Many clients ask me when is the best time to bring up a prenuptial agreement. My advice, “As soon as you become engaged.” Why? Because the moment that you decide to get married is when you and your spouse-to-be are incredibly excited about your relationship and probably the most open to discussing your finances. A prenup can often alleviate future disagreements because in signing a prenup, each of you will lay out your financial assets and your expectations about those assets upfront, before your wedding date.

We have all heard of Hollywood celebrities and sports figures who had an attorney draw up a prenuptial agreement before they got married. And, then they got divorced. The prenuptial helped clarify and preserve the property and wealth they had before coming into the marriage and made the divorce a bit simpler. Prenuptial agreements can be for “not so famous” individuals as well – particularly anyone who comes into a marriage with children, a home or a business.

Prenuptial agreements are especially important for parents who want to pass their property from a prior marriage to their children. Without a prenup, a surviving spouse might have the right to claim a large portion of the other spouse’s property, leaving much less for the kids.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is intended to protect the assets you already have prior to marriage — it is a contract between a couple, which describes the assets and debts each person has, as well as the distribution of those assets and debts in the event of a divorce. Additionally, a prenup can cover expectations around future spousal support, community contributions to separate property, and other financial matters.

The state of California requires that a prenuptial agreement be signed at least seven days after it has been presented, that both parties have attorney representation, and that all assets and debt be disclosed.

Because a marital contract is as much about finances as it is love, it is important to know where your future spouse is financially, in order to alleviate any future undesirable surprises. In working with couples who desired a prenuptial agreement, for example, I have sometimes witnessed the disclosure of previously unknown debt. In those instances, the other party was able to lay out their expectations about how that debt would be addressed, as well as protect their own assets.

What if my spouse-to-be doesn’t want to have that tough conversation?

Even if you anticipate that your marriage will be rock solid, almost 50% of marriages end in divorce. A prenup won’t hurt anything, and it might even take away some of the stress you feel about making this incredibly important decision.

It’s often just smart to have a prenuptial agreement, especially if you have children from another marriage. If your spouse-to-be is dead set against disclosing their assets upfront and discussing how things would settle out in case of divorce, you may be getting a preview of how your beloved will be when other important financial decisions need to be made.

If you think a prenuptial agreement might be right for your situation, please contact our office for a free consultation.

Attorney Christina Sherman is a Marin County CA family law attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues.

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