To some, Nevada is seen as the state where anything goes, a pervasive "devil may care" attitude reigns and where countless roadside wedding chapels feature Elvis impersonators performing cheesy marriage ceremonies. Others assume that people getting married in the state — particularly in Las Vegas — have thrown caution to the wind and decided on a whim to "get hitched."
Thankfully, this is true of only some of the state's marriages. For those who have put more thought and deliberation into their nuptials, it could be a good idea to consider signing a prenuptial agreement (also known as a "premarital agreement" or the shortened "prenup") before the big day. It is also possible for a couple to sit sign a similar document after their marriage takes place; in that case, it is simply known not as a "prenuptial agreement," but instead as a "postnuptial agreement."
Many people assume that since they aren't extremely wealthy, they would have no need for a prenup. Even for these people, though, prenups can still be very valuable. How? In a word, protection. Prenups, contrary to past belief, are not clinical documents designed to suck the romance out of a marriage and doom it to end badly even before it begins. Instead, they are multifunctional legal tools that can protect the financial interests of both parties. Furthermore, prenups are only enforceable if they are based upon a full disclosure of each party's assets and debts, so they actually foster an environment where frank, open discussion of financial matters — something many people feel awkward talking about — is possible.
Sure, prenups can be used to protect wealth, but they can also be used to delineate where particular assets — like family heirlooms, small businesses, treasured items — will end up should the marriage end or one party die. They can also be used to outline parameters for spousal support (alimony) should the marriage end, something that can cause bitterness and anger for many divorcing couples. Having that off the table frees up energy to focus on other important issues, like the custody and support of the couple's children.
Understanding the value that prenups have, the Nevada legislature has adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (codified in Nevada Revised Statutes Chapter 123A). In that law, the state sets forth requirements that must be met before premarital agreements are enforceable, the types of things they can do and their limitations.
Versatile as they are, there are a few things that prenups just can't do. For example, prenuptial agreements cannot be used to sign away either party's rights and responsibilities regarding custody, care or support of children. They also cannot be used to make one party do something he or she finds immoral, is against public policy, or is illegal. In addition, prenups cannot be signed under duress or signed without a full and fair financial disclosure from both parties; agreements signed by a party who is coerced or "tricked" into signing won't be enforced.
Do you have questions about how a prenup might fit into your upcoming Nevada marriage? Would you like to learn more about the types of financial matters a prenuptial agreement can address in the event of a divorce? For answers to your questions about prenups — and other family-related legal issues — speak with a Nevada family law attorney.