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Five kids between them other than the five they have together.  20 grandchildren and 30 + great grandchildren – probably about half are “his” or “hers” and not “ours”.

Husband-to-be has a business he founded over fifty years ago.  He’s 83 and she’s 79.  Young-again love is a wonderful thing. And this couple needs a prenuptial agreement! Now! The wedding is Saturday!

If you need advice concerning a prenuptial agreement, maybe less dramatically and hopefully less urgently, we offer that.

Pets can become an issue in a divorce.  Although the parties may treat their pets like children and argue over custody and visitation, the courts do not.  The law views pets as personal propety like a chair or a lamp.

After losing a dog in a divorce, an English lawyer, Vanessa Lloyd Platt, created a “Pet Nup” which sets forth the agreement of the parties with respect to their pets.

You can view and download the Pet Nup for free, but remember it would have to be modified for Maryland, Virginia or DC.

James Stewart, at age 24, was married with three children, and owned a successful construction business.  He was worth about two million dollars.  Then he met 26 year old Barbara Stewart, who worked at a day care center for minimum wage.  Her only asset was a vehicle worth about $500.  They had an affair, lived together for a year, and eventually married in 1988 after James got his divorce.

Four days before the wedding James and Barbara signed a prenuptial agreement.  Twenty one years later they divorced and Barbara challenged the agreement claiming she signed it under duress, without counsel, without full disclosure, and that the agreement was unfair.

The trial court upheld the agreement and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed.  The court said that four days was enough time to consult with a lawyer and that it was her choice not to do so.

While the agreement did not disclose an IRA worth $60,000 and it did not list values for the assets nor their total, the court found that the agreement and Barbara’s knowledge of the assets from living with James were sufficient disclosure to let her know she was giving up something significant by signing the agreement.

The court also found that she had not waived alimony nor a marital award in the prenup.  In fact, she settled the divorce for over a million dollars.  So, the court said, the prenup was not unfair.

Stewart v. Stewart, Maryland Court of Special Appeals (October 3, 2013)

Carolyn Hax wrote an interesting column in The Washington Post in response to a woman who was surprised when her fiancé presented her with a prenup a month and a half before the wedding.

There were many comments discussing the pros and cons of prenuptial agreements.  But to my mind, people were missing the point.

They set the problem up as though the choices were having a prenup and getting divorced or living happily ever after in marriage until death do us part.

The thing is the legislature has already made a prenuptial agreement for you which is the default if you do not make your own.  It is called the domestic relations law and it is contained in the law books which publish the code for your state and the appellate cases which interpret that law.  It is several  pages long and incredibly complicated.  You will be blissfully unaware of it until and unless you get divorced.  Then you will say, “The law says what?”

So I think the choices are actually these: In the unhappy event we do get divorced, (a) do we want to make our own agreement now or (b) do we want the law, the judge and the lawyers to make one for us later?  Hopefully, you will make a prenuptial agreement and throw it in a drawer somewhere and never have to pull it out.

One thing that makes our law practice in DC and its Maryland and DC suburbs interesting is that we have a lot of international clients, such as employees of the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.  We are used to prenuptial agreements and waivers of common law rights like dower and curtesy and all rights granted under Maryland law or any other state or nation.  But when you have clients who married under Islamic law, you may also have to inquire about Mahr.

Mahr (also spelled mehr, meher, or mahrieh), according to Wikipedia.org is “a gift, mandatory in Islam, which is given by the groom to the bride upon marriage in Islamic cultures (in contrast to other cultures’ bride price, which is paid to the bride’s father).  It is considered to be a form of appreciation, as well as providing certain guarantees for the woman.”

The gift may be slight or major involving investments and real estate according to the social status of the bride.  It can be paid in installments, one at marriage and the other if the husband dies or the parties divorce.

“According to a tradition in Bukhari, the mahr is an essential condition for the legality of the marriage: ‘Every marriage without mahr is null and void’.”  Encyclopaedia of Islam.  The Qur’an also mentions Mahr at verse 4:4.