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If I get a legal separation in Maryland, will my prenup trigger?

If you read our May 28 post entitled, "What can I expect in a Maryland divorce?" then you know that couples in our state who cannot establish grounds for the dissolution of their marriage must remain separated for 12 consecutive months before filing for divorce. During this period of separation, couples can decide things like how to separate marital property and even custody arrangements. But as some of our Columbia readers know, not every separation leads to divorce.

For some couples in Maryland and across the nation, divorce is simply not an option because of personal or religious beliefs. Couples in these situations, as you can imagine, trend toward legal separations instead of divorce. But for couples who have signed a prenuptial agreement, also referred to as a marital or premarital contract, the question we're asking above may get raised.

If I get a legal separation in Maryland, will my prenup trigger?

Unless you included specific language in your contract before signing it, the answer to this question is no. That's because most prenuptial agreements are triggered by divorce or the dissolution of the marriage. Because a legal separation allows a marriage to remain intact, the clause that typically enforces a prenuptial agreement is not triggered.

Despite this fact though, it's always a good idea to talk to a lawyer before assuming anything about the law. By talking to a skilled attorney, you can determine if your assumptions were correct and how to proceed through the legal process as a result of your decision to legally separate. Without a lawyer's help, you might be persuaded to take actions during your legal separation that may not be in your best interest or granted by law.

Source: dhr.state.md.us, "Legal Rights in Marriage & Divorce in Maryland," The Women's Law Center of Maryland, Inc., Third Edition

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