Marriage and Law

Marriage is a legally sanctioned contractual agreement between a man and a woman. In legal terms, marriage is defined as a legal status that results from a contract made in due form of law according to which a man and woman who have the capability to get into such an agreement, mutually promise to live with each other during their joint lives as husband and wife.

In the U.S., marriage is regulated by the states. Traditionally, the partners bonded by the institution of marriage rarely separated over marital issues as compared to now where we see so many couples parting ways over minor marital disputes. It is one of the reasons the concept of a prenuptial agreement has now come into being. In the case of a divorce without a prenuptial agreement, the property gets divided equitably between the two partners, based on the Equitable Distribution Law.

A prenuptial agreement is a written agreement between two people entering marriage setting out the terms regarding the ownership of their respective assets, in case the marriage fails. A prenuptial agreement usually discusses the division and ownership of property, division and ownership of debts, inheritance of property and spousal support.

In the U.S., there are five main elements that are required for valid prenuptial agreement. First, the agreement should be in writing. Second, it must be executed voluntarily. Thirdly, it should be a full and/or fair disclosure at the time of execution. The agreement cannot be unconscionable and finally it must be executed by both the parties before a notary public.

Depending on the state in which the couple lives, there is a difference between what is considered as separate and marital property. In some states, a prenuptial agreement can state that in case of a divorce each partner will relinquish his or her rights to any inheritance or major gift given to the other spouse before or during the marriage.

In U.S, prenuptial agreements are recognized, but not always enforced. It is up to the partners entering marriage to decide whether they want a prenuptial agreement done or not.