COLUMBUS, Ohio — For more than a century, Ohio law has prohibited married couples to change any prenuptial agreement once they say "I do."
"We all know that the most basic part of marriage is that it is going to be filled with unforeseen circumstances," said Susan L. Racey, a partner at Tucker Ellis LLP in Cleveland.
Couples are expected to foresee all potential concerns before they wed and address them in prenuptial agreements. As the law stands, the only way Ohioans can change their marriage agreement once they say “I do” is to divorce or legally separate, and should couples come to a separation agreement, which becomes binding.
"We were seeing a problem out there that was just growing and we took the initiative to research it and to research what other states were doing," said Racey.
Racey is one of a number of lawyers and judges who got together three years ago to create a postnuptial committee.
"Their goal is to preserve marriage,” Racey said. “They're allowing the couple to decide between themselves who can come from very different situations or the same situation, but maybe like later in life a second marriage, and define what their rights and responsibilities are going to be between themselves.”
Last week, Ohio Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, introduced legislation to add Ohio to the list of dozens of other states that already allow for postnuptial agreements.
"We want to, at all times, encourage people to stay married where possible,” said Gavarone. “And sometimes, an agreement that you've entered into many years ago, as the marriage goes on and times change things change, sometimes those aren't fair anymore and it's important that parties have that flexibility to make changes if they want.”
That way, Racey said, couples can focus on staying married.
"We're just really hopeful that everyone down the process just sees what a great change that this will be for Ohio and it will become law here," Racey said.
The bill also allows a married couple to change or terminate the terms of a prenuptial agreement after they marry.