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The basics of Oregon premarital/prenuptial agreements

Depending on your perspective, premarital agreements (commonly referred to as “prenuptial agreements” or “prenups” for short) can be dreaded or welcome, feared or adored, loathed or loved and so on. Few family law issues are as polarizing as prenups, and much of that has to do with prevalent myths and misconceptions about their value.

In many cases, the value and purpose of a prenuptial agreement is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. A party entering into marriage with significantly more assets than the other is more likely to entertain the thought of a prenup, as is a party who has children from a previous marriage. When spouses are on a level financial playing field, prenups can be used for other purposes instead, like setting forth property distribution, providing for payment of future legal fees and protecting family heirlooms that may have little commercial value but are important from a sentimental perspective.

What is a prenup?

A prenuptial agreement is, in essence, a marriage contract wherein the parties make a contingency plan to be followed should a divorce occur. Some think of it as “divorce insurance,” and that analogy is a fair one, since the provisions of a premarital agreement usually become relevant only if the marriage ends. Many states, including Oregon, have adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, and are in favor of enforcing prenups provided they are drafted properly, are not the result of coercion or fraud, and do not violate any laws or public policy mandates.

What can prenups do?

Prenups can serve different purposes for different couples, but they commonly involve:

  • Delineating certain types of property as belonging solely to one spouse (for instance, family heirlooms or collectibles)
  • Protecting shares in a family-owned business to ensure that it stays in the family
  • Providing financial protection for children of prior marriages or relationships
  • Establishing the value of future spousal support obligations to be paid by one spouse to the other

In an increasingly “wired” society, prenups are even being used to lay out a plan for division of social network accounts, websites and other digital property.

What limitations are there?

It is common for some well-intentioned parties to attempt to use a premarital agreement to contract away child custody or child support rights. Such provisions are almost always unenforceable, and, depending on how the remainder of the document itself is drafted, could nullify the entire agreement.

Similarly, provisions that dictate behaviors or “lifestyle” choices like ensuring that the parties not gain weight or will get cosmetic procedures to remain youthful-looking are typically not enforced. Of course, provisions that encourage immoral or illegal activities are also unenforceable.

Protecting yourself

Are you interested in learning more about the value of prenuptial agreements? Want to have an attorney advise you about the validity of an agreement you have been asked to sign? Need help enforcing an agreement that has already been signed? If yes, then seek the advice of an experienced Oregon family law attorney today.