Nadia Goodman wrote an interesting article about how to ask your partner for a prenuptial agreement. The article, written for Entrepreneur.com, is available here: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227088. Goodman quotes a lawyer, June Jacobson, who offers these five tips to help you discuss a prenup without messing up the marriage before it starts:
- Start the conversation early
- Decide the terms together
- Own up to what you want
- Listen to your partner’s concerns
- Leave room for change over time
In the paragraphs that follow, I will provide the lawyer’s tips, the author’s comments, and my opinion of those tips and comments.
- Start the conversation early.
Goodman says: “If you think you might want a prenup, bring it up with your partner during your initial post-engagement talks about what you want from the marriage.” Jacobson says: “Addressing the prenup early takes the time and emotional pressure out of it.”
I think Goodman and Jacobson offer good advice, but I think you should take it a step further. I think you should get a feel for your partner’s position on prenups before the engagement. In other words, do not ask your partner to marry you without knowing how your partner feels about signing a prenup. By having the discussion early, you give yourself the opportunity to know your partner’s position when your emotional (and financial) investment is relatively low. If your partner is not willing to sign a prenup, and a prenup is something you have determined that you must have, then you are able to walk away at the boyfriend/girlfriend stage, rather than at the fiancé stage. Plus, as you get closer to your wedding date, you and your partner will be dealing with so many issues that you are not going to want to have to introduce the topic.
- Decide the terms together.
Goodman says presenting a pre-drafted agreement to your partner is likely to “put [your partner] on the defensive.” Goodman suggests that you hire a mediator and write the prenup collaboratively so you’re both on equal footing. Goodman suggests hiring independent attorneys to review the finished draft. Jacobson says having independent counsel will increase the likelihood that the agreement will be upheld.
I think Goodman and Jacobson offer good advice here. A good mediator can help the two of you reach an agreement that feels more like the product of a collaboration. If you are the person who initiated the prenup talks, then it helps you (and the relationship) when your partner feels like a collaborator – rather than someone having something forced on him or her.
- Own up to what you want.
Goodman and Jacobson seem to say that you want to have an honest conversation about what it is that you want and why you want it. “You need to be willing to own it,” Jacobson says. “Don’t blame your lawyer or family to take the pressure off yourself.” The idea, according to Goodman, is that the conversation will go better if your partner understands your reasoning.
I think this is very good advice. When you are discussing what it is that you want, you should be sure to talk about your financial goals, your fears, and your interests. Talking through those things is a great way to start the marriage. Be sure that you think about and discuss every asset and liability that you have now and anticipate having in the future. You might also consider discussing the way that you want other aspects of their marriage to work – e.g., whether one partner will stay home and raise the children while the other works.
- Listen to your partner’s concerns.
Goodman and Jacobson say you should be sensitive to your partner’s concerns and creative about finding solutions that might be better for both of you.
I have found that mediation is useful in making sure that find solutions that are sensitive to both parties. One of the more effective ways that mediators resolve cases is to use “interest-based mediation.” This type of mediation focuses on the interests that drive the positions that the parties take. The idea is that once the mediator understands the interests, then the mediator can help the parties generate solutions that address the interests involved. I use interest-based mediation when I mediate cases, and I am pleased with the results that I see.
- Leave room for change over time.
Goodman and Jacobson suggest that your prenup should leave room for change over time – e.g., increased involvement in a business, the decision to start a new company, or the decision that a partner should leave work to care for the children. “Think through all of these possibilities and create [an agreement] that is sensitive to various outcomes,” Jacobson says.
I think it is important to leave room for change. Moreover, I think the process of considering multiple scenarios gives you an opportunity to think about matters that you may not have considered. So I have no problems with the advice that Goodman and Jacobson provide.
In conclusion, Goodman and Jacobson provide some great tips for anyone thinking about asking for prenup. By following suggestions provided above, you can make asking for a prenup as stress free as possible.