Marriage Contracts

Is a "pre-nup" right for you?

Marriage is a time for celebration, but of course you need to look after the practicalities as well.

Those about to enter a second or third marriage are prime candidates for a marriage contract (a "pre-nup"). Divorce is miserable; if you or your spouse-to-be have gone through it, then you want to start your new life together with some peace of mind.

Many people come to me for marriage contracts when one spouse-to-be has significantly more assets than the other. Often, those assets have been accumulated by the person's family and it is often the family (parents or adult children) who insist on there being a marriage contract.

These are the most common situations where people want marriage contracts, but there are certainly others. Divorce can affect business partnerships. Remarriage can complicate estate matters. No one wants to endanger their business partners or bequeath a legal mess to their loved ones.

If your assets are worth protecting, then they are worth protecting with a proper marriage contract.

While no lawyer can absolutely guarantee that a court in the future will abide by the terms of a marriage contract, at least when you have an experienced family law lawyer you are maximizing the chances that your 'divorce insurance' will be effective against any later attack.

Courts tend to set aside pre-nups where only one lawyer was involved. This does not mean that working on a marriage contract has to be an adversarial process. Both sides' lawyers can and should engage in a co-operative and collaborative process without compromising their client's interests. Furthermore, it is never appropriate to have a marriage contract without full disclosure of each side's assets, liabilities, and income.

Not just any lawyer will do. Nor will any standard 'off-the-shelf' legal form suffice. Some Ontario lawyers will charge a few hundred bucks for a marriage contract. They may even act for both sides, making it even more of a 'bargain'. You get what you pay for.

If you think you and your spouse-to-be could benefit from a marriage contract, or if you are concerned that a family member or business partner who is about to be married needs some protection, call me and together we can assess whether I can be of assistance.

For more technical information on marriage contracts, please read my article here.