Virginia Beach native Pharrell Lanscilo Williams married Helen Lasichanh on October 12, 2013. A mere 40 days later, on November 21, 2013, a little song he had put together, “Happy,” came out. Pharrell was 40 and a modest success already; the song, of course, made him a huge success. It also made him wealthier and much more famous. Williams and Lasichanh are one type of married couple for whom postnuptial agreements are ideal. The other type? Not so fortunate.
What Is a Postnuptial Agreement?
A postnuptial agreement in a marriage is, essentially, the same as a property settlement agreement a divorcing couple might sign. It is also similar to the more popular prenuptial agreement, in which each person lays out what’s his and what’s hers coming into the marriage, so when or if the marriage tanks, each spouse gets back what she or he started with, and everyone agrees on dividing up the marital assets and debts.
A postnuptial agreement is great for couples who think, as the marriage develops, that they might suddenly come into some serious money. Pharrell may or may not have a postnuptial agreement, but he would be wise to, since he can protect his sudden fame and wealth from being turned over to Helen, should they part.
We are in no way casting aspersions on Helen; she probably is happy to see her husband succeed, and happy to spend his hard-earned money on their four children. Yet they do represent a typical postnuptial agreement couple:
- Success coming later in life
- Success coming after the marriage
- Concerns about safeguarding newly acquired wealth
For couples who fall into (or earn) success after the marriage has begun, a postnuptial agreement can keep things clean, clear and cordial. It can actually reduce stress in the marriage, since both people know what to expect should they resort to divorce.
Another wrinkle on this late-success reason for a postnuptial is the job-switching tycoon. Suppose Doug worked for NEX Mini Mart on Gator Boulevard in Virginia Beach. Doug is married to Darla and does decently, but Doug’s real passion is to open Doug’s Deviled Eggs Delivery. Darla gives him the green light, and Doug transforms a little storefront over on Donna Drive in Virginia Beach into his dream business. Amazingly — come on, they’re deviled eggs, for gosh sakes — his business takes off.
Doug is the Duke of Deviled Eggs, and the money comes in by the (egg) basketful. As the business grows, Darla and Doug agree to a postnuptial agreement that protects the business assets and preserves their own little nest egg. They make good use of a postnuptial agreement as a happily married couple. And, if anybody out there has the bright idea to actually open a Deviled Egg Delivery service, remember, you read it here first.
The OTHER Reasons for a Postnuptial Agreement …
The other couple for whom a postnuptial agreement is suitable usually has something very bad happen. He has an affair and she feels the need of the security of a postnuptial agreement to prevent being wiped out if he leaves her. She has a spending problem and he feels the need to have a postnuptial agreement to protect his home, children and assets.
When you are both living bleak, despondent lives because of your behavior, the challenge is getting you both to sit down and agree on something — anything — to solve the problem. Most couples stressed over some dark incident will use a mediator, and will get two different lawyers, one for each spouse.
Each attorney is bound to do what is best for each client, so much of the heavy lifting in writing a postnuptial meant to rein in someone’s bad behavior will fall to your attorneys. That either of you is willing to sign should be taken as a good sign, because you have faith that the marriage can be cleaned up, improved, and continued.
That may sound odd, since the postnup seems to be a parachute to deploy when the marriage crumbles, but it is also a mechanism for correcting one spouse’s bad behavior.
The next time you have the chance to commit adultery, then, you are faced with a stark choice: a moment’s pleasure that leads to immense loss, or a moment’s reflection that preserves your assets by keeping you faithful. Your overspending wife may have the same stark choice: selfishly continue her bad behavior and risk losing everything, or assess and control herself, saving money and the marriage.
What Is In a Postnup?
Many of the same elements you might see in a property settlement agreement or prenuptial agreement are in the postnup:
- Who owns what property and assets
- Which spouse will pay alimony, how much, and for how long
- How marital debts will be divided
- Contingency for the death of a spouse
- Physical and legal custody of children
- How marital assets will be divided
Enforcing the Postnup
Code of Virginia provides legal muscle behind the postnup, in §20-155, titled Marital Agreements. Such postnuptial agreements are immediately effective with both of your signatures, unlike prenups (which only go into effect after the wedding). If an event by your wife triggers the terms of the postnuptial agreement, contact the attorney you used in creating it. Your attorney will advise you on how to proceed. Avoid conflict with your spouse; let the lawyers handle it.
Realized too late you needed a pre-nup? Come into wealth late in your marriage? Thought up a money-making idea even better than Deviled Egg Delivery and want to protect your financial future? Contact us at The Firm for Men, 757-383-9184, and we can help. We have no time machine, but we know some great strategies for postnuptial agreements, and a killer recipe for deviled eggs.