You and your partner are deeply in love, and both of you are excited to get married. You’d like to talk about getting a pre-nuptial agreement (referred to as a marriage contract in Canada) before wedding planning occupies all of your time and energy, but you’re worried that asking your soon-to-be-spouse to sign one will hurt and upset him or her.
Beginning the pre-nup conversation is almost never going to be easy, but after drafting numerous customized pre-nups with our clients, our lawyers can offer some unique points on how to approach the subject.
1. Be Prepared To Explain Why You Want A Pre-Nup
The law can be uncertain, but a pre-nuptial agreement is not. The reason most couples sign this contract is to create stability for their future. Tell your partner that this isn’t about greed, or that you expect the marriage to fail, but you want to take proactive steps to minimize animosity should you two decide not to stay together. Taking an argument over assets to court is the last thing any couple wants to do. A pre-nup is like a blueprint that details what will happen if the relationship ends; it creates an element of certainly even though you don’t know what the future holds.
2. Find The Appropriate Time
This is not a topic you want to bring up while watching a movie on a Friday night, or when you’re in the middle of an argument. Treat this like a business conversation (and in some cases, it may be about a family business), and try to leave emotions out of it. It’s worth noting that the earlier you begin the pre-nuptial conversation, the better. If a spouse is asked to sign a pre-nup within a few weeks (or worse, a few days) of the wedding, he or she could argue that it was signed under duress, and a court may set aside the agreement.
3. Remember That One Size Does Not Fit All
Your partner may get a little defensive if he or she doesn’t know much about pre-nups. There is a misconception that these contracts are designed to leave one spouse with nothing if the marriage ends. But in most cases, clients come to us expressly stating that they don’t want a contract that does that. Pre-nups can (and should be) as unique as the people who are signing them, and they can be designed to cater to both you and your partner’s financial needs and concerns. A family lawyer can help you make sure that your pre-nup is reasonable and enforceable.
4. Don’t Take Refusals Personally
Your partner may refuse to agree to all of the terms and conditions that you want to include in the pre-nup, and that is okay. Negotiations are a normal part of this process, much like entering into any contractual agreement. Furthermore, your partner may have some terms and conditions he or she would like included in the pre-nup as well. Take this as an opportunity to resolve potential issues while both of you are feeling optimistic and happy about your future together.
5. Seek Independent Legal Advice
We would always recommend that both of you seek independent legal advice before either of you signs the pre-nup. A family lawyer can tell you if what you’re intending to sign is reasonable, and give you a clearer idea of what will likely happen if the pre-nup is enforced. A lawyer can also help identify potential issues with the contract, for example you may not have known that both of you need to disclose finical information before the document is signed. Otherwise, the pre-nup could be challenged and set aside by the courts, and that could lead to a lengthy and expensive separation.
Instead of beginning the pre-nup conversation thinking that you must convince your spouse to sign, lead with the message that having one will create certainty and stability in an uncertain time, and it can provide benefits for both of you.
Need help creating a pre-nup that will properly protect your most valuable assets? Contact us for a free consultation. Our team will be happy to assist you at from our Vaughan, North York or downtown Toronto location.