Your wedding is fast approaching and you are busy planning the big day, when your fiancé suddenly announces that his family expects the two of you to sign a prenuptial agreement and that the document is already being drafted by your fiancé’s family lawyer. What should you do?
First, take a moment to acknowledge to yourself that you feel hurt and possibly even “betrayed” by this unexpected announcement. Perhaps this development feels completely contrary to the spirit in which you are entering into marriage. Nonetheless, try not to let negative emotions take over. Instead, ask your fiancé to have a conversation with you about the goals for the prenuptial agreement. Is his family worried about protecting family wealth? Does your fiancé have a certain vision of how your and his finances should be handled after the two of you get married? Is he trying to protect what each of you is bringing to the marriage? Having a candid conversation about the prenuptial agreement will likely not be easy but will help you understand your fiancé’s reasons for wanting a prenuptial agreement and will allow you to share which of those reasons are shared by you. If you can agree on a mutual vision of your financial future as a couple, this can be a very positive start to your marriage.
After the conversation with your fiancé about the goals and anticipated terms of the prenuptial agreement, schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney to gain knowledge of the existing laws in the jurisdiction where you plan to live after the wedding. Gaining information about the law will help you understand what protections you would have in the absence of a prenuptial agreement simply by operation of law if your marriage doesn’t work out and ends in divorce. This knowledge will help you identify your own goals for the prenuptial and assist you in assessing (with the help of your lawyer) whether your rights are adequately protected in the prenuptial agreement. All of this preparation can take place while the draft agreement is being completed by your fiancé’s lawyer.
Once you have the actual document, you can begin a thorough review of its provisions and what they will mean for your financial future. Talk through with your attorney what the different provisions mean in the event of various eventualities: if you have children (or don’t), if one of you becomes unemployed, if one of you dies, and if there is a divorce. Be clear that you do not have to agree to the terms of the draft agreement – you can propose alternative terms! Hopefully, these alternative terms will relate to the goals or “mutual vision” that you and your fiancé have discussed.
Throughout this process, focus on making the negotiation of the terms of the prenuptial agreement something that strengthens your marriage rather than undermines it.