POV: You’ve already signed a prenup, got married, went on your honeymoon, and lived three happy years of marriage. Now, your partner is asking you to renegotiate the terms of the prenup (for whatever reason).
What do you do? Well, there are a handful of options:
- Agree and renegotiate it and amend the prenup;
- Revoke the prenup altogether;
- Consult with a lawyer to see if there is a workaround; or
- Disagree and see what happens. (Warning: this could lead to a divorce!)
Note that much of what you can do will depend on what is allowed in your state. Does your state allow amendments and revocation of prenups? What about postnups? This can get very state-specific, but we’ll give you an overview of all the different scenarios.
Understanding prenuptial agreements
Before we dive into what to do if your spouse tries to renegotiate a prenup, it is essential to understand what a prenuptial agreement is and why it is important. A prenuptial agreement, a.k.a., a prenup, is a legal document that couples sign before getting married. It outlines how assets and debts should be split up in a divorce. A prenup can also address things like alimony, debt allocation, confidentiality, pet ownership, and more.
Amending your prenuptial agreement
Amending the prenup after renegotiating is one way to resolve your issue. Most states will allow you to amend (i.e., change) your prenup after you’re married. This will usually entail following the same requirements that you did for the original prenup. That typically means no unconscionable terms, signatures from both parties, notarization, and witnesses (if your state requires them). You also both have to agree to these changes and sign off on them (of course).
Revoking your prenuptial agreement
Another option is to revoke your prenup altogether if it’s permissible in your state. This may be a good option for some couples, depending on what the goal is with the renegotiation request. For example, let’s say Spouse A wants to renegotiate the prenup and make certain separate property become marital (i.e., making it divisible in a divorce). Spouse B can agree (if they want to) and say, “Okay, let’s just revoke the prenup and let state law take over,” which may effectively make certain property marital by default. It’s highly recommended that you speak with a lawyer in your state about this issue.
Finding a workaround will typically be a job for an attorney, but there are ways you can achieve certain financial goals without even changing the prenup! For example, let’s say Spouse A wants to now stay at home with the kids and forgo her career. Thus, it leads her to want a change in the original prenup, which states each person’s property should remain separate, including gifts. Why does she want to change the prenup? Well, she wants financial support in case of a divorce now that she’s giving up her career, so things should stay all separate. The workaround here MIGHT be something like Spouse B “gifts” Spouse A a lump sum of money, which would, in turn, become Spouse A’s separate property. This additional bump in cash may resolve the need to renegotiate the prenup because she now feels supported.
WARNING: Don’t try that one at home, kids! This may not be applicable for every person, depending on what your prenup specifically says and what the state law dictates. That’s where an attorney comes in. You need someone who thoroughly understands state law and the prenup language that can formulate something that will work for YOUR specific case.
A note on postnuptial agreements
A postnuptial agreement (i.e., a postnup) is a contract that is similar to a prenup; it’s just executed after you’re married.
Beware that there are some risks to a postnup: it isn’t as commonly upheld as prenups are across the nation. They are a relatively new legal concept, so some states and courts are hesitant to uphold them. However, when done correctly with the assistance of an attorney, they can be an excellent tool to make sure your financial intentions are met.
Tips for renegotiating your prenup
Let’s say you do decide to renegotiate your prenup; whether you end up getting a postnup or amending the original, let’s talk about negotiations. See the below tips to assist you in renegotiating your prenup.
Stay Calm and Rational
First things first: if your spouse tries to renegotiate a prenup is to stay calm and rational. It can be easy to become emotional and upset in this situation, but it is crucial to approach it with a clear head. Try not to have this discussion after a brutal workday or after a blowout fight. Take some time to process your feelings and gather your thoughts before responding to your spouse.
Understand Why Your Spouse Wants to Renegotiate
The next step is to understand why your spouse wants to renegotiate the prenup. Perhaps they had a significant career change, or they want to forgo a career altogether to be a stay-at-home parent. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to understand where they are coming from and why they want to renegotiate.
