If you are one of those couples in love and planning to share your lives, Shelter in Place has given you a unique opportunity to learn about your mate and to contemplate your life together. 2020 has ushered a period of particularly heightened uncertainty and with that, a more focused need for peace of mind and peaceful relations.
In my law practice, I find it interesting that the demand for Prenuptial Agreements (also called Premarital Agreements) is on the rise. There’s a trend among engaged couples to want to determine for themselves how they should share property. These couples are looking for clarity in seeking to create rules tailored to their particular circumstances. Americans are marrying later in life and many have accumulated relative wealth in the form of real estate, stock market investments or business interests. Rather than being governed by default under the rules of California family law, they want to make decisions with their partner about which assets are separate and which are shared.
My approach to working with a couple to develop Prenuptial Agreements is Collaborative. Generally, I invite them to join me (via Zoom these days) and one of my Collaborative colleagues, an independent attorney (not associated with my firm) trained in both mediation and Collaborative divorce, to talk about the interests of both parties. Our discussions serve to clarify goals and expectations of the couple around financial issues. Most of my clients have ideas about what is important to them and how they want to share assets.
It is important that each party be represented by their own attorney in drafting Prenuptial Agreements. The format of 4-way meetings (both parties and both attorneys) is cost-effective as it reduces the need for back and forth between the attorneys outside of the presence of the clients. Each party can still communicate privately with their respective attorney as needed.
Prenuptial Agreements are confidential. My colleague and I make ourselves available to listen to the concerns and interests of both parties and to draft a legal document that reflects the rules couples desire to manage their financial affairs. Where clients ask for agreements that fall within the terrain of what a court might find unconscionable, we discuss the risks and steer couples to explore alternatives that avoid jeopardizing the validity or enforceability of Prenuptial Agreements. This Collaborative approach to drafting agreements improves communication around financial issues and clarifies mutual expectations.
Jill White is an attorney in Sonoma County. More information in her bio on the “Find A Professional” page.