Prenup dilemmas - how to talk about prenuptial agreements

Part 1, Part 2

In this article I'm hoping to help you to consider the potential difficulties of talking about a prenuptial agreement (or 'prenup'). The agreement would take care of the 'business side' of your relationship, should it come to an end. But... how romantic is that?

Would a discussion about prenups change the way you see each other? Maybe, but if it's handled sensitively it could be a really worthwhile discussion to have - whether or not you opt for a prenup or cohabitation agreement.

The latter is particularly important as there's very little legal provision or protection for you if you were to go your separate ways.

What are prenuptial and cohabitation agreements?

You or your partner may have assets (money, property or possessions) you want to protect before the two of you 'officially' commit to each other. The protection that a prenuptial agreement (also called a premarital agreement) or a cohabitation agreement offers can secure your wealth. It can also protect you against the impact of your partner's personal debts if sadly the marriage breaks down.

A prenuptial agreement can also define other conditions, for example the level of support offered to one or the other should you separate, have an affair, move abroad and so on.

My advice here on this page is designed to help you consider the signing of a prenuptial agreement before your marriage or civil union, and what it means for your relationship.  For legal advice, do hop over to my page about how to find the best lawyer.

So much for romance!

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that you don't have a 100% guarantee that you and your partner will be together forever. Perhaps you've already been in a relationship or marriage that's gone sour and experienced all the pain, hassle and detrimental financial implications that accompanied the breakdown.

I so understand that when you're getting married, discussing the financial consequences of a potential break-up can feel brutal and cold. You may even feel that just thinking and talking about it might be tempting fate if you're that way inclined.

The very thought of prenups may make you cringe. After all - the act of getting married is supposed to mean a commitment for life, based on love and trust. By signing a prenuptial agreement (or if you're considering cohabiting, a cohabitation agreement), it might seem as though in a sense you're revealing some ambivalence about the trust you place in each other and the level of your commitment.

However, since you've landed on this page, the likelihood is that one of you is totally aware that your marital and/or financial landscape could potentially change at some point in the future.

And there are reasons for considering a prenup agreement other than anticipating that your marriage or civil union could crumble.

Why even consider a prenup agreement?
- 4 factors that might influence the decision

Here are some reasons for wanting to sign a prenup (or premarital) agreement that have little to do with the health - or otherwise - of your relationship.

Maybe the initiator of the prenup...

  1. Grew up in a dysfunctional environment, where a sense of security and safety were at a premium - hence they have a seemingly disproportionate level of mistrust
  2. Has already been through a marital break-up or has experience of a partnership turning sour
  3. Experiences family pressure - anxiety about wealth and control, as well as cultural background, can all play a part
  4. Has fears about potential demands from your family
  5. Shows signs of abusive behaviour

How healthy is it to express your doubts?

In my view it's much healthier to express insecurities and anxieties about the durability of your marriage, rather than to pretend they don't exist.

These days all of us are sadly well aware of the divorce rate. To insist that it isn't going to happen to you really doesn't improve your chances of staying together until your dying days I'm afraid! But then, I guess you probably know that anyway...

I really recommend that you do some homework to ensure you know how the law regarding prenup agreements applies in your situation. There are significant differences between countries and states.

However, it is imperative that both parties have independent legal advice when drawing up a prenup and agree to full disclosure. That means two lawyers involved rather than one.

So, what are you going to disclose?

Independent legal advice and your relationship

If you or your partner want to draw up a prenup agreement, both of you will need independent legal advice. But if you have a partner who likes to be in control, he or she may not like this idea. They may subsequently show an unhealthy interest in who you've talked to and the advice you've been given.

If you feel under any pressure at all, you should of course discuss this with your lawyer. Prenups and cohabitation agreements must be signed voluntarily and without duress.

Although you'll need to give full disclosure of your assets, the legal advice itself is of course confidential. However, your partner may expect you to share the advice you've been given.

But what if it includes something you'd be reluctant to discuss? How much would you want to disclose, if your future spouse was to ask you some direct questions?

Read on in Part 2 to discover some of the awkward questions involved with prenuptial agreements, and for tips for a more fruitful discussion...

Part 1, Part 2

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