Doctors and Marriage: Should You Have a Prenup?

Dennis G. Murray, MA

Disclosures

April 19, 2017

In This Article

Will a Prenup Hold Up in Court?

No prenup is bulletproof, much as both spouses would like to believe. "A lawyer can't guarantee that a prenup will be enforced any more than a doctor can guarantee the result of a surgery," Skoloff cautions. Many states, for instance, require both parties to disclose all of their assets and liabilities for the prenup to be enforceable. Judges don't take kindly to folks who try to hide things.

Other circumstances, too, can put the agreement on thin ice, such as an unexpectedly large windfall (an inheritance or lottery winnings, perhaps). The key here is that the circumstances weren't foreseeable at the time the agreement was signed, making it less likely that a judge would enforce it.

Oddball lifestyle clauses, such as stipulating sex 3 times a week or that your future spouse maintain a certain weight, can also sink a prenup. The more lifestyle clauses you add, the less likely your contract is going to be enforceable. Life isn't linear, after all.

"Unfortunately, there's not a lot of uniformity to the laws on prenuptial agreements, like we have with estates or child support," says Ginita Wall. "That's why I tell people that if they move to another state and they haven't modified their prenup, don't be surprised if a judge rules on it very differently from what you'd expected."

You'll increase the chances of a prenuptial agreement being fully enforceable if both parties retain their own separate legal counsel and sign the document well in advance of the chime of wedding bells, so that no one can argue it was agreed to under duress.

"This shouldn't be handled like your typical negotiation, where both parties ask for the moon and then agree to meet in the middle," Jonathan Wolfe says. "It's better if both people are reasonable up front and are open and honest about their objectives. No one wants to mess up what's already a good relationship."

Conclusion

The decision to enter into a prenuptial agreement is a highly personal one, layered with emotion. If you're young and just starting out -- and you and your fiancé(e) have roughly equal assets -- you probably don't need one. But an older doctor, with children from a previous marriage and significant assets, may want to consider the extra measure of financial protection that a well-crafted prenup can afford.

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