Suggesting a prenuptial agreement is often awkward and you do not want to harm your relationship or offend your fiancé (or fiancée). However, broaching the subject is important because a prenuptial agreement can protect assets, income, and provisions for children from a previous marriage.
Some tips for approaching the subject
Here are some points to keep in mind when bringing up the idea of a prenuptial agreement:
- Be tactful and conscious of your fiancé’s perspective. With anything you say, consider your fiancé’s viewpoint. You may notice that how you express your thoughts are more considerate. Present the issue as a matter that is in both of your best interests, not a one-sided consideration just for your protection.
- Choose a time when you can be alone and uninterrupted. Let your fiancé know you have something important to discuss and want to set aside some time for the discussion.
- Go over facts and figures. An honest open approach is the best way to start a marriage, planning things together. Explain why you both would benefit from having a prenuptial agreement and how it is part of estate planning. If either of you were to die unexpectedly, you need to have a plan in place. If, for any reason, one of you wanted to end the relationship, it would also make the divorce process go more smoothly, saving time and expense.
- Give your fiancé time to consider. Do not expect to accomplish everything in one sitting. Allow time for both of you to consider all the details that you should address through a prenuptial agreement. Once you have considered your objectives, then consider retaining attorneys.
- Each of you should have your own lawyer. Ensure your fiancé retains an attorney also. Domestic Relations Law (DRL) §236,[B](3) is a New York statute that addresses prenuptial agreements and states that the agreement must be conscionable. In other words, the agreement must be fair and reasonable. Consult your lawyer about issues your prenuptial agreement should address. Gain a good understanding of what you need for a valid prenuptial agreement that is enforceable under New York law.
- Plan ahead. The courts may view a prenuptial agreement that you both sign close to your wedding date as pressured or coerced – signing “under the shadow of the altar”. For courts to uphold agreements, both parties must sign them willingly. Allow enough time so that you have a signed prenuptial agreement as far ahead as possible (ideally at least three months) before your wedding date.
Work with an experienced family law attorney who has drafted successful prenuptial agreements.
Jacqueline Newman joined Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP in 1998 and is now the managing partner of the firm. Ms. Newman’s practice consists of litigation, collaborative law and mediation. She specializes in complex high net worth matrimonial cases and also in negotiating prenuptial agreements. Read more about Jacqueline Newman.