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A checklist for finding a lawyer to draw up a prenup

It may seem like a mixed marriage since he's a surgeon and she's an OB/GYN, but it has worked out good so far and they've set a date. As scientists, financial acumen may not be a strong suite, but it now appears that both are on track for financially robust careers. One difference is that he comes from a wealthy family with an extensive financial portfolio, while she is more middle class with a fair amount of student loan debt from medical school.

His divorced parents have encouraged a prenup agreement, but he thought it made the wedding sound more like a merger, so there was some hesitation. Sensing the issue, she broached the subject first, saying she's fine with it, particularly because she wants to pay for her own loans.

The best place begin the prenup process is to find an attorney with experience in family law. A good rule of thumb is to have a list of three candidates. Different people have different priorities, but here are some things to consider when hiring an attorney. (In most cases, each of party should also retain their own attorney. If you have more questions about this last point, click here.)

The checklist:

  • Start with a phone call. There's no point in meeting without a quick phone call first to get a sense of whether the lawyer is what you are looking for.
  • Ask them about them about their background in drawing up prenuptial agreements. If the husband-to-be has complicated finances, make sure the attorney has experience working on complicated arrangements.
  • Do they project themselves as organized and thorough?
  • Do research. Before meeting with them, check them out to see what they have done. If a finance person recommended them, then ask them specific questions about the attorney's job performance. Ask other lawyer's for a referral of someone who does prenup work.
  • Make sure they have office hours that work for you.
  • Make sure you are comfortable working with your attorney and that they can work with your partner's attorney.
  • Can they can perform the work before the wedding day? It's not properly executed (thus invalid) if it doesn't get done ahead time.
  • Get your fee arrangement in writing.

While it may seem to be the antithesis of romance for a couple to draw up a legal financial contract, it can actually clear the air and state exactly where things stand. The main objective should be to create a contract that is fair to both sides. A qualified attorney experienced in family law understands what is fair under the letter of the law and what stands up in the New York courts as such.

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