New Ohio Law Allows Postnuptial Agreements

New Ohio Law Allows Postnuptial Agreements
May 23, 2023

With roots that reach back to 1887, and a precedent set in 1984, prenuptial agreements have an established history in Ohio. While 48 of 50 states have long since allowed couples to alter their legal relations and establish postnuptial agreements, there were two holdouts–Ohio and Iowa. Now, as of March 23, 2023, Iowa stands alone. This is thanks to Ohio Senate Bill 210, signed by Governor DeWine into law on December 22, 2022. 

What does this shift mean for couples seeking divorce or dissolution? More than anything it means that the court now recognizes changing life circumstances and the more complex dynamics of modern families. At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, our Cleveland divorce lawyers’ aim is to advocate for clients, and a large part of that revolves around education. Here we will explain how this new Ohio law can empower and assist individuals seeking divorce.

What Are Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements?

Before we get too far into the topic, we need to define some terms:

  • Prenuptial agreement: contract entered into prior to marriage that can lay out guidelines for spousal support and division of property in the event of divorce or death
  • Postnuptial agreement: contract developed by a married couple to define and establish each individual’s financial rights and obligations in the event of death or divorce

It is clear that the ideas and reasons behind these agreements are the same–the difference lies solely in the timing. These contractual agreements between marriage mates are very much like any other contract that two able and consenting adults might enter into and they can be very helpful in preventing conflicts both during marriage and if the marriage ends in divorce or death.

What The Law Changes and Allows

Previously, Ohio law did not allow couples to change or cancel the terms of an existing prenuptial agreement. It was also illegal to have a postnuptial agreement in place. Now, neither of these things are true. Prenuptial agreements can be modified and it is a legally protected right to have a postnuptial agreement in place. This monumental change reflects an evolution in family life and an understanding of the need to allow spouses to define their own certain terms, based on their current and changing circumstances. If an existing prenuptial agreement is outdated and no longer addresses the couples’ needs or desires, it can be altered, and if an agreement was never established, it can be created post-marriage. 

Pre- and post-nuptial agreements are now on equal footing in the eyes of Ohio law. The only legal stipulations to ensure that a postnuptial agreement is valid are that it is:

  • in writing, and very specific in language
  • signed by both spouses
  • entered into freely and without fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching
  • negotiated with full understanding of the nature, value, and extent of the property, assets, liabilities, and financial circumstances of both spouses
  • not promoting or encouraging divorce or profiteering by divorce

Why The Change Matters

In practical terms, this new Ohio law reflects the reality of most families–life is constantly evolving and needs are always changing. Couples can now address those shifting needs with postnuptial and updated prenuptial agreements. This ensures that errors and ambiguities in any existing agreement can be rectified. If a prenuptial agreement would now be unfair to either party, it can be altered. This change allows spouses to have a level of certainty regarding their legal rights and obligations, which could even lead to a more secure relationship. 

In the event of divorce, a current and up-to-date agreement helps to make sure that financial circumstances are taken into account. If spouses have children from previous relationships, this new law can also serve as a useful estate planning tool, similar to a will or trust. They can be sure that upon death, their children are cared for and receive the support they deserve. A postnuptial agreement can also allow spouses to define marital and separate property and assets, from personal property and real estate to business interests, retirement accounts, investments and debts. Doing all of this work now can save time, effort, and frustration should the couple divorce or if the relationship ends in death.

Experienced Collaborative Divorce Lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio

We all know that life is unpredictable. The only way to work through change is to be ready to adjust and shift along with your circumstances. Previously, Ohio law made it impossible for couples to amend an existing prenuptial agreement, and illegal to form a postnuptial agreement. Now that things have changed, it is worthwhile to ensure that you and your spouse are in agreement regarding assets, liabilities, and more. If you are looking to create a new or updated agreement, the team of Cleveland divorce attorneys at the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC can help–contact us today!