A frequently asked question we encounter is how to handle a prenup when one or both parties aren’t proficient in English. It’s no wonder this question pops up given the increase in international couples and Spanish speakers in the U.S.! This situation can be particularly challenging when you are already navigating the complexities of legal documents, especially when one party is unfamiliar with the language, legal procedures, and cultural aspects related to lawyers and prenuptial agreements in the U.S. So, without further ado, let’s dive into some FAQs about prenups in Spanish.
It’s crucial that your partner understands the terms they are signing
The first and most important thing to understand is that it is critical that both partners understand what they are signing. Having a Spanish speaker who is not fluent in English sign off and agree to an English legal document is a big no-no. It’s pretty much guaranteed that this person does not understand what they are signing. We all know that legal language for English speakers is hard enough, let alone for a non-English speaker. This is a fast-track way to get your prenup thrown out.
Do I need my prenup to be translated into Spanish?
Let’s reverse-engineer the situation. Picture this: you’re in court arguing over the validity of the prenup. The non-English speaking partner challenged the agreement on the grounds that they did not understand what they were signing. The court will then look at the situation surrounding the creation and execution of the prenup. Was it translated? By who? Did the non-English speaker have a translator? A Spanish-speaking lawyer? What was the situation? All of these factors may come into play when determining whether or not a prenup is enforceable. Essentially, a court is looking at the situation to gauge whether the person really understood the terms or not.
So, all this to say, yes, it’s a good idea to get the prenup translated, but that alone may still not be enough. For example, let’s say you copy and pasted the prenup in Google Translate and sent it over to your Spanish-speaking partner. Do you really think that Google Translate is going to do a good job of translating dense legal terms to someone? No, probably not. So, it’s best to pay for a formal translation service, like a certified legal translator. You can find companies and individuals that offer this type of service online. They are different from Google Translate because they are able to translate dense English words into the correct legal Spanish version of the words.
Does the Spanish-speaking partner need a translator?
Again, yes, having a translator is akin to having a certified legal translator translating the document. However, a translator will simply be word-for-word translating the document, but not necessarily explaining the terms and their impact. You can sit there and translate “waive alimony” to Spanish, but what does that really mean? The best route would be to find a Spanish speaking prenup attorney (and if you are in Florida, you can reach out to Spanish-speaking Prenup Attorney Adalbert Martinez), to not only translate the agreement, but explain what the terms mean, as well.
Do we sign two version of the prenup: one in English and one in Spanish?
It’s not typically required, but it can be a prudent decision to do so. In other words, there is typically no hard and fast requirement to sign off on two different versions of the same contract, but it can be useful as evidence if the non-English speaker ever tries to claim they didn’t understand. For example, the Spanish speaker has less of an argument that they didn’t have an understanding of the prenup if they literally signed off on the agreement with the terms translated properly into their native tongue.
California’s rule on translating a prenup
In California, there’s a legal provision concerning individuals who are not fluent in English and prenuptial agreements. According to California Family Code Section 1615 (c)(3), the law mandates that prenuptial agreements must be translated into the language of someone lacking proficiency in English. In simpler terms, if one party doesn’t have legal representation and wishes to enforce a prenup, they are required to ensure the other party fully comprehends the agreement, including understanding the language used in the prenup. Essentially, the aim is to guarantee mutual understanding and agreement, even if one party does not speak English and lacks legal counsel for clarification.
In the case of In Re Marriage of Gonzalez: Nullification of a Prenup in favor of a Spanish-speaker
A married couple had a prenuptial agreement, with the wife being a native Spanish speaker from Guatemala. The husband conveyed the terms of the prenup to her in Spanish. During their divorce, the wife claimed that the husband’s explanation in Spanish was misleading, and she did not fully understand the prenup, especially regarding the waiver of her rights to certain property. The court sided with the wife, stating that the explanation of the contract that the husband gave her had been deceptive, and she should not be bound by those terms. The key takeaway here is twofold (1) don’t mislead your spouse during the prenup process in any way— honesty is crucial when explaining the terms of a contract. Had the husband been more straightforward, the prenup might not have been invalidated. And (2) had the wife had her own Spanish-speaking attorney or certified legal translator, she probably would not have been able to claim that she didn’t understand the agreement.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]