When people get married in New York, they are generally in love and want to share the rest of their lives together. Most do not think about divorce when they are planning the wedding. However, many marriages do end in divorce, and undoing a life that two people made one is not an easy task. This can be especially true for high net-worth couples. The more assets a couple has in their possession, the more they will have to divide in the event of a high asset divorce.
However, these couples can help alleviate some of those problems by signing a prenuptial agreement prior to the marriage. A prenuptial agreement is a contract between the future spouses, which may be enforceable even if provisions differ from how property would normally be divided under New York law.
These agreements can state which property will be considered marital property and separate property. High net-worth couples may own significant assets prior to the marriage or know that they will receive a large inheritance in the future. The agreement can designate what will remain separate property, meaning that the other spouse will not be entitled to a portion of it if they divorce.
The couple can also enter into an agreement for spousal maintenance during and after a marriage. Especially in situations where one spouse makes significantly more money than the other, these agreements can define how much the lower earning spouse will receive for their general maintenance. This provision can be made applicable both during and after the marriage. The agreement can also state whether one spouse will stay home with any children, giving up his or her earning potential in exchange for maintenance.
When high net-worth couples marry, anything attained during the marriage may become marital property, and each spouse may be entitled to their portion regardless of who obtained it. This can create major complications if the couple divorces and has to divide the marital property. Prenuptial agreements can help alleviate some of these complications, so that the divorce runs more smoothly.
Source: New York City Bar, "Prenuptial Agreements" accessed on April 19, 2016