Over the course of the past three weeks, as a result of COVID-19, our office has received a variety of inquiries from both current and potential clients wondering what impact, if any, the postponement of their wedding plans will have upon (a) an already-executed prenuptial agreement, or (b) the advisability of commencing or continuing with the negotiation of a prenuptial agreement in the absence of a date-certain for the anticipated wedding.
Timing: When are Prenuptial Agreements Typically Signed?
A prenuptial agreement is a written contract entered into by two people before they are married. Its purpose is to resolve, in advance, various financial matters that will necessarily arise from the marriage in the event of divorce or death of a spouse.
While there are no specific rules about how far in advance of a marriage date a prenuptial agreement must be signed, family law practitioners typically (and wisely) advise parties to execute a prenuptial agreement well in advance of a wedding date. Doing so not only ensures that parties have sufficient time to consider the agreement before getting married, it helps ensure that the agreement will be enforced by a court should either party later challenge the validity of the agreement on the basis that it was signed under duress. Signing an agreement well in advance of a wedding date also avoids an unpleasant scenario wherein parties are involved in stressful contract negotiations shortly before their wedding which can cast a dark shadow over an otherwise exciting and joyful event.
If My Wedding Has Been Postponed, Is my Signed Prenuptial Agreement Effective?
Although prenuptial agreements are executed prior to the date of marriage, unlike most contracts, they do not become effective when the Agreement is signed. Rather, prenuptial agreements (unless otherwise provided) only become effective when the parties to the agreement actually get married. Accordingly, if you have already signed a prenuptial agreement, but have postponed your wedding, your agreement is not invalidated, it’s just that the “effective date” of your agreement has now also been postponed.
Should I Sign a New Prenuptial Agreement if My Wedding Has Been Postponed?
If you have already signed a prenuptial agreement but your wedding has been postponed (whether due to COVID-19 or any other reason), it might be wise to sign a new or updated prenuptial agreement depending upon your particular circumstances. In Connecticut, like most other states, full and complete financial disclosure is required in order to ensure the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement in the event of divorce. In other words, a party to a prenuptial agreement can seek to have the prenuptial agreement set aside in the event of divorce if he or she can prove that the other party (typically the moneyed spouse) did not adequately disclose his or her assets or income.
Accordingly, if either party to a signed prenuptial agreement experiences a material change in his or her income and/or assets prior to the wedding date, it would be wise for the parties to either re-sign a new agreement closer to the wedding date with updated financial disclosures or, at the very least, attach signed and updated financial disclosures as an amendment to the initial contract close to the date of the wedding. This will help insulate each party from any claim by the other that he or she did not adequately disclose his or her assets or income in advance of the marriage date.
Should I put a Hold on Negotiating a Prenuptial Agreement Until I Know When My Wedding Will Occur?
While the timing of the execution of an agreement can be important, it is never too soon to negotiate the terms of the agreement itself. Coming to a mutual agreement about the terms and conditions of a prenuptial agreement can sometimes take several weeks or even several months, depending upon the degree of complexity of the agreement and the degree of negotiations that must take place. Accordingly, there is no reason to delay negotiating the terms of a prenuptial agreement even your actual wedding date is not going to be in the near future.
At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, we are extremely adept at drafting and negotiating prenuptial agreements and can work with you to craft and finalize an agreement that satisfies your particular goals.