Lately, I have had a few clients who have come to me asking for a prenuptial agreement because their parents insisted that they have one. Prenups used to be thought of only for the rich and famous. But they are becoming much more common, and are losing some of their stigma. When should you consider having a pre-nup? Here are some common examples when a pre-nup can be helpful. If:
- You are part of a family business, and you want to make sure the business stays in the family
- You have inherited money from your family and your relatives wants to make sure that it stays in the family
- You already have children, and you want to protect the financial resources available to them
- There is a big discrepancy in how much you and your fiance earn, and you want to put a cap on what alimony you may have to pay in the future.
- Your income is high now but you are in an industry where people generally retire when they are very young.
- You have a same-sex marriage that may or may not be recognized in another state.
But prenups don’t just protect the partner with more resources. They can also be useful to the “non-moneyed” spouse, when:
- You want to quit your career to have children, and want to make sure you will be financially secure so you can raise the kids.
- You want to make sure your spouse will leave you enough to continue living comfortably if s/he dies.
- You want to make sure that you will be financially protected in case of divorce.
- You want to protect your fiance from your student (or other) debt.
There is no doubt that the prenup process can be very stressful. We all grow up with significant messages and expectations around money, which we bring to the marriage. Planning a wedding is difficult enough, and doing a prenup at the same time can create conflict and add tension. But it can also be a time of clarification, of understanding, of listening. These will help you create an agreement that serves the particular needs of you and your fiance, and can give you both security as you embark on your new life together.
Mediation and collaborative law are both great processes to use when contemplating a prenuptial agreement, because they both give you a chance to clarify financial expectations, to communicate attitudes about spending, and to create a model for working together on solving problems together.
As the New York State Court of Appeals said, marriage is an economic partnership. Prenuptial agreements, if approached with sensitivity and compassion, can help clarify expectations, enhance communication, and get you off to a healthy start.