“It sounds like you’re getting ready to divorce me,” Shelia said to Ted, “and we’re not even married yet.”
Ted replied calmly, “A prenuptial agreement doesn’t mean we plan to divorce. Instead, it is a way to clarify what we each are bringing to the marriage.”
“Uh huh,” Sheila said and narrowed her eyes at Ted. “But who benefits? You make more money than I do from your business.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Sheila said. “I would want it to be my personal asset.”
Ted said, “In the same way, you can understand that I would want to protect my business assets. I’ve spent the last ten years working like crazy to get the business where it’s at today. ”
Are prenuptial marriage agreements a death knell for romance? Or are these documents a practical solution to dealing with the problematic topic of finances in a marriage?
Whether it is a first or subsequent marriage, there are more and more couples signing prenuptial marriage agreements before they marry. These couples are not just those dealing with financial inequality (where one partner earns more), or those having a lot of wealth. These are couples who want to put all their financial cards on the table before they walk down the aisle. In doing so, they are preparing for the longevity of their marriage, not the destruction of it.
Contrary to what the buzz is—that prenuptial agreements are a set-up for divorce—I do see some benefits. Marriage is a financial partnership as well as an emotional connection. As a relationship counselor, I see a lot of couples struggling with the “money” issue. How nice to get that issue off the table and be able to concentrate on the loving. Of course, I also hear the opposite—that it gets interpreted as a lack of trust. The bottom line is that each couple needs to do what feels right for them.
About.com journalists Sheri and Bob Stritof were married for nearly fifty years and authored a book called The Everything Great Marriage Book, published by Adams Media. Here’s their advice:
“A prenuptial marriage agreement is a signed and notarized contract that spells out how a couple will handle the financial aspects of their marriage. Although not very romantic, having this honest financial discussion prior to a wedding ceremony can be a very positive experience.”
Having a prenuptial marriage agreement does not mean that a couple is anticipating divorce. Some of the benefits of having a prenuptial agreement are the following:
- You can find out, before the wedding, any financial matters that have to be faced. It’s also a time for you to “own up” to any money troubles you have had in the past or have currently. This is the time to speak frankly so that later there will be no misunderstandings.
- It will allow you to keep family ties and inheritance.
- What assets you have gained prior to the marriage can be protected—both personal and business assets. Your separate property can remain separate, which is important for your estate planning. It makes clear what is community property.
- It insures the financial well-being of children from a prior marriage.
- As a couple, you can figure out how you will manage your money.
- It spells out property rights for the future.
- It clarifies who is responsible for debts.
- It provides a blueprint for both of you to write your wills.
A prenup puts financial expectations out in the open before your wedding. If your future spouse is not on the same page and does not want to have this agreement, it may be best for you to ask why. Certainly money discussions for couples newly in love can be mundane at best, and perhaps even stressful; but sooner or later, finances must be handled. Certainly prior to marriage, couples must show an understanding posture and try to come to the next best method on handling finances.
Above all, do not let romance and love fly out the window. A marriage is a lifelong commitment, and compromising is necessary.