THE BLOG

The Prenuptial Agreement Cannot Be a Secret

03/10/2015 01:26 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2015

Times have changed. In the not-too-distant past, prenuptial agreements were not for everyone. The vast majority of people got married without one. The general consensus was that such agreements were only for the 'rich and famous.'

In today's climate, people are seemingly more sophisticated than in the past. People marry later, and they are more sophisticated and generally more informed about what the implications of marriage are. People often times have previously married and that experience educated them. People seek prenuptial agreements with much higher frequency today than they did, say, 30 years ago.

But one thing has not changed in many of these situations: while people are using prenuptial agreements with more commonality than in the past they still make some people feel, for lack of a better term, "nervous." This scenario often unfolds with one party thinking to himself or herself not only about asking the other party to marry, but also to execute a prenuptial agreement. The problem is that thinking about it and doing it are two different things. The call comes into the family law attorney's office in one of two ways: 1) "I'm getting married next month and I want a prenuptial agreement, but I haven't told my fiancé yet," or 2) "I'm getting married next month and my fiancé just told me that I need to sign a prenuptial agreement first."

Neither scenario is ideal on several levels. First off is the issue of whether the person being asked to sign the prenuptial agreement is under duress. Is the request being made after 250 people have responded that they are attending the wedding? Is the request being made after the couple has moved into a new home together, the intention being that this would be the marital home? While the law in California states that a prenuptial agreement presented to the other side less than 7 days prior to the wedding date is presumptively invalid, it does not mean that agreements presented 14 or 21 days prior to marriage will be automatically upheld. There are various circumstances that can be addressed by a court when the prenuptial agreement's validity is examined-oftentimes many years after it was executed.

And that isn't the only issue: aside from the legal implications of duress, there is the negative light placed upon all of the ceremonial events that traditionally take place in the weeks leading up to the wedding. While people often say that these agreements do not serve to enhance the romantic aspect of getting married, the real truth is that these agreements put a damper on things because people wait too long to address them.

If you want the marriage to work and you want a prenuptial agreement, then speak up about it right at the outset. Like most things in life, being upfront about one's desires, and doing it far enough ahead of time to allow for proper planning and negotiation can serve to make not only the marriage itself run more smoothly, but it will also serve to ensure that the agreement is executed under circumstances which are legally proper and which will not put a dark cloud of stress on the betrothed couple. If the prenuptial agreement is drafted, signed, and put away far before the pre-wedding festivities and planning begin, the couple can put those issues out of their minds and happily proceed with wedding plans. In addition, the peace of mind will be there that neither party can claim duress caused them to sign on the proverbial dotted line.