How to Talk About A Pre-Nuptial Agreement and Strengthen Your Future Marriage
The subject of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement (in Texas it’s called a Pre-Marital Agreement) has to be one of the most awkward topics of conversation an engaged couple can have. Even if the couple’s relationship is strong, it’s got to be uncomfortable, and some engagements and weddings have even been called off over the subject. If the couple is younger and one member is from a wealthy family, it but often the parents of the child from the wealthy family that pushes their child for a Pre-Marital Agreement. If it’s a later in life marriage, often it is one or both people in the relationship that think a Pre-Marital Agreement would be a good idea, especially if one or both of members of the couple have children from a previous marriage for whom they want to protect some of their assets.
But, let’s think about it – even if neither side has wealth or has children from a previous marriage, wouldn’t it be better to have those thorny conversations about such things as financial philosophies BEFORE the wedding than after the couple is already married? Sometimes financial philosophy issues begin to fester as soon as the honeymoon is over or even on the honeymoon. It is better to “vet” those issues early on and either work through them or call the wedding off if they can’t be resolved. As a divorce lawyer, I can tell you that those “under the surface” issues don’t go away or solve themselves – they percolate like an infection for months and sometimes years, then when they finally come to a head they often end in a divorce. So, whether you are a young couple with one member who is from a family who wants to protect the family fortune or you are a later-in-life couple who feels that the wealth they accumulated with their first spouse should be preserved for their children, there must be some way for the subject of a Pre-Marital/Pre-Nuptial Agreement to be brought up and discussed without destroying the couple’s relationship. In an article in the Huffington Post, How to Bring Up a Prenuptial Agreement Without Sounding Like A Jerk, divorce lawyers who were interviewed said that they see an increase in people asking about Pre-Marital/Pre-Nuptial Agreements, so they have some suggestions for ways to have the discussion:
1. Have the conversation as early as possible.
This is a delicate, uncomfortable conversation, but if it’s something that genuinely matters to you, you owe it to your partner to bring it up as soon as possible, said Lisa Helfend Meyer, a family law attorney in Los Angeles.
“In fact, bring up the subject when you are still dating,” Meyer said. “That way, you can gauge your partner’s reaction to one. If the reaction is to move to the other room, then you know you will need to handle with extra sensitivity.”
2. Know that it’s going to be a weird, heavy conversation.
There’s no way around it: Broaching the subject is going to cause some tension in your relationship, said Atlanta-based divorce attorney Randall Kessler. In his 30 years in family law, he’s rarely heard of a prenup conversation that’s been hiccup-free.
“I’ve heard all kinds of approaches. What usually seems to work best is the truth,” Kessler said. “Say something along the lines of, ‘My family and I have always discussed and agreed that if I or my brother ever got married, we would sign a prenup,’ or, ‘My best friend went through a horrible divorce and all he can remember from it is his lawyer saying, ‘If only you had signed a prenuptial agreement.’”
If you communicate your wishes in an open and honest way and your S.O. respects that, you’re very likely on the road to a solid relationship, Kessler added.
3. Emphasize how much of a headache you’ll be saving yourselves later.
Ultimately, a prenup has the power to uncomplicate a messy, knotty personal situation, said Carla Schiff Donnelly, an attorney in Pittsburgh.
“Emphasize the fact that a prenup will simplify a divorce and make it quicker, less expensive and less emotionally taxing,” Donnelly told HuffPost. “That will benefit both your fiancée and any future children.”
4. Remind your partner that all relationships end one way or another. You’re just trying to make the inevitable easier.
One way to introduce the idea of a prenup is to talk about how you’d each want to be treated at the end of your marriage, said Katherine Eisold Miller, a divorce attorney in New Rochelle, New York.
“All marriages end, one way or another. Instead of saying, ‘I can’t marry you until we have a prenup,’ try framing it this way: ‘At the end of our marriage, whether it ends in death, as we anticipate, or divorce, what would be important to you and how would you like to be treated?’”
Then, pivot and ask your partner if they’d be open to hearing what would matter most to you in either case.
“A prenup should do something for both people and give them some certainty in difficult times,” Eisold Miller said. “A conversation like this allows for both voices to be heard.”
5. Point out that a good prenup benefits the lower-earning spouse, too.
If you’re worried about coming across as greedy or penny-pinching by bringing this up, remember that a carefully written, thoughtful prenup protects both parties, Kessler said.
“Sometimes, the prenuptial agreement is even more valuable to the less-wealthy spouse because it gives him or her some security about finances in the event of a divorce,” he said.
6. Suggest that you co-create the agreement.
Don’t make this a weird power play: Both partners should be active participants in drafting the prenup to ensure that it’s equitable, said Dennis A. Cohen, a family law attorney, and mediator in Marina del Rey, California.
“The trick is to make this a co-created agreement that deals with both of your concerns, not just the partner who has substantially more income or assets than the other,” Cohen said. “It may be helpful to have a neutral mediator help you reach an agreement that addresses both of your needs and desires.”
Regardless of how you go about it, end the conversation with a promise to be fair and reasonable throughout the process, and actively listen to your partner’s concerns.
“This is, after all, a person you love and want to marry,” Cohen said. “Keeping that uppermost in your mind, words and deeds will result in you coming up with an agreement that works for both of you.”
I particularly appreciate #6: “Suggest that you co-create the agreement.” In the past few months, I posted two blogs that set out the advantages of using the Collaborative Process to Co-Create a Pre-Marital/Pre-Nuptial Agreement. The Collaborative Process enables couples to have these difficult conversations with the support of trained professionals who can help them not only navigate this touchy subject but help make their future marriage stronger because the conversations and RESOLUTIONS reached in those conversations were handled in a civilized and understanding atmosphere – a great foundation for a successful marriage.
If you or someone you know is thinking about getting married or is already engaged, regardless of their age, please share this information with them and invite them to come in and visit with me about the ways that a Pre-Marital Agreement and the conversations around that can help them create a stronger marriage from the start. And, BTW, we have a similar agreement available for couples that do not choose to marriage – it is a cohabitation agreement, and we discuss and work through similar philosophical and practical issues to enable them to have a stronger relationship.