A prenup can take many of the “what ifs” off the table in the event of divorce. What is separate property, who might have to maintain life insurance, and who will keep the heirloom piano that’s been passed down for generations? These are just a few of the issues a prenuptial agreement can cover. Depending on a couple’s needs, a prenup can run the gamut.
But more than that, a prenup can lay the groundwork for building a strong marriage, even though it is designed to protect each spouse should the marriage end. In reality, many of a prenup’s benefits reveal themselves even before the drafting stage begins.
The conversation about whether to have a prenup, from the first conversation to those that follow, can serve as an exercise in pinpointing what areas of a relationship may need attention and, on the flip side, areas where you didn’t know you have such a gem in your midst.
All joking aside, far more relevant to a marriage than who gets what should it end, a prenup can serve as the relationship crystal ball you never knew you had, predicting both good and bad. Here is what it can reveal.
Picking out a wedding venue, what guests will be dining on, and opening gifts from a long-thought-out bridal registry is fun, no doubt, and likewise distracting. That is, for example, until the spouse who laid out the money for the wedding festivities from separate, pre-marital funds proposes paying themselves back from the wedding gifts.
Whoa. What? Did you know your spouse felt they were entitled to the gifts? Had you discussed beforehand that this would be the plan? Had you even dreamed that this could be a possibility? Are you surprised? Has it changed your perception of your new spouse?
All good questions. And all questions that could have been asked — and answered — in a prenup. Better yet, if these questions and answers were out in the open prior to the wedding, you and your spouse would have had ample time to discuss your feelings about them. Instead, you are now in the vulnerable position of learning something new about your spouse and marriage, and you may not like what it is. A well-drafted prenup can avoid these types of emotional surprises.
So now that one of you has raised an issue, an issue that you both need to work through, you may be about to find out exactly how adept you each are at problem-solving. If your biggest clash up to now concerned which china pattern to register for, something your spouse really didn’t care about when it came down to it, you may now be in for a rude awakening.
People have different negotiating styles, and not everyone’s as skilled at problem-solving or willing to compromise. This is not a reality you want to confront after your wedding day, at a time when you are supposed to be adjusting to life as a married couple and building a life together.
How able you are to solve problems when issues arise, and they will, can very much dictate how smooth a marriage you have. Perhaps if you realized beforehand that your spouse lacked these skills, you could have done something about it, anything from working on these skills with them to finding a different partner. Again, a prenup that, by its nature, forces couples to confront topics that may be difficult to discuss can bring deficiencies to light.
On a more positive note, a prenup can underscore you and your future spouse’s varying communication styles early on, helping you to meet in the middle on issues that will inevitably come up in the future. That way, there can be fewer surprises once your commitment is legally binding.
Closely related to problem-solving is the issue of respect. Not everyone may be as adept at solving problems. However, problem-solving, as well as pretty much any other issue you may run into, will be made more complicated if there is a lack of respect demonstrated by you or your future spouse.
How you deal with the topics that a prenup will cover can unearth a lot about the way that you each deal with confrontation. Are you respectful? Do you bully to get what you want? Will you listen to how your partner feels?
Respect is critical for marital success. Not only can you discover whether your future spouse will be respectful when differences of opinion or conflict arise, as it can during the discussions leading up to the drafting by your family law attorney of a prenup, but you can also turn that mirror on yourself to become a better spouse. And human.
Who is going to: take out the garbage, do the laundry, run those future kiddos to the doctor, sign them up for soccer, and drive them to and from practice? Who is going to worry about what is going to get done, and who is going to sleep easy knowing their spouse got this one?
If you are saying, “Not me,” for some or all of the above-mentioned, it is definitely time for a discussion, one that is much more strategically had before heading down the aisle. A prenup can, yes, you guessed it, be the precise impetus to have such a talk. Need some added support?
Eve Rodsky, in her groundbreaking book, Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live), helps couples navigate such challenges, usually after one partner in a relationship or marriage feels like the other isn’t pulling their weight pertaining to specific activities affecting the family. Rodsky even created a card game to help facilitate the “enlightenment” that needs to go on for couples to understand what the other person may or may not be doing.
But what if you could delineate many of these tasks before marriage, before being faced with doling them out, prior to there being a need to dole them out, before there is a real problem to discuss, before there is resentment brewing in your marriage? Once again, a prenup can set the stage for this type of communication.
Discover your marriage and family-oriented superpowers in advance, your strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, and get your union off to a strong start. Then keep it strong.
Not necessarily, not if you are serious about talking about your plans both together and independently. More specifically, discussing what tasks you will be responsible for is equally as important as discussing what tasks you will not be and why. The “why” is the time Rodsky designates as unicorn space, the time to explore your creativity, your passions. She has a book devoted to this topic, too, aptly named Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World.
A prenup can engender these discussions, whether you decide to earmark certain funds, for example, for these endeavors or just discuss them in the context of the prenup. When it comes to a prenup, a veritable roadmap for marriage, you can get as granular as will be helpful. Your divorce and family law attorney can provide guidance relevant to your specific situation.
The point is prenups, as much as they are intended to protect you if you and your spouse part ways, can bring you closer together so that you don’t. So that you and your spouse know how you plan to operate as a couple and as the individuals you were when you first entered the marriage. As people who want to retain some independence while also building a life together.
When searching for a lawyer to provide guidance about the discussions leading up to the drafting of a prenup right through the drafting of it, you want to look for a lawyer who recognizes that prenups bring people closer rather than anticipating the inevitable. Indeed, a prenup is like an insurance policy: you want one but hope you never have to rely on it.
The talented team of divorce and family lawyers in our Seattle office understand how crucial a prenup can be for the health of a marriage and want to pave the way for yours to be healthy as well. Call us today.