It was once standard for divorcing couples to sell their assets, such as homes and stock portfolios, and divide the profits. But in today's market, when many homes are worth less than the mortgages held on them and the stock market outlook changes every day, few couples want to watch their accumulated savings go up in smoke. Rather than allowing a judge to require them to sell assets, some couples considering divorce are drawing up post-marital agreements that divide their common assets between them, says Steve Mindel, managing partner specializing in family law at Los Angeles-based law firm Feinberg Mindel Brandt & Klein LLP.
Similar to a prenuptial agreement, a post-marital agreement lists certain marital assets as the husband's property and certain assets as the wife's property. While Mindel often organizes such agreements for business owners who want to protect their personal assets from potential business losses, recently he has created numerous post-marital agreements for couples contemplating divorce.
"A lot of the fighting that takes place in family law court is the result of fear -- fear that one person will end up with more money, fear that one spouse will try to take the children away," Mindel says. "Having a post-marital agreement takes away a lot of fear, because both spouses have already agreed which assets they will keep and which ones they will give up."