Close

How to Write a Postnuptial Agreement with or without a Lawyer

A postnuptial agreement is a legally binding contract married couples can sign that spells out how they would handle their finances and property in the event of a divorce. It can be a smart way to protect yourself and your assets if your marriage ends. And, contrary to popular belief, you don't necessarily need a lawyer or divorce attorney to draw one up. 

Here's everything to know about postnups.

What is a postnuptial agreement?

Essentially, a postnup is a pre-divorce agreement where you can specify details about divorce settlement issues such as asset division, spousal support, and debt distribution – all before any legal proceedings occur.

You can write a prenup yourself or with the help of a divorce attorney. To be valid and enforceable, you must follow any state requirements on the execution of the legal document.

Quick facts about postnups

It’s possible to create a postnuptial agreement without a lawyer

It is possible to create a postnuptial agreement without first hiring a lawyer. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll be navigating these waters alone. Many online resources and self-help tools are available to guide you through the process, including Hello Divorce. 

Be aware that while this is possible, it’s not always ideal. The complexity of your financial situation and the intricacies of state laws might make professional advice a wise investment. If you’re unsure, you can schedule a free 15-minute phone call with us to ask questions.

You must understand your state laws first

Before you dive into creating a postnuptial agreement, you must familiarize yourself with the specific laws of your state. Each state has its own set of rules and requirements for postnuptial agreements.

As a quick guide, here are some common requirements:

  • Written agreement: All states require postnuptial agreements to be in writing and signed by both parties.
  • Voluntary: Both parties must enter the agreement willingly and without coercion.
  • Full disclosure: Full and fair disclosure of all assets, liabilities, and income is generally required.
  • Fairness: The agreement must not be egregiously unfair.

The agreement must be equitable and consensual

Each party must fully comprehend the implications of the agreement and consent to it voluntarily. The agreement must also be equitable. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split, but it should be fair and reasonable considering the totality of circumstances. 

If the agreement is one-sided or if there’s evidence of duress, fraud, or misrepresentation, a court is likely to toss it out.

Issues covered in a postnup

Property division

One of the most important aspects of any divorce is property division. Who gets the house? The car? The savings account? 

With a postnup in place, you and your spouse can agree on how to divide your property in the event of divorce, which can save you a lot of time, money, and stress down the road. 

Alimony and spousal support

If you or your spouse ever find yourselves in a position where one of you is unable to work after a divorce, a postnup can clarify how to handle financial support. Without a postnup, such spousal support decisions might have to be made by a judge who may not make the best ruling for your financial situation.

Debt repayment

Do you and your spouse carry any joint debt? If so, a postnup can detail who would be responsible for repaying that debt in a divorce settlement. This can be especially important if one spouse has bad credit or is otherwise financially irresponsible. 

Protecting business assets

If you or your spouse own a business, a postnup can help protect those assets in the event of divorce or death. Without a postnup, businesses often become embroiled in lengthy and costly legal battles that siphon valuable resources you could otherwise have used to keep the business running smoothly. 

Read: Special Considerations for Business Owners in Divorce

Benefits of involving a lawyer

There are benefits to using a lawyer to create your postnup:

  • A lawyer can make sure your agreement is legal and enforceable. 
  • If you have complex financial circumstances (e.g., multiple properties or businesses), a lawyer’s expertise can save you time and stress.
  • Involving a law firm may make it easier to enforce the agreement in court.

Hiring a lawyer inevitably costs more than creating a postnup yourself. However, an incorrectly formatted postnup could actually create more legal headaches if you get a divorce.

 

Benefits of doing it yourself

Many couples assume they must hire a divorce lawyer to draw up a postnup, but this isn't necessarily true. If you and your spouse are on good terms and can communicate openly about your finances, you may be able to create the agreement yourselves. 

The main difference and largest advantage of writing your own postnup is saving money. In the simplest of situations, you could draft a postnup using a template found online. 

It’s also faster to write your own postnup with your spouse than it is to work with a lawyer. In fact, you may be able to do it over a weekend. (Just make sure you address every possible asset and debt.) 

Step-by-step guide to drafting a postnuptial agreement

Step 1: Understand the purpose

Before you start drafting, grasp why you’re doing this. A postnuptial agreement is not about distrust or predicting doom. It’s about ensuring clarity and mutual understanding in your financial affairs, and setting clear expectations for the future.

Step 2: Itemize your assets and liabilities

Make a comprehensive list of both spouses’ assets and liabilities. This includes property, investments, bank accounts, retirement funds, and debts. Full disclosure is a cornerstone of any valid postnup.

Step 3: Determine how property will be divided

Decide what happens to those assets and liabilities should the marriage end. Who gets the house? How are retirement funds split? Who assumes credit card debt? Consider any family heirlooms as well. Think beyond just the big-ticket items.

