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Overview of premarital agreements in Arizona

Like other states, Arizona allows couples to enter into premarital agreements prior to getting married. These agreements are sometimes referred to as "prenuptial agreements" or simply as "prenups."

Premarital agreements may play an important role in a divorce or legal separation, as a couple can use them to specify how their property will get divided. Such is the case even if the court would otherwise have been compelled to divide the couple's assets and debts differently.

However, even for couples with no plans to separate, premarital agreements may be an important estate planning tool. This is particularly true when the couple's marriage will result in a blended family. As is the case in other states, prenups must meet certain legal requirements before Arizona courts will recognize them. On a technical level, the agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties before they get married, even though the agreement will not take effect until the wedding day.

Perhaps more importantly, both spouses must execute the agreement voluntarily, that is, without any undue force or pressure. By way of example, a prenup signed just a few hours before the wedding would be suspicious in this respect. Moreover, the agreement must not be "unconscionable" at the time of signature, which is another way of saying that it cannot be unduly slanted toward one of the parties. If it is, then the court will only enforce the agreement if the party either had a clear and complete picture of the couple's overall financial situation or waived the right to have one.

Finally, matters relating to children, like custody and support, are generally not subject to a premarital agreement. Within certain limits, a premarital agreement can dictate spousal support under Arizona family law.

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