For Better or for Worse: The Postnuptial

A post about the document they call the postnuptial agreement


Let’s take a dip into the sleazy waters of a Hollywood scandal. The famous singer Beyoncé made an extended music video that chronicled her being cheated on and subsequently forgiving her husband, the also very famous Jay-Z. According to the gossipmongers, she only agreed to take him back but only if he signed a new postnuptial agreement that would give her more than half of his fortune if ever he cheated on her again. Combined, these two artists have an estimated billion dollars of assets and a baby girl between them, so should their marriage fail, there’s going to be a reckoning.

In this modern world, the idea of divorce is pretty normal. An unfortunate reality in this day and age, people go into relationships with the idea that at some point, they’re going to break up. And as with everyone who has had a breakup know, you end up arguing about who owns what. Lawyers then eventually came up with some practical (yet wholly unromantic) solutions to this idea with the pre- and postnuptial agreements. Couples sign these documents in order to protect their personal assets that are shared once they have rights given to them by family law. Hence, the need for Beyoncé and Jay-Z to create a postnuptial agreement because they are both so fabulously rich that if they broke up, there would be some form of hell to pay . . . but mostly Jay-Z losing his money to Queen Bey.

For Better or for Worse The Postnuptial

The preparation for such a sad eventuality, the postnuptial agreement is made after the marriage and has a stronger bond versus the prenuptial agreement. Legally binding in most states, it offers married couples a chance to redo the rules that they initially put down before their marriage on everything from child custody to property—and, yes, cheating. Mostly done to protect women in marriages to wealthier spouses, it can also provide for what to do when the spouse dies. And of course, men can benefit from postnuptial agreements too.

Here in the United States, there are five elements required for a valid postnuptial agreement. First, it must be in writing for it to be enforceable. Second, it must be executed voluntarily, and this is important because anything signed under force or duress loses its validity in court. Third, it must be done with full and/or fair disclosure at the time of execution. This means that both parties have to be informed of all the points written down. Fourth, it must not be unconscionable. This is a doctrine in contract law that describes terms that are extremely unjust of overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of the party who has the superior bargaining power and if they are contrary to good conscience. Thus, terms must be reasonable and fair for both parties. Finally, the postnuptial has to be executed by both parties and not their attorneys, meaning the couple has to appear in front of the notary public in person for it to be valid.

Seems simple enough, but spouses who have much to lose when they divorce, separate, or break up take the validity of the document to court even after the five elements were implemented. Messy, yes? But so common these days that some courts just dismiss the contentions and let the separation of assets proceed.

So here are some words of caution to those preparing to tie the knot—better make sure that person is for keeps forever, or get a very good lawyer. Just like Beyoncé and Jay-Z.


Wikipedia. 2017. “Postnuptial Agreement.” Last modified January 25, 2017. Accessed on January 26, 2017.



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