International Prenups

Welsh actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones married American actor, Michael Douglas. They reportedly have a prenuptial agreement that states she gets $2.8 million for each year of marriage, and a $5 million bonus if Michael has an affair.

While there are many benefits to prenuptial agreements in American marriages, the benefits of international prenups are multiplied when the spouses are from different countries, or hold foreign assets, or who contemplate living in other countries.

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement, sometimes called an “antenuptial agreement”, and/or “premarital agreement”, are commonly called “prenups.”  A prenup is a legal contract, much like any other legal contract, and it is entered into before a marriage by the couple intending to marry.

The contents of prenuptial agreements can vary widely. However, prenups commonly include clauses that spell out how to divide property accumulated before and after the marriage, and support or alimony in the event of divorce or death.

I’ve written on some of the more extreme clauses people insist be put in the prenups before. For example, prenups can include provisions to cover you in the event your spouse engages in excessive drug use, has extra-marital affairs, becomes an excessive spender, or begins a gambling habit.

International Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement for international couples is generally a good idea, but international prenups have their own set of unique problems. For example, a prenup that is valid in Florida, may not be valid in another American state, let alone a different country.

When people live in different countries, hold foreign assets, or are planning to either marry overseas, or live in other countries, they should try to consider the law of all jurisdictions where they contemplate living.

There are many advantages and disadvantages to having an international prenup which states that the law of one country governs your divorce.

Issues with International Prenups

International prenups can involve couples from different countries, or couples from one country who live in different countries, or couples who have assets located overseas.

Since the law of each country can be very different, the choice of law clause in international prenups can take on great importance. Additionally, the language used in prenups can be extremely important for two reasons.

First, legal terms in the United States may have different legal meanings in other countries, or may not be terms recognized under foreign law.

Second, the enforceability of international prenups may just depend on whether it was understood by the signors, and they may not speak the language the agreement was written in sufficiently.

Whether in the United States, or in another county, make the effort to disclose all of the finances, even if financial disclosure may be waived in your country.

Additionally, any prenup should be signed well in advance of the wedding. In an ideal situation, the agreement should be fully signed before the wedding invitations even go out.

The Suggest article on the Zeta-Jones prenup is here.