Contracts are mainstays of the modern business world. Many contracts are formed between private individuals for personal reasons, namely prenuptial contracts, postnuptial contracts, and family law decrees with binding terms. It’s vital for anyone beholden to a contract of any kind to understand how contracts play into divorce proceedings. If you are expecting to end your marriage in the near future, call our firm. A St. Louis, MO divorce attorney can help you determine whether any existing contracts will influence your divorce proceedings and what to expect from your divorce contract once you have your divorce decree in hand.
Regardless of what kinds of contractual issues you encounter in your divorce proceedings, it’s vital to remember that a legally binding contract carries significant weight, and violating your responsibilities set forth by a legitimate contract can lead to severe penalties. In a divorce, contract violations of any kind reflect very poorly upon spouses who initiate them. It’s vital to understand and follow your contractual obligations at all phases of a divorce.
One of the most common contracts to come up in St. Louis’s divorce proceedings are prenuptial contracts. As the name suggests, these contracts are drafted by soon-to-be spouses while engaged. A prenuptial contract essentially acts as a reference guide for the couple’s rights and responsibilities for their marriage. This contract will also stipulate what happens if either spouse violates their responsibilities set forth by the contract.
Missouri state law requires prenuptial contracts signed in writing by both spouses with no sign of duress, coercion, or unsoundness of mind. A prenuptial contract is only enforceable if both spouses enter into it truthfully and willingly. Your St. Louis, MO divorce attorney can help you determine the enforceability of your prenuptial contract and help you determine how it will influence your forthcoming divorce proceedings.
A postnuptial contract is a common accompaniment to a prenuptial contract. While the prenuptial contract outlines the marrying couple’s rights and obligations going into the marriage, the postnuptial agreement is the side of the contract that manages ending the marriage. If a couple decides to divorce and takes the time to draft a postnuptial section of their prenuptial agreement, this can significantly speed up divorce proceedings.
A solidly crafted prenuptial and postnuptial contract can provide peace of mind for many issues, such as each spouse’s separate property in divorce, alimony agreements, and more. It cannot, however, answer questions pertaining to the care and custody of minor children. This is one issue divorcing parents must mediate or litigate.
Family Business Contracts
It is not uncommon for American couples to start successful businesses. Depending on how and when a couple started their business, ownership of the business and various business contracts involving the spouses are likely to be subject to discussion in the couple’s divorce proceedings. In some cases, it’s possible for divorcing couples who are also co-owners in a family business to negotiate their business dealings entirely separately from their divorce, but this is typically very difficult.
Existing business contracts drafted by married business owners commonly interrupt divorce proceedings in many ways, some of which can require significant time and expense to resolve. It is also possible for divorce proceedings to influence business operations and pertain to previously signed business contracts. If you and your spouse are divorcing and you own a business, arrange a contract review from an experienced St. Louis, MO divorce attorney. That way, you know which elements of your business contracts will come into play in your divorce.
Disputed Divorce Agreements
While a divorce can potentially involve one or more types of contracts signed before or during the marriage, the divorce itself is essentially a very complex contract negotiation. The end result of your divorce proceedings will be a formal divorce agreement that stipulates the terms and conditions for ending your marriage. These agreements can be incredibly complex, depending on the issues present in a marriage. Investing in the services of an experienced St. Louis, MO divorce lawyer is one of the best ways to ensure the divorce agreement you reach aligns with your goals and interests.
There are several ways to go about negotiating a divorce agreement. In some cases, a divorcing couple will have no option but to litigate their divorce in family court. This route follows the same basic steps as any other civil case. Both spouses can call witnesses, offer testimony, and provide the court with evidence to help the judge deliver a fair and reasonable ruling.
The litigation process can be exhausting, and most divorcing couples in St. Louis opt for mediation for swifter, more conclusive ends to their marriages. During divorce mediation, a divorcing couple can privately negotiate their divorce agreement under the supervision of a neutral mediator, ultimately developing a divorce agreement that is not only more personalized but also completely private and more likely to address the divorcing spouses’ long-term needs. After any divorce, there is always the possibility for future events to impact an existing divorce agreement, compelling the spouses back to court to renegotiate aspects of their divorce agreement that no longer reasonably apply to their situations.
Your divorce agreement is a family law contract. As such, family law in Missouri affords those beholden to divorce agreements to revisit those agreements if their circumstances change and the terms are no longer fair, reasonable, or feasible. It’s possible to file a post-judgment motion if something has happened that has rendered your current divorce agreement untenable. A few examples of issues that can compel a divorcee to return to family court include:
- Financial changes. If a divorced spouse was compelled to pay a certain amount of alimony or child support each month under the terms of their divorce contract, this amount may only be feasible for a short while. If they lose their job or suffer an unexpected injury that causes unexpected financial strain, it’s possible to file a motion for reduced or terminated support as the situation dictates.
- Medical events. A child of divorced parents may develop a medical condition that requires additional financial support. The custodial parent could file a post-judgment motion to secure additional child support, adjust an existing visitation schedule to account for medical appointments, and other considerations.
- Terminating actions. Some divorce agreements include terms for receiving alimony and the terminating actions that will cause alimony payments to stop. If a divorced spouse has committed a terminating action, the other spouse may file a post-judgment motion to have their alimony obligations formally ended.
Ultimately, developing a divorce agreement is akin to any type of contract development, and it’s generally best to try and settle the issue privately through mediation, if possible. Regardless of how you settle it, remember that it is always possible to revisit the issue at a later date, and legal counsel is incredibly helpful when navigating these situations. Whether you need to develop a prenuptial agreement for an impending marriage or are preparing for divorce proceedings and are unsure of which contracts will come into play and how, consulting an experienced St. Louis, MO divorce lawyer as soon as possible is a wise choice.