Prenup Terms & Vocabulary To Know

This list of terms is designed to serve as a Prenup dictionary for whenever you may be confused on any part of the process.

Scroll down to the bottom to read a fun fact about Prenuptial Agreements!

  • Separate Property

    All property, whether real or personal, tangible or intangible, or mixed, belonging to such party immediately prior to the Marriage, including any improvements in, additions to and diminution in indebtedness concerning such assets, as well as assets, if any, acquired in such party's name while living together or cohabitating outside the marital relationship.

    Part of separate property is also all property acquired out of proceeds or income from property owned at the commencement of the Marriage.

  • Gift and Inheritance

    Something that is given to you that you did not purchase on your own. An engagement ring is not a gift unless it was given on your birthday or on a holiday. Otherwise, it is a “conditional gift” and the condition of marriage must be fulfilled before it becomes marital property. If the ring was given on your birthday or Christmas, then it is your separate property (in most cases).

  • Non-marital property

    Another term for separate property. Property that will not be divided during your dissolution of marriage proceedings.

  • Income

    One of the first things you need to do before you reach an agreement on your pre-nuptial agreement is discuss each other's incomes. Income is considered any and all gross earnings from all sources of income, including any bonuses and overtime pay.

    Gross income is the income before taxes are taken out. Net income is the income after tax has been taken out.

  • Child Support

    Money paid by a parent to help another parent support a minor child or children. Child support cannot be contracted in a prenuptial agreement.


    Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is the statute that governs terms of your divorce. That is why you will often see in your pre-nuptial agreement a reference to Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, in short IMDMA. In your pre-nuptial agreement you are free to deviate from the IMDMA and agree on terms that would otherwise not be enforced by the Courts. That is the beauty of designing your own pre-nuptial agreement without having a third party control how your property is divided.

  • Marital Property

    Property, whether real or personal, tangible or intangible, or mixed, purchased and acquired after the commencement of the Marriage, including any improvements in, additions to and diminution in indebtedness concerning such assets, as well as assets, if any, acquired in such party's name while living together.

    It is important to understand that some non-marital (separate) property can later be converted into marital property without you knowing. If you own a house that you purchased and paid off before marriage, but your spouse starts improving the property, investing their money and effort into it, it may be turned into joint marital property. If your intention is to keep your separate property separate, your intentions must be clear in your pre-nuptial agreement to avoid lengthy litigation in the future. Also, very common misconception is that your retirement accounts, pension and 401K accounts are separate property because you earned those with your hard work. NOT TRUE! Your spouse is entitled to 50% of all of your retirement benefits you earned during your marriage, unless specified in your pre-nuptial agreement.

  • Your Assets

    All of your belongings - from jewelry, furniture, vehicles, all the way to real estate properties and personal businesses or corporations. It is so important to disclose and specify all of your assets that you own before commencement of the marriage, because all those assets and income earned from those assets may convert into marital property, unless specified otherwise in your pre-nuptial agreement

  • Your Liabilities

    Just like your assets, it is important to list ALL your liabilities - credit card debt, personal loans, student loans etc. Just like all your assets may be divided during your divorce, you may be responsible for your spouse's debt if you divorce. All debt and liabilities need to be presented and clearly specified in your pre-nuptial agreement with your intentions on how your individual debt will be allocated.

  • Deed

    A document that transfers ownership of property.

  • Dissolution Of Marriage

    Another term for a divorce.

  • Equitable Distribution

    This means that the Court decides who gets what in a divorce based upon what they believe is equitable, and the Court is allowed to consider particular circumstances when determining what is equitable.

  • Governing Law

    A contract term that specifies which states laws should be followed if the contract is disputed.

  • Investments

    It is so important to specify your investments that were made prior to commencement of your Marriage, because if you continue to invest into those account during the marriage, they will convert into marital property. If you wish to keep your investment accounts separate, you must specify your intentions in your pre-nuptial agreement.

  • Maintenance

    Money the court orders one spouse to pay the other spouse, formerly called alimony.

  • Negotiations

    Strategically discussing a topic until both parties find an acceptable solution or answer.

  • Party

    You and your partner are both parties. A party is a person whose interests are represented in the pre-nuptial agreement.

  • Petnup Clause

    Prenup provisions for pets can detail where each pet will live or how custody will be shared. They can address who will make medical decisions and who will pay for veterinary care and insurance, as well as everyday care.

  • Post-nuptial agreement

    Agreements made after marriage are considered post-nuptial agreements. To establish and enforce a post-nuptial agreement is much more difficult than pre-nuptial agreement because once you enter into a legal marriage, your legal rights change significantly. For a post-nuptial agreement, both parties must be represented by separate lawyers and the agreement must be much more detailed.

  • Spouse Support

    The same thing as a maintenance and an alimony. This consists of payments which are paid in regular, cyclical installments from one ex-spouse to another ex-spouse. Alimony payments are usually associated with a divorce or legal separation.

  • Types of Property

    During a divorce property is either considered “marital property” or "non-marital/separate property”.

  • Wages

    The amount of money that a person is paid for work they do.

  • Withholding

    When your employer keeps some of your paycheck to cover your taxes.

  • Fun Fact!

    Studies show that couples who get a prenup before getting married can actually strengthen a relationship and position themselves for optimal success in their marriage. Clearing up the obligations before a marriage helps minimize future confusion and potential resentment regarding financial issues. Considering this is often a contributing factor to a divorce, when you prevent those issues early on by clearing up the confusion, it can prevent those problems to begin with.