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Premarital agreements (also called antenuptial or prenuptial agreements) are designed to vary, limit or relinquish various property and support rights that would or could be acquired by the parties as a result of their marriage. Premarital agreements can govern the rights and obligations of the parties in: property, spousal support, property disposition in the event of a separation, divorce, or death or the occurrence or any other event; as well as each party's ownership and death benefits from life insurance policies, and any other matters not prohibited from regulation by public policy.
Under the Virginia Premarital Agreement Act, such agreements must be in writing, signed by both parties and take effect upon the marriage. Such agreements may be revoked after marriage, but only as a result of an additional signed, written agreement. They may also have a "sunset clause" by which term the parties might agree that the premarital agreement would become invalid and not binding after a certain number of years of marriage before any separation.
A property settlement agreement or "PSA" is an agreement entered into by married people following marriage. Such agreements are typically entered into when parties are contemplating a permanent separation or divorce, or have already separated. Such PSAs become effective immediately upon signing and can resolve all issues arising from the marriage such as property division and debt allocation, spousal support, life and health insurance, child custody and visitation, education for dependent children, parental rights and restrictions, child support, attorney fees, payment of college costs and other matters pertinent to the married parties.
PSAs are always in writing and signed by the parties, although such agreements can also be contained in a court order signed by counsel or recorded and transcribed by a court reporter, and affirmed by the parties personally on the court record, and then incorporated into a court order.
Property settlement agreements are typically a preferred outcome in many divorces as they allow the parties to determine their specific outcome. The parties, through their counsel, negotiate and resolve all issues, allowing the parties to determine the terms themselves instead of placing the outcome in the hands of the court where predictability and control are often impossible. PSAs can be the result of negotiation prior to filing an action for divorce or completed during the pendency of a case. It is very expensive to litigate divorce cases; therefore, it is preferable, when possible, to reach accord outside of court. Depending on the size of the estate and the complexity of the legal issues, doing so can often save the parties tens of thousands of dollars.
At the Family Law & Mediation Center, PLC, we practice as both divorce lawyers and as family law attorneys. We work diligently for our clients in a variety of capacities, such as property division attorneys, child custody lawyers, child support lawyers, and spousal support lawyers. We also provide experienced family mediation services to parties who prefer to work together toward solving the issues they may share.
Contact us at (703) 691-3066 to learn more about our numerous services.