What is a midnuptial agreement? It’s an agreement entered into in the middle of a marriage. A prenuptial agreement is before a marriage, a postnuptial agreement is after a marriage has ended and a midnuptial agreement is during a marriage. A midnuptial agreement can address pretty much anything the couple wants to address, including how they will handle their finances or their personal lives during their marriage and how they will handle decisions if they separate or get divorced.

Why would anyone want a midnuptial agreement? Lots of different reasons. I’ll specifically address a couple of the most common reasons here. Couples sometimes enter into a midnuptial agreement as an alternative to separation or divorce. They may be experiencing problems in their relationship but they want to stay together and use the terms of a midnuptial agreement to specifically set forth what will happen in the event of a separation or divorce. Then they can both move forward with their relationship without the undue concern about what would happen financially or personally if it doesn’t work out. It’s one less thing for them to worry about as they put their effort into making their relationship work. And if it doesn’t work, they’ve already decided what will happen. A midnuptial agreement can provide peace of mind to both spouses that they are committed to making their relationship work, with the understanding that they’ve already worked out what will happen if they separate or divorce.

Another common reason for a midnuptial agreement is to specifically address how a gift or inheritance received by one person will be handled. Ordinarily, under the PA Divorce Code, a gift or inheritance received by one spouse and kept in his or her separate name is not considered marital property. The growth on that asset during the marriage is considered marital property. Maybe both spouses want to have the asset in joint names for estate planning purposes but don’t want it to be considered marital property in the event of a divorce. Maybe they want to exclude the asset and any growth from being considered marital property in the event of a divorce. Maybe they want a certain portion of the asset to be considered marital property but the rest excluded. A midnuptial agreement can address these situations and pretty much anything else the couple wants to agree to.

Midnuptial agreements are not just for married couples. Unmarried couples can face the same situations as married couples, with even more uncertainty about what happens financially if their relationship ends. Unmarried couples are considered business partners or strangers under the law, not spouses. The default rules for how unmarried couples divide property or handle their finances when a relationship ends are not necessarily what either person would consider fair. Technically, such an agreement between unmarried individuals is not a midnuptial agreement because there was no marriage, but the effect can be the same. When couples are sharing their lives and relying on each other, including financially, it makes sense to have a clear agreement and understanding about how that relationship will work and what will happen if the relationship ends.

Relationships are complicated. Couples can address some of those complications and actually make their relationship stronger by entering into a midnuptial agreement.