Postnuptial Agreements Let You Decide What Is Marital Property and What Is Separate Property
In Tennessee, the legal doctrine of equitable distribution gives courts the discretion to decide what is fair when dividing marital property. They consider each family’s case individually, looking into each party’s income, separate property, earning potential, and financial need, but couples are not always satisfied with the results. You have much more control over how the court divides your property in a divorce if you sign a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. In these agreements, you and your spouse can classify some assets as separate property, even if Tennessee law would normally count them as marital property. The court can refuse to enforce the agreement if it is unconscionable or if one party pressured the other into signing it. If you are getting a divorce after signing a postnuptial agreement, contact a Tennessee divorce lawyer.
Postnuptial Agreements in Tennessee
The most common scenario in which couples sign postnuptial agreements is when they reconcile after a separation during which they considered divorce. Sometimes the couples know that divorce is inevitable, and the postnuptial agreement lays out some of the terms of the divorce. In other cases, one spouse is willing to give up his or her right to valuable property in order to preserve the marriage. Courts have refused to enforce postnuptial agreements in which a party who clearly did not want to divorce agreed to terms in a postnuptial agreement that would have left him or her destitute.
Details of the Pandey Case
Belinda and Aneel Pandey married in 1998; they filed for divorce early in 2013, and their divorce was finalized in 2015. Both parties worked throughout the marriage, and they had three children together; two of their children have special needs. In December 2011, they signed a postnuptial agreement that included the following provisions:
- Assets acquired during the marriage but titled in only one spouse’s name would be separate property
- Assets and accounts titled in both spouse’s names would be divided equally, not equitably
- Neither party would seek alimony
During the divorce proceedings, Aneel argued that the postnuptial agreement was invalid because Belinda had pressured and defrauded him into signing it. He filed several motions for the court not to enforce the agreement. The judge did not find his arguments credible and divided the couple’s property in accordance with the terms of the agreement. Aneel also requested multiple times that the judge recuse himself, but the judge refused. The agreement left open the possibility that Aneel would pay more child support than the amount calculated under the Tennessee child support guidelines. Because of the children’s medical needs, the court ordered him to pay the higher amount.
Contact an Attorney Today for Help
Postnuptial agreements can prevent conflict during a divorce, or they can make it worse. A Tennessee divorce lawyer can help you enforce your postnuptial agreement or, if applicable, can argue that it is not valid. Contact Knoxville divorce attorney Patrick L. Looper for help.