How a Prenup Shaped My Successful Second Marriage

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Statistics are not favorable about the chances of a second marriage lasting for a long time. However, there are things that you can do to set yourself up for a successful second marriage.

I knew my first marriage was rocky, but I thought we could eventually return to normal. However, when my wife served me divorce papers, I went numb. My mind darted to everything I’d done wrong – missed anniversaries, arguments and conflict over money, unkept promises about our future, and more. I wondered what had happened to cause the loss of trust and love between my partner and me.

I thought about my children and the trauma a divorce would bring to bear. How would divorce impact their future? Would seeing their parents’ failed relationship affect the family they may want to start in the future?

I spent some time getting over the end of my marriage, the times we had together, and any remaining feelings I had for my ex-partner. I never imagined I could find a new love and have a successful second marriage.

Woman signing a document while holding a bouquet of flowers.
A premarital agreement could protect you in an unexpected divorce.

I never imagined I’d find love again, let alone walk down the aisle. This second time around, I swore I’d be different – and that started with fulfilling financial obligations to my ex-wife and children. But how was I going to manage my finances and make sure I take care of my children’s inheritance? Discussing a prenuptial agreement is never easy or romantic, but my new bride understood that I was trying to forge a lasting and successful second marriage by sticking to my commitments. Indeed, that one document gave us both peace of mind and laid the groundwork for a trusting relationship.

A Successful Second Marriage Means Protecting Financial Obligations 

Everyone who has had a previous marriage will have prior financial obligations to consider. I did, too. If either party is entering the new relationship with children from their last union, there’s a lot to think about. I owed money toward child support, college expenses, medical bills, recurring items from my child’s dental work, bills from a private school, and music lessons. 

I needed to know if my ex was owed alimony from her previous marriages. Did my new partner own a life insurance policy from her last marriage? Would she still have to maintain that policy?

We needed to decide who would pay for what. Should both of us in the new marriage be on the hook for expenses from our former lives? Should each spouse open a separate account to pay these costs? Our prenuptial agreement solidified the answers to all of these questions and more.

The Need To Communicate About Financial Issues

Many issues relating to the previous marriage can arise when you’re married to another partner. The other person may feel bitter that you’re paying so much in spousal and child support. Marital conflict can arise if one person is unhappy that they had to give up their alimony when they got married for the second time.

The lessons from my first marriage helped me to have more realistic expectations of my relationship. It’s common that resentment can build up when couples avoid conflict and do not communicate. I know, from experience, that it’s not just the big issues. The little things can build up and slowly kill relationships between couples.

It was especially important to me that I was comfortable with talking about these issues with my new future spouse. I wanted to avoid the same problems from happening again in my next marriage. We had to open up about our personal experiences, feelings, and expectations about common issues like how we would manage our financial obligations from our previous relationships. This also made me more confident that we were ready to take things to the next step.

Premarital Agreements Protect You and Your Retirement

I entered the workforce at age 15 bagging groceries. I paid for my first car in cash. I’ve spent my entire life working, sacrificing, and stashing away acorns in preparation for my golden years. As a result, I was on track for the retirement I’ve always wanted. Working toward a successful second marriage doesn’t mean those goals have to be pushed back. I’ve worked for everything I have, and my prenuptial agreement helps to protect those assets. It also allows me to take good care of the people I love.   

Statistics for second marriages also aren’t exactly on our side. The divorce rate for second marriages is higher than that of first marriages. 60% of second marriages and 50% of first marriages end in divorce. This goes up to 70% for a third marriage. That made me more conscious that having a prenuptial agreement was also important to safeguard my assets and obligations if I got a divorce for the second time. I also want to protect the interests of the family I would be starting with my current partner.

What Terms To Have In A Prenuptial Agreement

Together, couples should decide how they would like to handle all of their previously held accounts. They should also consider future expenses before they get married. Here is a simple checklist for a prenup:

  • How will household expenses be paid? How will you divide payments for larger purchases? 
  • What about debt that one person may be bringing with them from their previous life? Who pays for that? 
  • Once retirement comes along, how much will you withdraw from each person’s savings?  

