When polled, 62% of divorce lawyers said they have seen an increase in the number of their clients seeking a prenuptial agreement. However, going from interest to actually having a signed agreement requires a great deal of talking and negotiation. Here is how you should raise the topic of a prenuptial agreement with your partner.
There Are Many Strong Reasons to Have a Prenuptial Agreement
In the end, it can be in both spouse’s interests to sign a prenuptial agreement. However, one future spouse who may be less interested needs to see how this agreement could help them. Many see this document as limiting the amount that they could receive in a divorce settlement, and they are hesitant to even consider it. In part, this is because prenuptial agreements had previously gotten a bad rap from many people who would not even consider them.
However, more and more couples are opting for these agreements before they marry. There are many compelling reasons to sign a prenup. As family law attorneys, we have seen divorces descend into legal battles over property, and we know as much as anyone the need for a prenuptial agreement. The key is convincing your future spouse to negotiate because it takes two parties to reach this agreement.
The Tone of the Discussion Is Important
How you present the topic to your partner is critical. Even though both parties will end up signing the agreement, it is usually one of them who first brings up the idea to the other. After discussing it, both future spouses end up on the same page and hopefully with a signed contract.
With that in mind, the tone that you use and how you describe the agreement to your partner can make all the difference. This conversation has the potential to cause conflict, so it helps to begin the conversation in the most nonconfrontational way possible. Try to get tips from a divorce attorney before you have the talk. In nontechnical terms, the most important thing that you can do in that initial conversation is to not be rude or defensive.
Start Talking Early
Besides that, try to have the conversation as early as possible in the process. Some partners may take some time to wrap their head around the concept of a prenuptial agreement. Many people hesitate to think about what would happen in the event of a divorce before they are even married. They may have heard negative things about a prenuptial agreement or could hesitate to talk about money at an early stage.
What we are saying is that you may not agree at first to have a prenuptial agreement. Nonetheless, you need to give the other partner some time to come around to your way of thinking. They may be opposed at first, but they will be more interested if they take some time to think about it. You may need to have multiple conversations just to agree to discuss things further. Then, you would need to negotiate the actual agreement. All of this means that discussion of the prenuptial agreement should not wait until the last minute.
Prepare for a Difficult Discussion
At best, discussing what would happen in the event of a possible divorce is an awkward conversation. You are negotiating a divorce that you hope will never happen. Talking to your future spouse in this level of detail is not easy. It is the reason why many people will not get a prenuptial agreement when they obviously should have one.
The initial talk and the subsequent conversations may have some difficult moments. After all, each of you will want a certain division of assets in the event of divorce. You might also be seeing your future spouse in a different light than you otherwise would. They might not agree with what you have to say and could even take offense at your proposal. However, this is a necessary process. The risks to you are too great without this agreement, so you need to brace yourself and handle the situation maturely. The hope is that you could have a smooth negotiation and end up with a balanced agreement.
Tell Them Why It Is in Their Interest
Everyone can certainly talk about their own self-interest. It is a natural thing to talk about how something would help you. However, the other person wants to hear about what a prenuptial agreement could do for them. Here, you should focus on how they would be taken care of in the event of a divorce. If they are the spouse with a lower income, stress how they will have a minimum guaranteed share of the marital estate. The prenuptial agreement is also giving the other spouse security, and you should highlight that.
Make Sure They Feel Like an Equal
While you may be the one suggesting the prenuptial agreement, both spouses and their family lawyer will be negotiating it. The last thing that the other spouse wants to feel is as if they are being dictated to by the other. Stress to them that this is an agreement that you will both have input into and that the terms will need to be negotiated. This is an agreement that both of you will have a say in drafting; remind the other spouse of that.
The future spouse should also understand that they have a say and that their concerns will be reflected in the agreement. You can help further this understanding by promising that you will be fair and reasonable during the process. If they have any concerns, hear them out and listen more than you talk.
Stress That You May Not Have to Negotiate Directly
Each party will have their own divorce lawyer helping them with the agreement. Both of you cannot have the same lawyer, even if that is what you wanted. One family law attorney is not allowed to represent both parties to an agreement.
It is best to each get a divorce lawyer. This way, you are not directly talking to each other about the difficult issues. Sometimes, people have a tendency to negotiate in a hard-edged manner. It is only human to feel that way in a negotiation, and you may end up saying something that you regret. Having a divorce attorney can keep you out of the nitty-gritty and allow you to focus on building your relationship with your future spouse. In addition, it will ease some of the stress associated with what is normally an uncomfortable process.
This is a conversation in which you need to be completely open and honest. You can discuss some of your fears and what could possibly happen in a divorce while stressing to your partner that you are completely committed to the marriage. If you need further advice on how to approach this conversation with your partner, Jeralyn Lawrence is an experienced attorney who has helped numerous clients with prenuptial agreements.
To schedule your initial consultation, contact a family lawyer at Lawrence Law at (908) 645-1000 today. Our Watchung and Red Bank divorce lawyers are ready to help you.