Consult with an Attorney
If your spouse wants to renegotiate a prenup, you should speak with a lawyer. An attorney can review the original prenup and help you understand your rights and legal obligations. They can provide guidance on how to proceed and negotiate with your spouse. On top of that, they can offer alternative solutions (like workarounds).
Negotiate in Good Faith
When renegotiating a prenup, you should do so in good faith. This means being honest and transparent about your financial situation and your goals for the prenup. It is also essential to be willing to compromise by finding a solution that works for you both.
If you and your spouse are having issues reaching an agreement, you may want to consider mediation. Mediation is when a neutral third party helps couples reach a resolution. It can be an effective way to resolve conflicts and negotiate a prenup (or postnup).
Reasons why people may want to renegotiate a prenup
Wondering why your spouse may want to renegotiate the prenup? Here are some common reasons why this may come up:
If there have been significant life changes since the signing of the original prenup, one or both spouses may want to update the prenup to match their new life. For example, if the couple never planned on having kids, but had an “oopsie,” and now one spouse wants to forgo their career to stay home with the kid, then the prenup may no longer match their original intentions. The original prenup may not have taken into consideration that one person would stop working. So, the stay-at-home parent may now want to make sure they are taken care of financially in the case of divorce since they are now giving up their income to care for the child.
In a more morbid scenario, maybe someone has become disabled or significantly impaired and can no longer work. The disabled person may want to renegotiate to make sure they are financially taken care of in some way in the event of a divorce.
Started a business
If one spouse started a business (and had no intentions of starting one when executing the original business), then they may have motive to renegotiate the prenup in order to protect their newly created business interests. Think about Jeff Bezos; while he did not have a prenup in real life, imagine if he did. He got married before Amazon was hugely successful, and he would maybe want to renegotiate that prenup once he saw the success of Amazon if he hadn’t anticipated that in the original prenup. But since he didn’t have a prenup in the first place, he owed his ex-wife lots of money!
If financial circumstances have changed drastically, then people may want to go back and change some things in their prenup. For example, let’s say one person was killing it in the tech industry back in 2017 when they got married. They were making a huge salary, while the other person (who worked for Pfizer) didn’t make much. Fast forward six years, and with tech layoffs and COVID, the two have completely switched places. The Pfizer employee is now the breadwinner, and the tech employee is now unemployed. In this situation, the financial circumstances have so greatly changed that it no longer reflects their intentions in the original prenup, and one or both parties may want to renegotiate.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Let’s discuss any lingering questions you may have on this topic.
Q: Can a prenup be changed after marriage?
A: Yes, most states allow a prenup to be changed after marriage. However, it requires the consent of both parties and specific state requirements. Most amendments will require the same formalities and substantive requirements as the original prenup (no unconscionable terms, witnesses, notarization, etc.).
Q: Can a prenup be challenged in court?
A: Yes, a prenup can be challenged in court. That doesn’t mean the challenger will win, but you may be obligated to answer in court to a challenge to a prenup.
Q: What happens if we can’t agree on changes to our prenup?
A: If you and your spouse can’t agree on changes to your prenup, the existing agreement will remain in place (unless revoked). However, it’s possible that one or both of you may decide to pursue legal action to file for divorce and contest the prenup. In this case, it’s essential to work with an experienced attorney who can help you understand the legal system and protect your interests.
Q: How can I protect myself during prenup renegotiation?
A: To protect yourself during prenup renegotiation, be sure to approach the process with transparency and honesty and be willing to compromise where necessary to achieve your goals. You might also consider getting a lawyer to assist in the renegotiations.
For whatever reason, if your spouse wants to renegotiate your prenup, you have some options. You can agree and renegotiate with the intention of amending the prenup, you can agree to revoke the prenup altogether, you can find a workaround, or you can say no, and see what happens (which may lead to a divorce). The choice is yours!