Talking About Prenuptial Agreements
It doesn’t matter what you call it: Prenup, premarital agreement, prenuptial agreement……doesn’t make the discussion any easier.
Honestly, it’s not as much about the written document as it is about the disucssion. I’m convinced that if you have the discussion, and talk about all the topics, that you may or may not need the written document (don’t tell my lawyer colleagues I said that). Premarital Discussion Checklist.
I’ve been a divorce lawyer a long time (23 years!), youthful appearance notwithstanding.
I know a lot about what ruins marriages. And while I don’t know everything, I’ve certainly seen some patterns over the years.
Let’s forget the lawyer stuff for a minute.
If you were my BFF , this is what I’d tell you:
Money discussions are hard. But if you’re going to be married for any length of time, there are going to be lots of hard things that you’ll need to deal with as a couple.
And the tough stuff either brings you closer, or it breaks you apart.
Think the divorce rate is already high? It’s much higher for parents of special needs children, sick children, and children who are injured in accidents.
Wondering what triggers divorce? In any marriage that ends in divorce, the seeds of the divorce are planted long, long before the divorce actually happens. Deciding to divorce doesn’t just happen out of the blue (and neither do affairs, being a work-a-holic or addicted to anything and everything). The breakdown of a marriage is an erosion.
But if you want to talk about the ordinary life events that seem to burst the dam on the marriage (after the erosion has been going on awhile) I can tell you that we see a lot of couples in divorce mediation who have been through a re-evaluation process after a big event or change. Cancer patients in remission who don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in this marriage. Adult children whose parents have died, and the death of the parent has caused them to re-evaluate their lives.
These are just 2 examples, but I think you get the picture.
So if you can’t talk about money and property and who pays for what before you’re married, how are you supposed to talk about any of this other stuff, these adult rites of passage, which have a 100% chance of happening to you or your spouse at some point?
As someone who’s done 4000 divorces, I know you’ve got to talk about this stuff and either get on the same page with it or agree to disagree (and still get married).
The folks we see who get into trouble avoid hard discussions, particularly about money and how they feel about property they inherit or owned before the marriage.
They go along to get along…not knowing that what they’re really doing is starting the journey down the slippery slope. Some get lucky, I know, and never run out of money or never face hard challenges. We don’t see those people in our divorce mediation practice. But all too often we see regrets, misgivings, secrets, and “I thought we agreed on this” when they never even talked about it.
You don’t have to agree on everything. But you do need to know how to handle hard discussions and differences of opinions.
As you get older, you’ll weather a lot of storms together—-sick parents, deaths, illnesses, job loss, business downturns (or quick upturns—all stress is stressful, even good stress like dealing with too much success too fast). You need the foundation of we can talk about anything to be able to get through.
So this prenup discussion is really the tip of the iceberg.
And even if you don’t want to do a written agreement, you still need to have the discussion. It’s the discussion that’s the most important part.
A checklist of premarital issues will get the communication started.