A betrothed's request for a prenuptial agreement can come out of the blue, leaving the engaged person confused and wondering how to proceed. If this has just happened to you, consider talking with a family law attorney before you sign anything. There are good reasons to have a lawyer look over the document. The attorney can determine whether any parts of the agreement are unreasonable and suggest modifications. On the other hand, your significant other may want a prenup for precise reasons that shouldn't trouble you.
Problems With Prenuptial Agreements
Prenups Are Complex
A prenuptial agreement can be very difficult for someone without a legal background to understand. It's logical for you to have a legal professional decipher what's in this document and explain it to you in understandable terms. Your significant other shouldn't have any problem with this.
Prenups Benefit the More Powerful Partner
A prenuptial agreement is typically arranged for the benefit of one partner who has substantial assets now or expects to have them in the future.
Of course, you don't want your partner to think you'd take them to the cleaners, so to speak, in the event of a divorce. However, a signed prenup hanging over your head can cause you major headaches if you ever do want a divorce.
The document is likely to ignore anything that might happen in the years to come, such as the two of you agreeing you will put your career on hold and stay home to raise children. An agreement that blocks you from receiving spousal support or sharing assets in the event of a divorce can leave you in financial distress.
You need a lawyer to determine whether the agreement is fair for you and does not discount what may take place in the relationship over the next 10 or 20 years -- or even longer. The attorney can point out any details of the agreement that could be particularly problematic for your financial well-being if the marriage were to end.
Sound Reasons for a Prenup
Providing for Children From a Previous Relationship
A primary reason to accept a prenuptial agreement is if it's mainly intended to direct an inheritance to children from a previous relationship. If your spouse were to pass away, the law automatically directs all assets to you. But it's reasonable to expect your spouse to want their children to receive a fair amount.
The two of you may be able to accomplish this goal by having a lawyer draw up a will instead of a prenuptial arrangement. A family law attorney can advise you of the pros and cons of each approach and explain which is the most sensible choice for your particular circumstances.
Keeping Property in the Family
Another precise reason a person may want a prenuptial agreement is to specify that a piece of family property or a valuable heirloom stays in the family. For example, your partner may own a vacation property that has been in the family for decades and not want to risk losing it in a divorce.
You may be tempted to simply sign the document to demonstrate to your partner that you are trustworthy. Nevertheless, it's in your best interests to have a lawyer at least review the agreement to make sure it doesn't contain any questionable provisions. This lawyer should represent you, not your significant other.
If the attorney believes the agreement needs modifications, ask your partner to work on the document with you in a collaborative approach or one involving mediation. Each of you would have a lawyer to look out for your interests and legal rights. The two of you would come to a mutual agreement, rather than having a document that one partner develops and the other signs.
To learn more, contact a family lawyer, or go to sites of local law firms.