Are you considering entering into a prenuptial agreement? There are many reasons
why you might do so, and here are some of them:
if one of you has significant assets, or if you do not come into the marriage or
relationship in equal financial positions
you have been previously divorced, or previously experienced the end of a long-term relationship
if you have children from a prior marriage
one person plans to give up working for a while to take care of children, and you
want a chance to discuss, in advance, your visions for this choice and
how it should impact the future
if one of you has a strong vision for how you want to handle post-marital debt
to prepare for uncertainties of the law regarding spousal support, division of a small
business, division of inherited or appreciated property, or division of passive assets
if either of you comes into the relationship with significant debt
Mediation of your prenuptial agreement can be an experience which gives
you both the opportunities to share your hopes, visions and fears about
the future, and which will increase your understanding of each other.
Here's how it can work: Hannah was 34, divorced with 2 children, ages 9
and 11. She was an architect. Saul, aged 52, had never been married, and
was a successful businessman worth upwards of $7 million. They came to me,
a few months before their planned wedding date.
As you might guess, Saul initiated the prenuptial discussion. Through the
mediation process, his underlying emotions and fears came out. He had
never been married and, although he and Hannah were already living
together, he felt very vulnerable when he thought about getting married.
He felt frightened at the thought that he was opening up his whole life to
this woman, and letting her into what had previously been exclusively his
Because Hannah understood Saul's fears as he stood on the threshold of
marriage, she was able to make him feel heard, and he began to relax. She
was able to assure him that she loved him for his self, and that she was
not marrying him for his money.
Then Hannah was able to express some of her own feelings. "If you died
after we had been married for 15 years, and because of this prenuptial
agreement I was cut out of your estate, how am I your wife? How will I
appear to your family members? What if we have children?"
Saul's eyes widened. He understood what Hannah was saying. He said, "I see
now - the fact that you are going to be my wife is very meaningful, and I
don't want to take the meaning away from that. And yet, I do feel
frightened. What if the marriage did not last until death, and we instead
As they discussed it further, it became clear that Saul's fears were
centered more around a divorce, than around what would happen if the
marriage were to end because one of them died. They decided not to put any
estate waivers in place, and Saul agreed that he would update his will
right after they returned from their honeymoon.
Next, the discussions focused on their feelings about divorce. They
negotiated an agreement which had less effect every year, and which
terminated, by its own terms, after 20 years of marriage.
Both Saul and Hannah felt that they had an increased understanding of each
other after this negotiation process was completed. They signed the
agreement 6 weeks before the wedding and now, 7 years later, they are
still married and have a 4 year old child.
It can be a meaningful experience for engaged couples to negotiate
prenuptial agreements which will protect them, while at the same time
acknowledge the love they have for each other and the hopes they hold for
their future when entering into marriage.
In some ways money is the biggest taboo - some people would rather tell
you about their sex lives than reveal their net worth. But 70% of
divorcing couples state that money was a big source of conflict.
Negotiating a prenuptial agreement can give you and your intended a chance
to discuss, before you have conflicts, your philosophies about money, and
your visions for handling it reasonably and fairly in the future.
Couples who plan to live together and not get married - for various
reasons, including that they are gay and are not (yet) able to be legally
married in New York - might also want to negotiate a pre-cohabitation
If one of them takes time off from work to raise a child, he or she could
find themselves, in the event of a break-up, with no legal rights. A
cohabitation agreement could give you a chance, while you are at the
height of your commitment and love for each other, and while you are most
open and willing to understand and be generous toward the other, to set
down your joint vision for fairness, regarding your future together.
All relationships will end - either in break-up, divorce or death - and it
can be of great benefit to you both to discuss your vision for your lives
together in advance.