One of the first things the media wants to know after hearing of the engagement or marriage of a celebrity is whether the celebrity signed a prenuptial agreement. Too often, the rich and famous have lost millions in contentious divorces and may have been spared the loss with the safeguard of a prenup. However, prenuptial agreements are not exclusive to the likes of Justin Bieber, and couples in Alberta who marry without the benefit of such an agreement can still take steps to protect themselves under the Family Law Act.

If it is too late for a prenuptial agreement, couples can still create contracts that outline which property is separate from marital assets and how joint assets will be split in the event of divorce. Postnuptial agreements have a similar purpose, but couples sign them after they are married. In fact, some advisors recommend that couples wait and sign a postnup if they are within a month of their wedding day since they may be feeling too much pressure to make a reasonable decision.

Postnuptial agreements can help resolve often-tricky issues like who gets the dog or the house. Spouses can also use postnups to protect themselves from each other’s debt or other issues they may only discover after they are married. Unlike the postnup in America, which is often used to control the conduct of the spouses, in Alberta and across Canada, courts are not always willing to uphold agreements that do not focus on the couple’s legal rights.

Neither a prenup nor a postnup is something a couple can throw together quickly. It takes careful consideration, separate legal counsel and time to simmer before spouses put their signatures to it. It is also wise to get as much information as possible and answers to any questions from a skilled family law professional before signing a document that can have a profound effect on one’s future.