Prenuptial agreements kind of stink. In fact, I really don’t like them. In my experience, they aren’t good news for the women that I represent and are really used against them at a time when they are the most vulnerable. When you’re happy (you’re about to be a bride!), it’s hard to think about the worst case scenario, or what might happen in the event that this marriage isn’t your happily ever after. Who wants to think about that in the midst of planning a wedding and dreaming about the future you could have with the man of your dreams?
The worst part, though, is that prenuptial agreements tend to rear their ugly heads in the worst possible cases. (Keep in mind that, as an attorney representing women only, I generally see these agreements proposed by would-be husband’s to their would-be wives, and it is from that perspective that I write this article. Not that this is automatically the case or always the case, but that’s just what I see most in my practice.) It’s not a case where the wife is capable of standing on her own two feet. In many cases, she’s already receiving support from her soon-to-be or would-be husband—so, even if she walks away without signing the prenuptial agreement, she’s doing so, to a certain extent, at her own financial peril.
There’s a large part of me that screams out that you definitely, definitely shouldn’t marry a man who would cast you off without a second thought and showing no concern at all for your future, but there’s another part of me that is practical and knows that, regardless of whether the marriage itself is a good or a bad idea, there are a fair number of women who would feel that they have no choice other than to get married. Financially and emotionally, there can be a lot of reasons that a woman might agree to something that seems so obviously to not be in their best interests.
Should I sign his prenuptial agreement?
That’s both a legal question and a personal question, and I’ll do my best to address both. Obviously, the choice is ultimately yours.
Legally: Know Your Rights
When it comes to a prenuptial agreement, you only have three options. You either sign the agreement, you walk away from the agreement (and potentially even the relationship), or you negotiate in the hopes that you can come up with terms that work better for you.
It is always, always, always a good idea to get your proposed agreement reviewed by a licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody lawyer, especially if you’re not sure what your rights would look like if you actually got divorced later on down the road. If you’re not sure what the agreement says, how it would affect you, or what the law allows in Virginia divorce, you’ll definitely want to talk to someone (not his attorney, who represents him and can’t give you any legal advice) and give you a better idea of what to expect.
You can talk to the attorney, too, about what kinds of proposals you might be able to make to your soon to be spouse to figure out ways to better protect yourself and your interests in the event of a divorce. It sounds unromantic, but… You’ll likely regret it if you don’t even try!
Will you be able to negotiate something better? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s certainly worth a try and then, after that point you’ll be able to determine whether moving forward with the marriage is something that you’re comfortable doing.
Emotionally: Should I marry him?
Ummm… My feeling is that, in general, if you’re wondering whether you should really marry your soon to be partner, the answer is probably a resounding “no”. The divorce attorney in me says that divorce is difficult, and divorce with a prenup is worse—so why risk putting yourself in that position? If you feel your husband would propose something that you take away from you something that should be yours, is completely unwilling to compromise on any aspect that might be important to you, or is attempting to cut you off from any independent means of support you might otherwise have (while maintaining his own interests), do YOU really want to marry him? Forget about what anyone else thinks!
Ask yourself whether you can live with the terms of the agreement. Maybe even consult with a financial advisor to find out whether you could survive on the financial terms outlined in it.
Ultimately, I realize that some people will decide that, whatever the prenup says, they’re going to move forward because their financial needs are being met today, never mind what happens later on down the road. That’s certainly a decision you can make, but it’s not without it’s disadvantages.
Whatever decision you ultimately make, do so in an informed way. Talk with an attorney, a financial planner, or other professional to at least know your rights and your bottom line. Whether you choose to disregard that information later is totally up to you, but having the facts can be incredibly helpful.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our Virginia divorce attorneys, give our office a call at (757)425-5200.