In Virginia, a couple can sign an agreement before or during the marriage that legally binds them to certain actions. Usually, these actions are financial or property-related, but they do not have to be.
Here is what the law says about these agreements.
The law uses the word “property” to mean both real and personal property, as well as income and earnings. The couple may include each spouse’s rights and obligations regarding any property either of them owns or acquires, whether they obtained it before or during the marriage. This includes the right to buy or sell the property, lease it, manage it or otherwise control it.
So, for example, one spouse could specify that any earnings he or she receives from a particular investment would always be his or her exclusive property. Or, one spouse could own real estate that would not be subject to property division during a divorce.
The couple could agree to create estate planning documents such as wills or trusts that carry out other terms of their agreement. For example, one spouse could want his or her children from another relationship to receive certain property and agree to complete a will to that effect.
Almost any personal rights and obligations can be part of the agreement other than those addressed by other laws. Illegal activities cannot be part of the agreement, and neither can matters such as child support, which other laws determine.
A financial imbalance in the relationship could make one spouse vulnerable in a divorce. Forbes points out that marital agreements are particularly important before one spouse makes a career sacrifice such as leaving a job to stay home with children. Spouses should address the imbalance the decision creates through a commitment by the higher-earning spouse to support the other during the marriage and in the event of a divorce.