Similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, parties can enter into a contract to establish legal expectations and define the parameters of their future financial relationship after the marriage has already commenced. The idea behind a post-nuptial agreement is not to end the marriage at that point, but to plan for a possible end to the relationship in the future. In many cases, developments after the marriage convince one or both spouses to re-evaluate their interests and the need to protect assets.
If both sides can agree, a post-nuptial agreement is an excellent way to preserve the marriage while still recognizing these individual interests. It is important to understand that post-nuptial agreements are not formally recognized by statute in Oregon or Washington and may be subject to legal challenges as to their validity. Having said that, when properly drafted, a post-nuptial agreement may still be an effective tool to resolve financial disagreements between two spouses.
When two spouses have decided to end their marriage, but have not yet finalized the legal process of divorce, annulment, or legal separation, they may enter a contract commonly known as a “Marital Settlement Agreement” (or “MSA”). This document is then used as a template for the official legal documents filed with the local court.
Unlike a pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement, an MSA is intended to bring the marriage to a close and it sets out what the parties agree to do with their property, finances, and how child custody and visitation will be handled.