Step 4: Consider spousal support

If the marriage ends, will one spouse provide financial support to the other? If so, how much and for how long? Clarity is key here.

Step 5: Put it in writing

All states require postnuptial agreements to be in writing and signed by both parties. So, take your decisions and craft a clear, comprehensive document. Be specific. Vague language can lead to disputes down the line.

Checklist for legal validity:

  • Written agreement
  • Full disclosure
  • Fairness
  • Voluntary

The DIY postnup approach is not recommended for complex marriages with substantial marital property, real estate, and assets. If you have a house, a couple of cars, and maybe a vacation home or rental property, consider using a divorce attorney to handle your postnup drafting.

Can you really write a postnup without a lawyer?

Yes, you can. However, this doesn’t mean you should, at least not without understanding the potential risks and complexities involved. 

Writing a postnuptial agreement isn’t like writing a grocery list. It’s a legal document with serious implications for your future. A misstep here isn’t just inconvenient; it’s costly.

One of the most important things to remember is that a postnup must be voluntary. That means no pressure, no coercion, and no duress. Both parties need to enter the agreement willingly. If there’s even a whiff of coercion, a court may toss out the agreement.

Another non-negotiable condition is full disclosure. Both parties need to lay their financial cards on the table: assets, debts, income, everything. If it turns out one party was hiding a secret bank account, the agreement could be invalidated.

Self-drafted vs. lawyer-drafted prenups

Cost

A self-drafted postnup is, unsurprisingly, the cheaper option. Online resources and free templates abound. But cheap doesn’t always equate to value. If you mess up, the financial ramifications could far outstrip what you would have paid a lawyer.

Hiring a lawyer isn’t a bargain option, however. Depending on your location and the complexity of your situation, you could be looking at several thousand dollars. Yet this is an investment in your financial future. You’re paying for expertise, peace of mind, and a document that will stand up in court.

Time

If time is of the essence, a self-drafted postnuptial agreement can be faster. No need to schedule appointments or wait for a lawyer’s availability. You set the pace.

But let’s not forget the time it takes to research and understand your state’s laws, gather all the financial information, and draft a comprehensive and clear document. A lawyer can streamline this process considerably. 

Enforceability

The enforceability of a postnup hinges on its legality and fairness. A self-drafted agreement runs the risk of missing essential legal requirements, being unfairly biased, or leaving room for interpretation. All of these are red flags to a court.

A lawyer-drafted agreement should tick all the legal boxes and stand a better chance of holding up in court. Lawyers know the ins and outs of family law. They understand how to write a fair, balanced agreement that courts are unlikely to challenge.

FAQ about postnuptial agreements

Do postnuptial agreements hold up in court? 

In most cases, yes, postnups hold up in court. However, there are instances where a court may not enforce a postnuptial agreement. For example, if the agreement was not entered into voluntarily or is unfair to one party, a court may choose not to enforce the agreement. 

Can anything be included in a postnuptial agreement? 

Most things can be included in a postnuptial agreement as long as both parties agree and the terms are not illegal. Common terms included in postnuptial agreements include how property would be divided in a divorce, what would happen to business ownership, and details about spousal support payments

Who should have a postnuptial agreement? 

Any married couple could potentially benefit from having a postnuptial agreement since the divorce rate is so high and the division of assets can be such a touchy subject in divorce. However, they are especially beneficial for couples who own considerable assets or who have been married previously. 

How much does it cost to create a postnuptial agreement? 

Postnup agreements vary in price depending on the complexity of the agreement and the state you live in. On average, you can expect to pay between $500 and $5,000 to have an attorney draft a postnuptial agreement. 

How long does it take to create a postnuptial agreement? 

It typically takes anywhere from one week to one month to create a postnup agreement. The more complex your situation is, the more time you’ll need to set aside for it. 

Do both parties need an attorney? 

It’s often recommended that both parties have an attorney when creating a postnuptial agreement, but it’s not required. If both parties do not have an attorney, it is vital that each person fully understands the terms before signing.

Can Hello Divorce help me create a postnuptial agreement?

Yes. Hello Divorce attorney preparation of postnuptial agreements. Five hours of service is available to you for a flat rate, which you can read more about here. You can book time with one of our attorneys and meet via phone or Zoom. Before you meet with the attorney, please take the time to gather your financial documents and talk with your spouse about the agreements you’d like to finalize.

A postnup is more than just a piece of paper. It’s a roadmap, a safety net, and a legal contract that outlines each spouse’s rights and responsibilities in the event of a divorce. At Hello Divorce, we believe in making family planning services affordable and accessible. Our resources are decided to save you time, money, and stress. 

HelloDivorce provides legal assistance drafting postnuptial agreements for married couples. Click here to learn more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.