Did you recently get engaged? Congratulations!
Valentine’s Day is statistically one of the most popular days for couples to express their love to each other with a proposal of marriage. After the acceptance comes the exciting time of wedding planning. What is the best venue? Destination wedding or at home ceremony? How many people should we invite? Catered dinner or buffet? Band or DJ? Should we just elope and save ourselves the frustration of dealing with everyone else’s opinions?
With all these important details running through your head, it is easy to get focused on the wedding day instead of the marriage life. Couples who fail to have the marriage life conversations, however, often come to regret it later on in the marriage when the honeymoon phase is over, and life happens. One thing many couples fail to include on their wedding checklist is the discussion of a prenuptial agreement.
Prenuptial agreements (aka “prenups”) are contracts entered into by both parties to the marriage that detail how certain things must be done in the case of a divorce. Generally, prenups clarify what will happen with your present and future property and finances if the scenario you separate and divorce. The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) dictates the requirements of prenups and what can be involved. Many things can be included in a prenup such as agreeing to or waiving spousal support and the characterization of assets and debts as separate or community property. Many people obtain prenups when they have businesses they started prior to the marriage or expect inheritances that they want to keep separate property.
Things that generally cannot be in a prenup are issues dealing with child support and custody because it is California public policy to ensure those rights remain intact for the best interest of the child. Prenups can include a provision that the parties agree to provide more child support than the law requires, however, and can include agreements such as the division of responsibility for future college expenses. Additionally, if a term in the prenup is considered “unconscionable” (extraordinarily unfair) it might be unenforceable. What makes a term “unconscionable” varies greatly depending on the specific facts of each case, and legal representation by an attorney with knowledge of this area of the law is recommended to ensure you are properly protected.
Having these difficult conversations are some of the most important steps you should be taking prior to your marriage. Although it seems counterintuitive, having open and honest discussions about money, assets and debts can lift a weight from you and your relationship, and even bring you and your partner closer together. Sometimes getting that conversation started with your partner, however, is embarrassing and stressful. Some people avoid discussing a prenup because they see it as a sign of insecurity in the relationship and lack of trust. This viewpoint is flawed, however, because getting a prenup allows you to build a solid foundation for your marriage based on mutual respect, honesty, and security in knowing what happens should you divorce. You aren’t planning for your marriage to fail; you are protecting yourself and creating mutual understanding with your partner.
It can be incredibly intimidating to bring up the subject of a prenup with your partner, but there are ways to make the process a little less painful.
- Choose the Right Time to Discuss It
Timing is often everything, and the saying holds true for discussing prenups. Every partnership and situation are different. Take your time in thinking about when you and your partner do your best collaborative and discussing important topics and plan out your discussion with them so it can be more of a collaborative process and less a blindside.
- Explain Why You Believe a Prenup May be Beneficial to Both You and Your Partner
Along with thinking of the best timing, thinking through your thoughts on a prenup and why you think it would be beneficial for both of you will go a long way in making the initial discussion as painless as possible. “I’ve been thinking we may want to look into getting a prenuptial agreement to detail your business stays yours and my future inheritance from mom stays mine in the future” can be perceived a little easier than “I want a prenup”.
- Be Honest About What You Want
The purpose of the prenup is to lay your cards on the table and secure what you want. Be thoughtful, be concise, be thorough, and don’t hold back. You will regret it and may end up resenting yourself or your partner if you don’t get what you are looking for because you weren’t honest about it.
- Engage Your Partner in the Process
This should be a collaborative process. You and your partner are melding your lives together. This is simply a document that explains what that looks like and keeps everyone on the same page.
- Be Skeptical About Involving Others
Families are very often well-meaning but can be intrusive. Remember the marriage, the wedding, and the prenup are about you and your partner. While your parents or relatives may have some opinions on what you should do, including what you should include in your prenup, remember this is your life and your decision. The more you keep the focus on yourself and your partner, the less chance you have of losing sight of what you want and creating rifts between you and your partner.
- Make the Discussion A Part of Your Life Dreaming
Dreaming and planning your wedding and future life together is exciting and romantic. Prenups can be a part of that experience. If you expect the prenup process to be painful and problematic for you and your relationship, then it will be. But it doesn’t have to be. Prenups can simply be a tool that allows you and your partner to have open and honest conversations and make specific plans for your future life together.
Dreaming and planning for your future with your partner can be exciting and romantic. Don’t let the stress of the uncomfortable stop you from having the strongest and most honest marriage you can have. After all, if you are planning on spending your life with this person as their partner in thick or thin, you should feel comfortable knowing exactly what that means.