Since my current partner and I had a significant difference in worth, we laid those cards on the table before moving forward with a wedding. I found this step to be especially important because I am planning on leaving money to my children, while still taking good care of my new spouse in the event something unforeseen happens to me.

Couples in second marriages often may have a more realistic idea of what a relationship needs to last and this involves good marital communication. This can make it an easier conversation to make sure we are fully aligned on what we want and need. Doing this before taking our relationship to the next step and getting married would set us up for success.

Pre-nuptial for Children’s Inheritance

We all want to leave something to our loved ones. When I remarried, I set out the details of my children’s inheritance in a premarital agreement. If I hadn’t, they risked losing those funds or having them redirected after my death.

Remember, you must get someone with experience to prepare a prenuptial agreement. Many problems and issues can often arise with poorly written prenups. The original effort I put into mine will help to protect my assets from the unknown while ensuring that my children are well taken care of.

The family law attorneys at Sean Lynch have decades of experience with premarital agreements for a marriage. If you need help and advice about the negotiation, documentation, revision, or enforcement of a prenuptial agreement, contact them today. I credit their professional staff with setting us both down a path to a successful second marriage. 

What Stops A Prenuptial Agreement Holding Up In Court

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Man signing a prenuptial agreement with his wedding ring resting on the document.
Know what to look for in your prenuptial agreement in order to be protected in the event of divorce.

Signing a prenuptial agreement doesn’t mean your spouse is planning on divorcing you in 5 to 7 years. It’s actually a good sign. Prenups are way more common these days. Whether you realize it or not, fair legal protection can actually remove a lot of strain from some marriages. However, there are reasons that can prevent a prenuptial agreement from holding up in court.

Not every prenuptial agreement is created equally. A mistake here and there can invalidate the whole agreement. It’s important to examine your prenup so you understand exactly what it covers and what it does not, so that you can keep your rights and priorities secure should you end up facing divorce.

What Is A Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a legal agreement that both parties sign prior to marriage. Many people use it to protect financial interests. In this contract, you and your spouse agree on how your assets will be handled before you get married. You can make sure that the separate property of both parties remains separate. However, you cannot mix or commingle your separate property with your spouse’s assets and still claim it as separate property.

Reasons To Challenge A Prenuptial Agreement

For a prenuptial agreement to hold up in court, it must meet several standards. First, the document must be properly assembled and executed. A prenuptial agreement must be:

  • Put in writing
  • Considered and signed before the marriage begins
  • Created without undue pressure on either party
  • Reviewed by each party before signing
  • Executed only after full disclosure
  • Cannot contain unconscionable clauses
  • Cannot contain child-related terms

A prenuptial agreement is not an oral agreement, generally speaking. Likewise, a prenuptial agreement cannot take place after a marriage (although post-nuptial agreements are an option). If one spouse does not have time to review the agreement before signing, does not have access to advice from a legal counsel before signing, or signs the agreement under pressure from the other spouse, the agreement may not hold up in court.

Put Into Writing

The state of Texas does not recognize oral agreements and will not enforce them. Prenuptial agreements must be in writing.

Considered And Signed Before Marriage

Prenuptial agreements are only enforceable in Texas if they were put into writing and signed by both of you before the date of the wedding. However, if you only received the prenup after you got married, you can argue that the prenup should not be legally valid.

Created Without Undue Pressure On Either Party

If you can prove that your soon-to-be spouse, their parents or the family attorney forced you to sign the prenup without even allowing you to read it, you can stop the prenuptial agreement from holding up in court. You can also show that you did not have sufficient mental capacity due to illness or drug influence, for example.

Note that simply saying your spouse refused the marriage if you did not sign the prenuptial agreement is not enough to show coercion.

Reviewed By Each Party Before Signing

Both you and your spouse should make sure to have independent legal counsel that will review your agreement before you sign it. Having two different lawyers, one each for either of the parties, will reduce any concerns about conflict of interest. If your fiancé or fiancée at the time drew up a contract for you to sign without having your lawyer look at it, the document might not be valid. However, the court will consider other factors. Not having a lawyer or access to independent legal advice at the time of signing does not alone invalidate a prenup.

