How to Discuss Your Prenup the Right Way
How to Discuss Your Prenup the Right Way
If you’ve been following this blog long enough you’ll know our advice to most couples who are getting married in the state of Pennsylvania is to pursue a prenuptial agreement.
But we hear from many clients they find the idea of talking about a prenup scary and difficult. They aren’t sure what the etiquette is, or how they can have the conversation without angering their significant other.
That’s why we thought we’d take some time to discuss the best way to approach a prenup conversation.
Start the Initial Discussion Before You Start the Process
Brides.com says the first question a woman should ask when the fiance brings up a prenup is, “Where in the process are you?“
We would submit the only right answer to this question is, “It’s something I’ve begun thinking about.”
Do not plunk a fully finished prenup agreement down in front of your intended and ask him or her to sign. Do not even retain a lawyer until you’ve had the initial conversation.
Timing of the Initial Conversation
Since you want to sign the prenup about six months before the wedding to avoid seeing it thrown out later because of the appearance of duress, you should start the conversation eight or nine months before the wedding day.
This gives you both plenty of time to get used to the idea of having a prenup in the first place, and to work with your lawyers and each other to negotiate the specifics.
The Goal of the First Conversation
The goal of the first conversation should be to discuss the idea of having a prenup, not to hash out all the details of one. It should also be to discuss the reasons why you might want to have a prenup, and why it would protect both of you from unintended circumstances.
Treat the Prenup Like It’s Part of a Larger Picture
There’s a reason some marriage experts now treat prenups as part of the wedding planning process, just like choosing the venue or ordering the cake. Because handled correctly, it is part of an essential life planning conversation about finances, and careers, that you’d want to have anyway.
- Does one of you plan to put the other through school? You should expect to benefit from that.
- Does one of you plan to give up a career to raise the children? You should feel you will not have to scrape by with a minimum wage job and no other safety net should the marriage dissolve.
- Does one of you have significant assets the other doesn’t share? You shouldn’t feel like you’re going to struggle financially while your spouse lives like a king or a queen off your assets.
- Are you a creative professional, developer, or someone else who may end up owning royalties, patents, or other intellectual property? You shouldn’t have to worry your spouse will end up with creative rights or control over that property in the event of a divorce.
- Do you own a business, or plan on starting one? While your spouse may expect to be supported financially in the event of a divorce, this protects you against giving up control of the business to someone you’re at odds with.
Keep in mind it may take you several follow-up conversations to nail down what is important to both of you.
Remember, this is a negotiation.
Take a fair and balanced approach. Ideally the both of you will be co-creators in this process. You will create an agreement that protects both parties and provides equal benefits to both parties.
Remember, if a prenuptial agreement is too one-sided a judge may not honor it anyway.
Make sure your spouse knows it’s not all about protecting you. Make sure you’re not planning for the marriage to end, but that you’re treating this like you’d treat buying a death and dismemberment policy. You don’t want to die or be dismembered, you just acknowledge it could happen.
Remember, how you say things matters as much as what you say.
Using “I” statements that aren’t accusatory is very helpful, such as, “I’m worried I’ll be financially disadvantaged if this marriage does not last.” Or: “Securing strategic control of my business is very important to me.”
But it’s also helpful to make sure your partner knows it’s not all about protecting you. “I want to make sure both of us can live comfortable lifestyles if things go wrong,” is a very different statement than, “I want you to sign this so I can be sure you don’t screw me over later.”
Get different lawyers!
You and your intended should always have different lawyers. The purpose of this is not to have the lawyers get between you and your betrothed, fighting like bulldogs and causing strife.
Rather, the purpose is to ensure both of your interests are protected, and to ensure the agreement is fair and balanced enough for a judge to uphold it. If you used the same lawyer the agreement will automatically be suspect.
You can always tell your lawyer your goals, and what you and your spouse have discussed, and what you’re hoping to achieve. A good one will honor all these things while ensuring no problematic language, or language with unintended consequences, makes it into the document.