Prenuptials are increasingly growing more popular regardless of age and income. With the alarming reality that 50% of marriages end in divorce, people are anxious and want to ensure that they are safe in marriage. The result has been a steady increase in the number of couples drafting prenuptial agreements. However, it’s not necessarily an easy thing to arrange between partners. They can be quite tricky and lead to contention, even break-ups. A partner might feel the future is doomed even before they enter it.
A subscriber, Joel, wrote me about feeling anxiety over proposing a pre-nuptial to his fiancé. “It’s a relatively happy relationship,” he wrote. “But I am concerned about my assets.” He went on to say that he worked very hard to buy his home and put lots of money and time into fixing it up before his fiancé moved in. Many of his friends have either broken up or are in the process of getting divorced. He said that his fiancé is not coming into the marriage with any assets. He doesn’t want to upset her, but wants to know the best way to introduce the prenuptial agreement to his fiancé without upsetting her.
Joel is smart to approach the topic with sensitivity. Presentation is critical. In the past 7 years, this issue has become more common in working with my couples.
I suggested to Joel that he begin by telling his fiancé that he loves her, feels satisfied in the relationship and excited to get married. However, he needs to also be firm by letting her that should anything happen between the two of them, the house will remain in his name. I told him that he needs to try and explain to her that pre-nuptial agreements are very common and serve to address unease that couples have when they are of unequal financial standing. By doing so, prenuptials can contribute to a more harmonious marriage. I advised that he also let her know that he believes it will prevent future conflicts, and build a stronger more secure relationship and financial situation.
He needs to make sure she knows that he is fair about the finances. If they are splitting the bills and she is contributing to paying the mortgage down with him, she will be reimbursed according to her percentage of contribution.
In executing the prenuptial agreement, he also should not hire any lawyers in either one of their families. I have experienced numerous issues when couples invite family members that are lawyers or married to lawyers who want to arrange their prenuptial agreements. It is well worth paying the higher lawyer fees and getting an objective agreement drawn up. He needs to make sure that family members do not get involved, as this is between him and his fiancé only.
I recommended to Joel that once he gets his lawyer to draw up the agreement, his fiancé completely understands the details. Let her express her feelings and answer all her questions. He should then celebrate with a wonderful dinner expressing his love and devotion to her.
My sincere hope and expectation is that this approach will work. However, there are cases in which, despite a rational and fair-minded presentation of suggesting a prenup, the partner gets upset and won’t cooperate. Counseling can assist couples in this situation.
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