Q&A: Do I have a financial claim to my spouse's family fortune (if the marriage is really short)?

I doubt it. If your spouse comes from a family with a significant amount of wealth, chances are you and he (or she) executed a prenup, first of all, right? But second of all, anything your spouse earned before your marriage is separate property. Family fortunes would normally have existed prior to your arrival. Even assuming the family suddenly came into wealth during your short marriage, it is going to depend how much of that wealth is allocated to your spouse. If you have a claim at all, and that is a very big “if” it will be limited to your spouse’s share of that sudden windfall his family received. If that sum is considered to be an “inheritance” you are likely still out of luck as inheritances are normally not considered marital property.

But let’s say you did not have a prenup. And it is not a windfall inheritance. Would you be entitled to any of it? I still doubt it. It is still likely separate property but if it was in some way commingled the portion of it that was comingled with marital property might be in dispute in a divorce situation. For example, let’s say your spouse bought a marital residence with that money, you would/may have a financial claim even if your name is not on the deed – by virtue of the fact that the money was used to purchase marital assets.

Now, the fact that the marriage was of short duration could be an issue. Certainly, it is unlikely that you would have a claim to the family’s fortune (with or without a prenup) in a marriage of short duration. But even that portion that was used in the marriage (let’s say the spouse’s family’s assets earned him interest or dividends each month and he used that to fund marital expenses), you would be limited to how much you can expect to reap, I think, i.e. your financial claim would be limited, if, on top of everything else, the marriage was of short duration.