An attorney colleague had a thriving law practice for years, recently got engaged and thought it would be wise to have a prenuptial agreement to protect her law firm just in case of problems down the road. Her fiancé had no problem with her keeping the law firm as separate property. Yet, as attorneys sometimes do, the attorneys created unneeded conflict almost resulting in a break up. Thankfully, my friend and her fiancée were able to rise above the attorney’s contention but could have likely avoided this drama if they had used the Collaborative Process to draft their prenup.
The reality is that attorneys typically negotiate within an adversarial model. Even when parties are about to be married and are not contentious at all, the lawyer will typically prepare an agreement using language to protect their client without much thought to protecting the other spouse-to-be. It’s just how lawyers are trained. But in the special time immediately preceding marriage vows, the agreement can be perceived as one-sided and comes as a shock to the other soon-to-be-spouse.
When the fiancé takes that draft prenup to his or her own lawyer, the lawyers begin the process of offering proposals and counter-proposals to come to some middle ground. It can be upsetting, to say the least, for a couple in the midst of wedding preparations.
The collaborative law model, as the name implies, works to shift the attorneys out of the adversarial model. And even though the process of negotiating a prenuptial agreement can raise to the surface difficult things to talk about such as feelings around money, earnings and money-management, these necessary conversations happen between the parties (with their attorneys), rather than between the attorneys (without the parties), and they are more likely to proceed calmly, peacefully, and with empathy and respect inside the “container” of the collaborative process. This is how collaborative attorneys are trained.
In the collaborative law process, each attorney is making sure that their client’s interests are protected in the negotiation and drafting of the prenuptial agreement, but the attorneys are working from the very beginning to find solutions that don’t feel one-sided to either party and, in fact, aren’t one-sided. We all know that an agreement made after feeling “heard” is much more likely to be a durable agreement.
Please contact Elise Buie Family Law if you would like to discuss using the Collaborative Process to draft your prenuptial agreement.