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Premarital Agreements Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a living together agreement and a premarital agreement?

Couples who want to live together but have no intention of getting married benefit from signing a living together agreement. It creates a framework for non-married couples to handle money and property issues while they live together and if they should separate.

On the other hand, a couple about to be married may make an agreement concerning certain aspects of their relationship after they marry. This agreement might cover their responsibilities and property rights during marriage. But more likely, it will determine how property will be divided and whether alimony will be paid in the event the couple later divorces. These agreements are also called antenuptial or prenuptial agreements.

Are there rules about what can or cannot be included in a premarital agreement?

A law called the Uniform Pre-Marital Agreement Act provides legal guidelines for people who wish to make agreements prior to marriage regarding ownership, management and control of property; property disposition on separation, divorce and death; alimony; wills; and life insurance beneficiaries.

States that haven't adopted the Act (or that have made some changes to it) have other laws, which often differ from the Act in only minor ways. One important difference is that a few states do not allow premarital agreements to modify or eliminate the right of a spouse to receive court-ordered alimony at divorce. However, the California Supreme Court recently clarified its stance on this issue in Pendleton v. Fireman, finding that waivers of spousal support do not automatically violate public policy when they are entered into voluntarily by well-educated, intelligent people who are both represented by counsel. Other states have their own quirky laws -- Maine, for example, voids all premarital agreements one and one half years after the parties to the contract become parents, unless the agreement is renewed.

States That Have Adopted the Uniform Pre-Marital Agreement Act:
New Jersey
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Dakota

 Can my fiance and I make our premarital agreement without a lawyer?

You can look up the laws for your state and write your agreement yourselves. If you'd like to draft a contract on your own, we recommend that you have an attorney look it over to make sure you've followed the law.

How do we convert our living together contract into a premarital agreement?

Follow these steps:

  1. Use your upcoming marriage as an opportunity to take another look at your agreement, and make any agreed-upon updates and changes.
  2. Rewrite your agreement. Call it a premarital or prenuptial agreement, and state that it is made in contemplation of marriage and does not take effect until you marry.
  3. Because there is no good self-help resource in this area, and because even a small mistake can result in your agreement later being held unenforceable, have your agreement checked out by a lawyer.
  4. Sign the document in front of a notary.
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