Here's the Deal on Postnuptial Agreements (& If You Actually Need One)

What you need to know.
Postnuptial Agreement Concept Art
Photo: Getty Images | Neha Gupta
Jamie Cuccinelli the knot writer and wedding expert
Jamie Cuccinelli
Jamie Cuccinelli the knot writer and wedding expert
Jamie Cuccinelli
Senior Editor, Sex & Relationships
  • Jamie is a Senior Editor for The Knot where she oversees all sex and relationship editorial content.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, she worked with an array of digital publications that include Brides, The Zoe Report, Bustle and MyDomaine.
  • Jamie graduated with a degree in English and Media, Culture & Communications from New York University.
Updated Mar 01, 2024

Upon the subject of prenups, I (like many other millennials and Gen-Xers) think of Charlotte going to-toe with Bunny in Sex and the City over her prenup with Trey. A postnuptial agreement, meanwhile, doesn't necessarily conjure up a go-to mental image. Discussed less frequently, the postnuptial agreement brings with it additional questions. And from the most basic,"What is a postnuptial agreement?" to the differences between postnuptial agreement vs, prenuptial agreement, we're covering it all right here.

Of course, it's best to always consult your own attorney and legal advice when considering a postnuptial agreement or prenuptial agreement. But you can scroll on for the basics when it comes to postnuptial agreements and how to get a postnuptial agreement, below.

In this article:

What Is a Postnuptial Agreement?

The concept of a postnuptial agreement is close to that of a prenuptial agreement: It's a legal agreement between two partners that can address things like the division of property and financial rights and arrangements regarding assets, income and inheritance. What's key here though is that a postnuptial agreement, as defined by the New York Bar Association (NYSBA), is entered and validated after you and your spouse have already tied the knot.

"In a postnuptial agreement, you and your spouse disclose to each other all the money and property you currently own, both separate property and marital property," the NYSBA details. "Then, you set forth the rights and responsibilities each of you will have during the marriage, including how you will divide your money and property in the event of divorce or death of one or both of you."

Specific or common things a postnuptial agreement may cover are a significant inheritance that was acquired after marriage or support that can be expected if one spouse gave up their career in order to be home more with future or current children.

"The postnuptial agreement takes the control over your property and assets away from the state and places it in the hands of you and your spouse," the NYSBA adds. Without either a postnuptial agreement or prenuptial agreement in place, state law will decide how disputes over property, income and the like are resolved in the event of a divorce or death.

Postnuptial Agreement vs. Prenuptial Agreement

Postnuptial agreements and prenuptial agreements are similar with the main difference being that the former is established after the marriage has already taken place, while the latter is agreed upon beforehand. "The act of discussing and negotiating a prenup gives engaged couples a platform with which to open up in-depth communication about important topics they may not have touched on before," family lawyer Julia Rodgers, CEO of HelloPrenup, previously shared with The Knot.

Such discussions are growing in popularity amongst couples, with data from The Knot Jewelry & Engagement Study showing that finances are the most common topic overall for couples to discuss prior to getting engaged. (88% of surveyed couples stated that they shared financial conversations before marriage and engagement.)

When Do You Get a Postnuptial Agreement?

Since by definition postnuptial agreements are drawn up after marriage, one can obtain a postnuptial agreement after tying the knot—not before!

That being said, there is no time limit on when you and your spouse must get a postnuptial agreement. "Postnuptial agreements can be carried out at any time during a marriage," according to the Sherer Law Offices of St. Louis, Missouri. "It doesn't matter if the couple just got married last month or if they've been married for 20 years. Postnuptial agreements are ideal for couples who have experienced a lot of change in their relationship, a change in financial status or both."

How Do You Get a Postnuptial Agreement?

Although certain laws surrounding postnuptial agreements vary from state to state, valid postnuptial agreements usually are obtained through a written contract, voluntarily entered and signed by both parties. (Oral postnuptial agreements are not valid or enforceable.)

Moreover, to legally obtain a postnuptial agreement, all relevant information must be disclosed before signing and the terms must be non-ambiguous and fair to both parties. (While this doesn't mean that things must be split down the middle, it establishes that the terms can't be unjust or extremely one-sided.)

How Much Does a Postnuptial Agreement Cost?

The specific costs of postnuptial agreements depend on things like legal representation, as well as the number and types of assets owned by the parties. "The ballpark cost of having a prenup or postnup prepared and evaluated [by a licensed attorney] can range anywhere from about $1,000 to several thousand dollars, depending on all of these factors," according to Adair M. Buckner, a legal guide and attorney-at-law in Amarillo, Texas.

Do You Have to Get a Prenup or a Postnup?

While a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement can help you and your spouse either enter or exist in a marriage where you both feel safe and financially supported, do what works for both you and your partner.

Think about your own financial interests and consider your own legal representation if possible, and discuss clearly what you are and aren't comfortable with with your partner. At the end of the day, you should both feel secure in your relationship and marriage. You two are the ones in charge!

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