The Value of Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements for Stay-At-Home Mothers or Fathers

Financial arrangements in either Prenuptial Agreements or Postnuptial Agreements seem a sticky way to either begin a marriage or seemingly interrupt one. Either document serves to set forth the rights and responsibilities of the marriage partners in the event of divorce and can waive or modify Arizona Community Property Law and/or the statutory requirements for Spousal Maintenance.

Oftentimes, a Prenuptial Agreement is requested by those who marry later in life and bring into the marriage assets and employment income they acquired prior to the marriage. For these people a Prenuptial Agreement sets a clear financial groundwork for the marriage and can often bring a sense of stability and security that might not otherwise exist.

However, for couples just starting out in life, new to the work force and not yet having built up any significant retirement account or financial portfolio, the thought of entering into a Prenuptial Agreement may never enter their mind. This often continues to be the case after marriage for whatever are the young couple’s respective roles in the marriage, the farthest thing from their mind or inclination is entering into a Postnuptial Agreement. If I were giving advice it would be Think Again. Not to enter into one of these agreements may be unwise, especially for the child care giver.

Married couples wishing to have children usually plan this event ahead of time and determine what role each will have after the birth. Although the roles are becoming more interchangeable, typically it will be the husband/father who continues his employment and the wife/mother who will care for the children for some pre-determined period of time.  Often there is little discussion about the impact on the child care giver of being out of the work force a prolonged period of time.

Whatever may or may not be the degree of planning around these respective roles, the fact is that husband/father may gain a number of years building his employment resume, and wife/mother may lose a number of years not doing so.  In the unhappy event of a divorce what happens when it is expected that wife/mother suddenly enter the work force without having any connection to it for the child-rearing years? Must she then struggle and argue for financial support?  Often this can be the case.

It seems clear under these circumstances that a well thought out child-rearing and employment plan for both husband and wife – financial provider and child care provider – would include a Prenuptial Agreement or a Postnuptial Agreement to address the important issues of economic independence for both parties.  This is where the Prenuptial Agreement or the Postnuptial Agreement can provide invaluable direction. Whenever the child rearing plan for the marriage is discussed, it may be wise to make part of that discussion what additional plan is agreed upon to allow the child care providing spouse ample time and resources to address the years she missed building her own resume while she cared for the children.

Such a plan can be formally addressed in the Prenuptial Agreement or the Postnuptial Agreement. This can occur through written provisions for spousal maintenance and for the allotment of sufficient assets to aid in education, training or other retooling measures, so the former child care provider can be secure knowing aid is available for the next step into a field of employment.