Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

Should I Sign that Prenuptial?

Should I Sign that Prenuptial?

You have met the partner of your dreams. He/she has proposed or agreed to marry you. You either know or find out that they are from a rich family or they have acquired their own wealth. You have more limited resources. They want you to sign a prenuptial agreement.

What to do?

When one partner is promising considerably more wealth than you are accustomed to, I call them Cinderella prenuptial agreements. And I recommend against signing them, at least as presented.

I have seen many of these blow up into the faces of Cinderella. What are the warning signs?

Having the agreement presented shortly before the marriage. The closer to the marriage date that your intended presents the agreement, the more likely it is to be to your disadvantage. If the guests are in the air and flying into the wedding or have already arrived, it's likely to be very much against your best interests. In other words, you are likely to be asked to give up significant rights. The reason he/she waited was because you are being asked to give up a lot. They felt that if they waited until the last minute, you would be less likely to resist.

What to do?

1) Immediately hire an experienced family lawyer. a) Tell your fiance or fiancee that "I love you very much. I am not signing this document. If you need to call off the wedding, please be prepared to pay all with bills we have incurred." b) Attempt to mediate. However, given the small window of time that you have before the wedding, this may not be possible. Unless you have planted the seed that you are ready to call off the wedding over this, you will not be negotiating from a position of power. Remember, your fiance/fianee's relatives are in the air too. You do have power in this situation. They don't want this wedding called off either.

2) If the prenuptial has been presented well in advance of the wedding, stop making arrangements and hire a lawyer. Negotiate the terms of the agreement as soon as possible. Then continue making arrangements. Try to have as few deposits at stake as possible. Make yourself as independent as possible. This is truly an opportunity to see what your intended is made of and how much they care for you. When the process is completed, you may have a very different image of your fiance/fiancee than you had when your wedding plans were first being formulated. If you don't like the person you see during these negotiations, be prepared to call off the wedding. Better to avoid a marriage to a person who is willing to take advantage of you, than to divorce him/her years later and walk away with little, if any property.

3) Consider what kind of a person would put you in a position where you have to relinquish your financial future and often that of your intended children, in order to be married to him/her. Do you really want to be married to a person who values his/her assets over your well-being? If you do, your marriage is doomed to failure unless you are willing to always give in to your spouse. It is very likely that the marriage will fail, not because of you, but because you married a very selfish person.

4) Don't be duped into thinking that it is only his/her family that is insisting on the prenuptial. It is your intended who is presenting it. If he/she is willing to have their family dictate what is most important in your marriage, what other agreements in your marriage will his/her family dictate? He/she buys into the family priorities.

5) Understand that while it is seductive to be marrying into money, you are going to have to earn every penny. It's not easy being the "poor relation" in a monied family.

The inevitable outcome when you live in a family that has money is that they will not respect that you need to continue to work. Especially when you have children, they will encourage you to stop working. This will make you more dependent on your spouse and the family money.

Most of the prenuptial agreements allow your spouse to keep all the property that he/she brought into the marriage. This is regardless of how much effort you put toward preserving these assets and helping them grow. Generally, the agreements prohibit you from collecting spousal support, regardless of your earning capacity and his/her ability to obtain income. In short, you will end up with considerably less than you would have received had you not signed the agreement. You will probably end up with less than you would have received if you had married a person without considerable wealth.

A prenuptial contract is very difficult to avoid once you have signed it. Even when history shows that enforcment of the agreement is highly inequitable, a judge may still enforce it.

Do not be dazzled or so flattered by the prospect of marriage to a rich person that you fail to protect yourself. Do not sign a prenuptial until you are certain that you have sufficiently safeguarded for your future.