Reconciliation agreements, like prenuptial agreements, are contracts containing terms that control the division of assets and liabilities in the event of separation or divorce. They can be entered into after a couple is already married (sometimes called “antenuptial agreements”). In addition to married couples, unmarried cohabiting couples can also benefit from reconciliation agreements. When cohabitation often leads to joint property ownership, a reconciliation or similar agreement can provide a greater degree of certainty to these couples by outlining each partner’s property rights in case the relationship ends.
Although they are often made when one or both spouses suspect that a marriage may be breaking down, reconciliation agreements do not have to be made only when divorce is imminent. One benefit to entering into a reconciliation agreement early on in a marriage or cohabitation relationship is that the parties may be able to reach fairer and more reasonable terms while they are still happily together. This may result in a more amicable separation in the event of a divorce and help the couple avoid the emotional stress and expensive legal fees associated with hostile divorce proceedings.
Courts evaluate reconciliation agreements carefully to ensure that they are legally enforceable contracts before enforcing their terms. For instance, a court may choose to not enforce a reconciliation agreement if it believes that the agreement was coerced or unfair at the time it was made. A reconciliation agreement that is overly one-sided may not be enforceable because it is inherently unfair to one spouse. A court is much more likely to view a fair reconciliation agreement as a legally binding contract.
In order to properly prepare a reconciliation agreement or other document related to property division, it is important for each spouse to have proper legal representation and to provide full disclosure of the details relating to his or her assets and debts. In order to prevent conflicts of interest, each spouse should have separate counsel. By working with you, your partner, and your partner’s attorney, an experienced matrimonial law attorney can help you protect your interests with a thoughtful and well-written reconciliation agreement.