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Case shows ‘do-it-yourself’ prenups are dangerous option

A lot of us like to save money, and a good way to do that is by learning how to do something yourself instead of paying a professional a premium.

That’s why you might go on YouTube to find a good how-to video for changing out a light switch, replacing your brake pads and rotors, making a hockey rink in your backyard, or installing a ceiling fan.

That same instinct might lead you to draft an important contract, such as a prenuptial agreement, from a do-it-yourself template you find on the internet, rather than forking over hard-earned cash to a lawyer. A recent Tennessee case shows just how bad an idea that can be.

In that case, a woman in Nashville who made a great living as a surgeon met a man with a spotty career history. They moved in together and the woman got pregnant. They ended up relocating to New Mexico because she had a great career opportunity there.

After they moved, they decided to get married. She wanted a prenup to protect her assets in case they ever got divorced. Rather than seeking out an attorney who drafts prenups for a living, they downloaded a form from the web and executed it.

The form had a waiver of both alimony and spousal support, meaning she wouldn’t have to support him after a divorce. It also had a space where they could choose which state’s laws would apply in any dispute, but they left it blank.

The couple got married in Colorado, moved a few more times as the wife’s career progressed, had two more kids, and were back in Tennessee when the wife filed for divorce.

The husband demanded alimony, but the divorce judge denied it based on the waiver in their prenup. However, an appeals court reversed the decision.

Because the couple left the “choice-of-law” provision blank, the court said New Mexico’s laws should apply since that was where the document had been signed. New Mexico doesn’t allow couples to waive spousal support in a prenup.

The wife may have saved a small amount by downloading a form agreement instead of paying a lawyer to draft one for her, but she ended up paying a lot more in the long run both through the alimony she’ll pay and the cost of fighting it out in court.

Don’t end up in that situation; call an attorney instead.

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