Postnuptial agreements

I came across this article today from Forbes. It’s an American article, but much of the advice given by the author is equally relevant if you live in Ontario. If a woman is leaning towards giving up her career in order to stay home with the kids (at least temporarily), what financial provisions should be put in place before she makes this decision? What can she do to safeguard herself in the event that the marriage doesn’t work out?

Many don’t realize that you can negotiate both prenuptial and postnuptial marriage contracts, also known as domestic contracts. If it’s entered into freely, and both parties have legal advice, courts will generally uphold the terms of a domestic contract that has been negotiated by the parties. If you’re giving up your salary from employment, such an agreement could provide, among other things, that you will receive a certain amount of spousal support for a certain period of time after separation. Your support could also be tied to how much money your partner is making, and how long you remained out of the workforce.

Most women who’ve stayed home to raise children in long term marriages will be entitled to long term, perhaps indefinite, spousal support. However, spousal support is meant to be rehabilitative, meaning that the woman is expected to retrain and get back out there into the world of work as soon as possible. In other words, in the legal context, there is always an expectation that you will become self-sufficient at a certain point in time following divorce.