If you had reasonable knowledge that you should get a lawyer but chose not to use the opportunity to get legal advice, that could be deemed as ignorance of the law. It will not be held as an argument to invalidate a prenuptial agreement.

A Case When No Lawyer Representation Does Not Invalidate A Prenup

Barry Bonds was a professional baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1988 earning $106,000 per year at the time. As he was driving to the airport with his bride-to-be, Sun, to get to their wedding held in Las Vegas, they stopped at the lawyer’s office to sign a prenup. Included in the prenup were terms that stated that Sun would receive $10,000 per month in child support for each child and $10,000 per month in spousal maintenance in the event of a divorce. When both parties signed the prenuptial agreement, Bonds had two lawyers with him. Sun only had a friend as a witness.

Six years later, the couple divorced. At this point in time, Barry Bonds was earning $8 million a year with the San Francisco Giants. Under community property law in the state of California, Sun would have received half his assets and income. However, because of the prenuptial agreement, she could only receive the amounts of $10,000 per month.

Sun’s attorney argued in favor of invalidating the prenup because she did not have legal counsel with her. However, the court ruled that not having a lawyer alone would not render prenuptial agreements invalid.

Executed Only After Full Disclosure

Courts take issue with false or incomplete information in a prenuptial agreement. If the agreement contains bad information, some or all of the agreement may become invalid.

If one party did not perform full financial disclosure of their assets and liabilities, and you have the evidence to prove it, you can ask the court to throw the agreement out.

Cannot Contain Unconscionable Clauses

Unconscionable clauses refer to terms that the courts may consider to be ridiculous or too lopsided to the detriment of one party.

Prenuptial agreements must include only legal and “conscionable” terms. For instance, courts typically do not allow spouses to outline child custody in prenuptial agreements. Likewise, courts are suspicious of agreements that are harshly one-sided. If your agreement states that you will take all of the liabilities from your marriage while your spouse profits from taking all of your marital assets, this may raise eyebrows, at the very least.

If your prenup states that you agree to completely give up your career when you have children, allow your husband or wife to claim all of the marital assets in the event of a divorce, or give up your rights to manage your financial affairs, the court could deem it to be unconscionable to one spouse.

Any terms that are not related to property, assets, or financial matters may not be enforceable. It is simply not practical for the court to enforce clauses that relate to personal issues. For example, this includes requiring your husband or wife to do chores once a week or allowing visits by your in-laws at a particular frequency.

A Case Of Unconscionable Clauses

Hesham Taha and Abier Elzemity signed a prenup before their marriage in 2007. Among the terms, the couple agreed that they did not have the right to each other’s separate property. Any property acquired from the proceeds of separate property even if it was acquired during the marriage. Both kept individual bank accounts. The couple also agreed that the wife, who did not work during the marriage and was the primary caregiver of the children, would only receive a lump sum payment of $20,000 during a divorce and no other spousal maintenance. This was despite the fact that the husband earned $300,000 per year as a doctor who had been practicing since 1987.

The divorce happened. The wife found herself unemployed with only a $20,000 financial settlement to support three children, one with special needs. She had no claim on the family home, which was only in the husband’s name. The husband had entirely used funds from his individual bank account to purchase the home.

Left with the high probability of having to seek public assistance without the financial means to support herself and the children, she filed a legal case. She successfully appealed in 2018 to have the prenup terms deemed unconscionable by the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the United States.

You may not dictate terms relating to child custody, visitation or support in prenuptial agreements. Texas state law does not allow you to waive your obligation to pay child support.

Protecting Your Rights During Divorce

Strong prenuptial agreements are one of the best ways to protect against the difficulty of divorce. However, it is never wise to assume your agreement is airtight without reviewing it carefully. If you find that the agreement is not fair, you may also find ways to challenge it. It is wise to review the document and understand any weaknesses that your spouse might use to his or her advantage.

Respectful divorce is possible, for those who want it that way. Thoroughly reviewing your prenuptial agreement ensures that you understand the tools you have available so you can focus on navigating this difficult season on the way to a fresh start.

If you need help holding up a prenuptial agreement in court or invalidating one, let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sean Lynch help you prepare your legal case. We have decades of experience in family law.

Contact us today for a no-cost case review.