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Scope and limitations of prenuptial agreements

Prenuptial agreements entered the public consciousness in Oklahoma as a legal tool for the wealthy, but they have benefits to offer people of any socioeconomic status. Prenuptial agreements allow people to outline the terms of property division in the event of a divorce, but they can specify other obligations. Their reach is not unlimited, however, and these agreements are not immune to legal challenges.

Prenuptial agreements allow people to make financial decisions pertaining to divorce in the absence of pressure or hostility. They have the potential to insulate people from prolonged disputes if their marriages dissolve. The terms can direct the division of real estate and even state who gets a family pet. If spousal support might factor into a divorce, the prenuptial agreement could spell out the amount and duration of alimony.

Divorce does not have to be the sole focus of the document. A prenuptial agreement might formally state the financial expectations that apply to the spouses. The contract could even serve as the foundation of an estate plan.

The law generally bars these agreements from imposing unreasonable or unfair terms, like prohibiting someone from gaining weight. They cannot state that a person will not pay child support. The law guides that determination. Agreements that contain questionable terms or were executed days or only hours before a wedding could be vulnerable in court.

Prenuptial agreements are likelier to stand up in court when both spouses had separate legal representatives. A person who needs information about his or her rights when negotiating a prenuptial agreement or divorce could talk to a family law attorney. Legal information about rights to child custody, retirement accounts, an inheritance or business assets could help a person make important long-term decisions. A lawyer could also defend an individual's position in court when necessary.

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