A prenup (prenuptial agreement, premarital agreement) is a type of written contract that a couple can sign before they enter a marriage. A prenup can be used to control and protect assets. Most often, a prenuptial agreement will list certain assets and specify what will happen to property in the event of a divorce.
This raises an important question: How does prenuptial agreements work in Washington? The short answer is that the state lacks a prenup statute, but courts have created a process for determining whether an agreement is valid and enforceable. Here, our Spokane divorce lawyers explain the key things to know about how prenuptial agreements protect assets in Washington.
Prenups May Be Enforced in Washington—But No Dedicated Statute
Many U.S. states have a statute in place for prenuptial agreements. However, Washington is an exception. While prenups can be enforced in Washington, the state does not have specific statutory guidelines for prenuptial agreements. Instead, a wide body of case law has been developed by the Washington courts. The law holds that prenups will only be enforced if certain requirements are met. As well explained in the 1986 Washington court case of In the Matter of the Marriage of James T. Matson, Washington uses the following factors to test the validity of a prenup:
- Assets must have been fully disclosed prior to the signing of the agreement;
- The agreement must have been entered into voluntarily, without undue pressure; and
- Both parties should have consulted with their own independent counsel to ensure that they fully understood what they were signing.
How to Protect Assets With a Prenuptial Agreement in Washington
A person who has considerable pre-marital assets can use a prenup to ensure that they will retain full ownership of that property in the event of a divorce. To protect your assets with a prenup in Washington, you must be sure that the agreement is well-drafted and comprehensive. Your financial interests must be fully disclosed and you must give your soon-to-be-spouse adequate time to review the agreement with his or her own attorney.
Know the Limits: Prenups Cannot Be Used for Issuing Related to Children
Assuming that the prenup is valid, Washington courts give couples considerable discretion to make their own agreement regarding property and assets. A well-constructed prenuptial agreement could make the divorce process less challenging. That being said, there are limits on what you can use a prenup for in Washington. You cannot use a prenup to deal with any issue that directly involves children. In other words, you cannot use a prenup for child custody or child support. Any terms related to child custody and child support are legally invalid and automatically unenforceable.
Call Our Spokane, WA Divorce Lawyer for Immediate Help
At Hodgson Law Office, our Spokane divorce attorneys have experience negotiating, drafting, and reviewing prenups. If you have any questions about prenups and asset protection, we can help. Call us now or contact us online to schedule your strictly confidential consultation. From our Spokane office, we provide family and divorce representation throughout Eastern Washington, including in Spokane Valley, Sprague, Davenport, Newport, Cheney, Airway Heights, and Town and Country.