Pre-nuptial agreements are so commonplace today that no one gives them a second thought. They are considered de rigueur in second marriages, particularly where there are children from a first marriage, who panic at the first sign that good ol’ dad has a girlfriend. They are also regularly used when a 50-year old wealthy bachelor moves his 25-year old girlfriend into his home. Ah…young love…
Their purpose is to protect a spouse’s assets from attack by their new partner if the relationship breaks down, and often they provide that upon separation, the wealthy spouse will not pay spousal support to the other.
But do they offer the protection the monied spouse is seeking, and what happens if your partner refuses to sign one?
Prenups are, of course, simply contracts, but unlike commercial contracts, courts look at prenups differently. When a couple begin living together or get married, there should be no expectation that each of them automatically has an interest in the other’s property or can expect to be supported by their new partner.
However, there comes a time when a couples’ lives are so intertwined that the law recognizes and provides for the sharing of property and in many cases, spousal support. Some of the factors include the birth of children, the sharing of childcare, the pooling of financial resources, the length of the relationship, and the many non-financial contributions each makes based on their abilities and skills.
In the usual prenup scenarios, if dad’s second marriage lasts as long or longer than his first, the prenup signed at the outset may be difficult to enforce. Our bachelor with the young girlfriend may find that after she has two children and is no longer participating in the job force, the contract they signed is simply unfair to her.
Often clients will make an appointment to discuss their desire for a prenup, but frequently it is a subject they have not yet raised with their partner. While prenups are not terribly expensive, to instruct a lawyer to draft one is rather foolish unless one has broached the issue with one’s sweetheart.
Case in point: New York executive, Yiri Sun, is a Princeton graduate and vice-president of a large insurance company. She was very excited about her wedding day. She had booked a beautiful venue, the catering was top-notch, her bridal gown was exquisite, and the invitations sent.
At the last minute she was forced to call off the wedding as she refused to sign the prenup that was presented to her. Instead of losing her $8,000 reception deposit, she decided to turn her wedding into a party for 60 needy children and their families, referred to her by the Salvation Army. She hosted the event wearing her wedding gown.
Ms. Sun’s professional status clearly gave her the confidence to call off the wedding when she saw the terms of the contract. Most women presented with prenups simply sign them. The good news for them is that if their relationship is not short, and they have made life choices that prejudice their financial well-being, they may be able to convince a judge to overrule the prenup.
As I tell my clients, prenups are a short-term solution, that in the long-run may not meet their expectations.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang