Marriage Contracts: When, How and Why

lorisa stein marriage contractsThe guests and venue are confirmed and the big day is fast approaching. While there are cultural and societal norms in terms of when to send save-the-date notifications, honeymoons, and RSVP postcards, many marrying couples may be unsure of the optimal time to establish and make edits to their marriage contracts.

As with standard pre-marriage items, there is an appropriate time to consult your family law lawyer regarding the drafting and negotiation of your marriage contract. The standard advance time to provide independent legal advice and negotiate the provisions of a marriage contract is 4 months prior to the wedding. Here’s why:

  1. To ensure all financial disclosure is provided and that any follow-up requests have been received and responded to.
  2. To take into consideration the huge burden on one partner to manage the wedding preparations, as well as the added burden of trying to find time to meet with a lawyer to understand the legal implications of a complicated document places an unduly burden on that person (you).
  3. If you choose the right not to sign the contract proposed to you and the groom refuses to edit the contract, there will be sufficient time to consider your concerns then the wedding may not be taking place.
  4. If you feel the “obligation” or “pressure” to sign the contract for the sake of the cost of the wedding, or to not let people down, then the contract may be viewed as having been signed under duress and could be set aside in the future by an adjudicative body.
  5. If the lawyer reviewing the contract determines that the provisions, particularly a provision restricting the right to future spousal support, would be “unconscionable”, the lawyer will refuse to sign the Certificate of Independent Legal Advice’ rendering the validity of the contract vulnerable to attack to be aside in the future.
  6. To ensure that under such pressure, the client is signing the agreement under the laws of contract: voluntarily, without undue influence, no coercion, no duress, equal bargaining power, and so on.

You wouldn’t wait until the last minute to book a venue or tell the said venue how many guests you are expecting until you have received formal confirmation from friends and family. The same concepts apply to the drafting and revisions of your marriage contract. Consult an experienced family law lawyer for assistance drafting a marriage contract or to answer the difficult questions you may have.

Private consultations with Lorisa are available by calling (416) 596-8081 or scheduling an appointment through the confidential contact form. You may also wish to read more about marriage contracts and common issues that arise before, during, and after they are drafted.