When North Carolina residents are planning a wedding, a prenuptial agreement might seem like something they are never going to need. Most people getting married don't plan on getting divorced, and many with relatively few assets or low incomes may think that prenups are only for the wealthy. However, having one could be a wise idea for all couples, regardless of their finances or their confidence in their relationship.
Couples who are together for a long time prior to getting married might not fully understand the legal changes that marriage brings to their relationship. Unmarried couples can usually split up without any legal obligation to each other, but marriage means that a subsequent divorce would require the division of marital property, which in the absence of an agreement between the parties would be handled by the court. North Carolina follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means that a court will divide property in a manner that it deems to be fair. This may not be satisfactory to either party, which is another reason to have it spelled out in advance.
A prenup allows someone entering a marriage to legally document what property is his or her own, and what property will be treated as jointly owned. The document can also allow the couple to make determinations on issues such as alimony.
Prenuptial agreements are contracts, and thus they are subject to subsequent challenges on a variety of grounds. For example, a party to such an agreement that was signed on the eve of a wedding may claim coercion or duress as reasons why it should not be upheld by a court. Accordingly, it is advisable for each party to have separate legal representation when it is being negotiated.