Marital Agreements Are a Good Thing
Life is good. Okay, maybe good is pushing it, but you can’t help holding your head high with a coy smile on your face as you announce to your closest friends, “Everything’s been settled! I kept telling y’all to stop being so pessimistic about Joe/Jane and I being able to come to an amicable agreement!” You clink each of their champagne glasses and take a long, sweet sip, “We are just different than you guys or the stories you’ve heard! We had a great run and still care about each other very much. I don’t want to use the word enlightened but…” Before your glass can even hit the table; you nearly choke on the adorable, ironic laugh you practiced on the drive over as an ominous voice echoes, “What exactly are the terms of this amicable agreement?” You swallow hard. Not only are you now staring at four pairs of eyes filled with doubt, but your best friend just used air quotes when she said amicable. You hate air quotes. A pool of sweat starts to form on your upper lip. You promised yourself you wouldn’t be one of those people who spilled their guts about who kept the Heat tickets and how much dough you’d have to fork over to “Vanessa Bryant” your former soul mate. But what if you made a bad deal or unknowingly signed your rights away?! Two shots of Patron later, your Zen-like composure has faded and it’s about to get real…
Preparation of a Marital Agreement
Consulting with a family law attorney regarding the validity of a marital agreement after signing it is like summoning Jiminy Cricket from a jail cell after robbing your grandmother. Pre-nuptial, Post-nuptial, and Marital Settlement Agreements are just like any other contract. And, although there are ways to set them aside, getting there is no easy feat. For example, although contracts procured by duress or coercion will not be enforced; it usually is not enough to show that the person challenging the agreement was stressed or felt pressured to comply. One of the biggest misconceptions parties have is that an intended spouse’s ultimatum that the wedding won’t go forward if the other party doesn’t sign a pre-nup is enough to invalidate the marital agreement on the basis of duress. Sorry Charlie, no dice; courts have held there is nothing improper about taking that line.
Entering into a Pre-nuptial, Post-Nuptial or any other marital agreement without being fully advised of your rights is simply asking for trouble. It is important to keep in mind that getting there via mediation, without independent counsel present, is not in your best interest either; as a mediator must remain impartial. You need to ensure that you have a qualified divorce lawyer who understands how big a part these agreements play in the rest of your life and how many nuances they each have.