important issues that can easily be overlooked. These issues include health insurance coverage for the economically dependent spouse, alimony, the transferability or severability of debt including mortgages, transfer of restricted retirement accounts (e.g., 401(k)s) via a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), and new titling or deeding of assets. The lawyers of Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C. are knowledgeable and experienced in negotiating property settlement agreements and capable of identifying and addressing issues that might otherwise be overlooked.

Finally, once an agreement is reached between the parties, a post-nuptial agreement is drafted and executed. In its simplest terms, a post-nuptial agreement is a contract. It is not technically necessary that the agreement be in writing or even prepared by an attorney; however, failing or refusing to have the agreement prepared by a competent attorney is extremely perilous. A poorly drafted post-nuptial agreement could lead to costly litigation. Even worse, the agreement could ultimately be found to be unenforceable, costing the parties significant time and money. Similarly, a poorly drafted post-nuptial agreement could fail to address an important right which would allow one spouse to later make a claim against the other even though he or she believed equitable distribution was achieved with finality. Therefore, a properly drafted property settlement agreement should be comprehensive, detailed, specific in terms of the rights and obligations of each spouse post-separation, and include a certification of a satisfactory disclosure of each spouses' assets and liabilities.

The attorneys of Wolf, Baldwin and Associates, P.C. will take the time to thoroughly review with you the divorce process and the possible methods of resolving the case, including a negotiated settlement. We invite you to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyers today.