The beginning of a divorce in New York can be a difficult time to navigate. The stressful nature of the situation may only continue until a final divorce agreement is achieved. While many separated couples can come to terms with one another regarding the logistics of their finances and daily lives, some, unfortunately, cannot do so as easily. In order to ease the complexity of the divorce process, a separation agreement can be established between you and your spouse.
A separation agreement is a formal written agreement between you and your spouse which outlines support and financial conditions until the divorce becomes final.
Topics often addressed within a separation agreement include:
- Child support
- Custody and parenting time
- Spousal support
- Financial responsibility for joint bills
- Disposition of the marital home
- Tax refunds and deductions
- Division of assets, including retirement accounts
On average, 50 percent of all marriages will end in divorce in New York.
No one enters marriage anticipating a divorce, but you can have legal protection just in case. A prenuptial agreement is a contract made between a couple before they marry in which they define their assets and property rights in case they ever separate or divorce. This agreement becomes effective upon marriage. A postnuptial agreement is a similar contract but can be entered into once a couple is already married. A lawyer in our Family and Marital Law practice can help you draft the proper prenuptial and postnuptial documents.
Many couples have negative stereotypes regarding prenuptial agreements.
It is often difficult to discuss this topic with a prospective spouse because it may bring up feelings of mistrust. Others feel prenuptial agreements are only for the wealthy. No matter what your age or assets, it is better to prepare in advance than to end up in legal battles that cost thousands of dollars, unnecessary emotional distress and financial disarray. It is often wise to formulate a plan, especially if one or more of the spouses have children or have been previously divorced.
A prenuptial agreement can be custom tailored to your needs and wants. All prenuptial agreements are not the same and they can be detailed or as general as desired
Some of the more common purposes include:
- Agree to property rights and ownership of property acquired during the marriage
- Entitlement, or lack thereof, to a prior or current estate/ inheritance
- Set amount and duration of spousal maintenance in event of a divorce or separation
- Waive rights to spousal maintenance, equitable distribution or counsel fees in case of divorce or separation
- Pass on assets to children from a prior marriage in case of death
A couple cannot waive rights in regards to children with a prenuptial agreement. Child custody, support, and visitation always remain governed by the child’s needs and best interests.
If you choose to draft your own agreement, it is important to have an attorney review the document to ensure its validity. In any contract, certain formalities are essential to be valid and enforceable by the courts.
If you have chosen cohabitation over marriage – you are not alone. Cohabitation between unmarried partners has increased substantially in the last 40 years. However, unless you define your partnership through a legal contract, the law may view you as strangers in the case of a breakup or death.
In recent years, the concept of cohabitation has expanded to include any two partners who have integrated their residence, property and daily lives. It is often seen as a starting point for people headed toward marriage, but can also be an ultimate arrangement for couples who don’t want the social, personal or legal commitment that marriage represents.
Subjects often included in cohabitation agreements:
- Distribution of property in the event of death or breakup
- Obligation of financial support during the relationship or upon its dissolution
- Payment of debts
- Division of principal residence upon breakup of the relationship or death
- Definition of support, custody, or visitation rights for children
- Determination of right to serve as guardian in event of incapacitation
- Establishing the right to make medical decisions