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Brooklyn Family Law, Blog

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Can One Spouse’s Not Being a Native English Speaker Affect Validity of Prenuptial Agreement?

Can One Spouse’s Not Being a Native English Speaker Affect Validity of Prenuptial Agreement?If one of the parties to a prenuptial agreement does not speak and read English as a native language, there are certain precautions that must be reviewed. Many factors need to be considered when entering into a prenuptial agreement, as with any agreement. Prenuptial agreements must be entered into voluntarily, of course. They also must be understood by the parties signing them. You do not ever want to take the risk that a foreign born spouse will challenge the prenuptial agreement on the basis of their not understanding it because of a language barrier.

Where one of the parties to a prenuptial agreement is of foreign origin, their level of understanding of the English language in written and spoken form is extremely important in the face of entering into a prenuptial agreement. This could also be true of America born parties who speak English as a second or third language, not primary language. Prenuptial agreements are not written in a normal, conversational English, using many phrases and terms uncommon to daily English usage. If there is any question whatsoever that one of the parties entering into a prenuptial agreement may not understand every single word of the prenuptial agreement, it is worth the investment to hire a qualified interpreter to have the prenuptial agreement interpreted into that person’s native language. This will avoid any future claim that they did not understand what they were signing.

You never want to give the impression or appearance that you are trying to get anyone to sign a prenuptial agreement under any kind of pressure or manipulation. Any claim that they did not understand the language of the prenuptial agreement because their first language is foreign, not English is a claim that is easily avoided in advance. Your basis in entering into a prenuptial agreement is to protect everyone’s assets, incomes and estates. If the prenuptial agreement is not understood by all parties because of a language barrier, you risk the prenuptial agreement not being enforced and all protections intended are then lost.

There are two principals of law worthy of note with regard to prenuptial agreements. One is a principal called “clean hands.” It means pretty much what it says: if you have to come before the Court for any reason, you want to be free of the taint of your own wrong doing, in other words, clean. The other premise is negotiating in good faith, meaning that your intent is for everything to be open and above board, hiding nothing. These premises hold particularly true with regard to prenuptial agreements. You want to negotiate everything openly and honestly, without any taint of wrongdoing on your part. If you are trying to get someone to enter into a prenuptial agreement with any possibility that they do not understand it at all levels then the taint is beginning and the good faith is leaving. This means there will be a risk that the prenuptial agreement will fall if it is ever challenged. Do not put yourself through that.

Spouse’s Not Being a Native English Speaker Affect Validity of Prenuptial Agreement?If you have tried successfully to pull the wool over someone’s eyes in getting them to sign a prenuptial agreement that they very likely did not understand, that is in a foreign language from their native tongue, a Court will recognize this. By the same token, if one of the parties to an agreement, as happened in a recent case, attempts to use the fact that English is not their native tongue to avoid an agreement that they signed, this claim, too, must be made in good faith or the Court will recognize this as well. In the case mentioned, the wife claiming not to have understood the agreement was Russian born but taught English, yes, taught, in Russia and in the US. She got her Master’s degree in the US, and she taught Russians English as a second language. Her claim that she did not understand the prenuptial agreement failed. But this would be the very rare circumstance where there was no question this person understood the English language is spite of her being foreign born.

Remember your goal in entering into a prenuptial agreement. I say it again: to protect your assets, incomes and your estates. Make sure that is what will happen and that your prenuptial agreement will withstand all challenges. Toward that end, make certain that both parties can never claim that they did not understand what they were signing in executing the prenuptial agreement. If language is even a potential issue, the costs of having the prenuptial agreement interpreted by a qualified, certified interpreter is well worth the expense. This will protect against a successful challenge ever being made against your prenuptial agreement on the grounds of failure to understand the prenuptial agreement because of a language barrier.

From the opposite side of this, if you are foreign born, English is not your native tongue and you are being asked to sign a prenuptial agreement, make sure you fully understand the agreement. If this means that you are the one hiring an interpreter, then you need to do it to make sure you know what you are signing, and that it is exactly what you have been told it is.

If your Spouse is not a Native English Speaker and you need to know if this could Affect Validity of Prenuptial Agreement, Contcat Renata Weissman Brooklyn's Family Law Practice attorney for advice and legal help. The Brooklyn NYC Law firm can be reached Toll Free at 855-736-2829.