Pennsylvania law recognizes a couple’s right to make agreements, either before or during their marriage, regarding the management of their finances. A couple’s agreement may be contrary to the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, but must meet certain legal criteria in order so that the agreement is legally enforceable.
An agreement of this type usually is entered into prior to marriage, and normally consists of a financial plan that the couple intends to follow. For example, they may decide to keep their finances separate by depositing their earnings in bank accounts titled only in their individual name, and keep a joint account for deposits of predetermined amounts for household expenses. Often, one of the parties is financially superior to the other and wants to preserve their pre-marital wealth for children of a first marriage. Therefore, the agreement may set out in advance how the parties pre- and post-marital assets will be distributed when one of them dies, or in the event of divorce.
Since there is no provision in Pennsylvania law for a legal separation, parties seeking to separate, but not divorce, often enter into agreements that effectively divide their joint assets and separate keep separate the assets they earn or otherwise acquire. Should the parties seek a divorce at a later time, the terms of the agreement become the terms of the divorce settlement.
It is very important that the terms of any such agreement, whether entered pre- or post-marriage, be enforceable. Although the terms of the agreement need not comply with the Pennsylvania Divorce Code, there must be absolutely full disclosure of the assets owned by each party at the time the agreement is signed. Further, each party must accurately disclose the source and amount(s) of their current income(s). Failure to do so will render the agreement unenforceable and, therefore, useless.
Because of the inherent conflict between the parties to such an agreement, an attorney may only represent one of the parties. The attorneys at Knight & Moskow, P.C. have successfully guided many clients, both through the preparation and defense of pre- and post-nuptial agreements. If you would like to explore whether such an agreement is in your best interests, call our office at (610) 565-8210 to schedule a consultation.