Let’s unravel the intricacies of prenuptial agreements and prenup lawyers in the heart of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Whether you work for the White House or the Smithsonian, getting a prenup may be a good idea. Join us as we navigate whether or not you need a lawyer for a valid prenup in D.C., what prenup lawyers do, how to find one, the legal requirements for a prenup in D.C., and much more!
Do I need a lawyer for a valid prenup in D.C.?
The short answer is technically, no, you don’t need one. BUT (yes, of course there’s a but) it can be difficult to draft up a valid and enforceable prenup without a lawyer (or without HelloPrenup) if you aren’t aware of all the legalities that go into it. It’s more than just scribbling “She keeps the house, I keep the bank account” on a napkin. There are certain requirements that need to be met in order for a prenup to be enforceable. Without those requirements met, you simply have a worthless piece of paper. So, what exactly are those legal requirements needed for a prenup in D.C.? We get into that in the next section, so keep reading to find out!
Legal requirements of a prenup in D.C.
Prenup law in the U.S. is dictated by state laws. Each state (or federal district in this case) has its own set of rules for how it treats prenuptial agreements. More than half of the states have adopted some version of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) which is basically a standardized guideline for prenup laws. Washington, D.C. is one of those places that has adopted the UPAA. Some of the rules set out by the UPAA include putting the agreement in writing, adding signatures, setting financial disclosure requirements, and more. Why does this matter? Well, this legislation helps establish consistency and clarity in the creation and enforcement of such agreements across different jurisdictions in the United States.
So, let’s take a look at how D.C. has adopted the UPAA and what requirements they have set for a valid and enforceable prenup:
- Prenup must be in writing and signed by both parties
- Prenup must be signed voluntarily
- Prenup is not unconscionable
- Both parties were given fair and reasonable financial disclosure
- If waiving spousal support would result in one party needing public assistance, it may be considered unenforceable
For the fine print on D.C. prenup requirements see D.C. Code §§ 46-501 – 46-510
What does a prenup lawyer do?
A prenup lawyer (regardless of state or district) is your trusty guide through the prenup process. They walk you through the prenup journey step by step until you have a signed prenup in hand. Let’s walk through some of the things you can expect from your prenup lawyer.
You will have a few initial consultations with your prenup lawyer regarding your situation, your goals, and your finances. You will explain to the lawyer what you want out of a prenup, what your finances look like, and how your partner’s needs fit into the equation. Your lawyer may ask you questions and vice versa.
Drafting the agreement
Your prenup lawyer will draft your agreement according to your wishes. Sometimes your partner’s lawyer will draft up the agreement and, in that case, your prenup lawyer will simply redline the agreement to make it fit your needs.
If there requires any back and forth on certain topics, your lawyer will handle that for you. For example, if you want to waive spousal support, but your partner does not, your attorneys may need to speak on the phone to work it out on your behalf. This may involve some compromise on both parties’ end.
Explaining the terms
Your prenup lawyer should walk you through the agreement to make sure you understand what you are signing. Some lawyers will literally sit down with you and walk you through the contract, line by line, explaining what each clause means and its implications.
Every state and district has different requirements for finalization. For example, in some states, there must be witnesses and notaries to a prenup. That is not the case in every state. In D.C., witnesses and notaries are not required, but often lawyers will recommend notarization anyway as an extra layer of protection.
How do I find a prenup lawyer in D.C.?
If you are ready to find your prenup lawyer in Washington, D.C., you may be wondering where to even start! Well, a great place to kick off the prenup lawyer search is through word of mouth. This means asking friends, neighbors, colleagues, cousins, friends of friends, etc. Anyone you trust that has gotten a prenup before! This is the best way to pre-vet an attorney by getting someone who has been tested out already.
Next, you may want to check with your local bar association. You can check out the Washington, D.C. bar association page here. Their website offers referral services and different contacts you can reach out to for hiring attorneys.
There’s also search engines, of course. Google being the main one. You can search terms like “D.C. prenup lawyer” or “Washington, D.C. family law attorney” or any other combination of these types of terms. Remember, if you’re going in cold without a referral, we recommend checking an attorney’s online reviews to get an idea of the attorney’s practice.
Cost of a D.C. prenup lawyer
Let’s talk about money. How much does a prenup lawyer cost in D.C.? Well, for starters, the average lawyer in D.C. charges $392/hour on average, with rates climbing up to $700 or more, depending on the attorney. Some more experienced attorneys may charge higher rates than those newbie lawyers. Plus, your situation, your finances, the negotiations, and your prenup goals will play a role in how much your prenup costs. For example, if you have complex finances, intricate requests for your prenup, and extensive negotiations with your partner, your prenup is going to cost more because it will take your lawyer more time to handle your case.
Let’s look at an example of how much a prenup might cost for someone with simple finances and requests. With minimal complexity, a prenup might take an average lawyer around 12 hours to complete: this may include two hours of consultations, four hours of drafting, four hours of negotiations, and two hours of review/finalization. That would come out to approximately $4,704 for your prenup. ($392/hour x 12 hours). Keep in mind, this does not include how much your partner’s attorney will charge for their end of the work that they do for your partner.
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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]