Congratulations—you’re getting married! It’s a happy time. Lots of details to plan for the big day—perhaps it will be a destination wedding? Hawaii, or Nevis? Or the lush Hudson Valley? You dream of your life together, the love that feels endless, the kindness and respect with which you treat each other.
Then, suddenly, it arrives in the mail, in an official-looking flat envelope, addressed to you, from a law firm—what? Inside is a formal cover letter, the lawyer introducing her or himself, and asking you to send the enclosed to your “legal representative”. You realize it’s a prenuptial agreement, and that your fiancé had this drafted, and simply mailed to you. Perhaps you had a head’s up, or, commonly, you did not. But there it is, with the word ‘divorce’ on practically every page, and just five minutes before you were both chatting happily about choosing peonies or calla lilies for the bridesmaids’ bouquets.
How does that feel?
Prenuptial agreements have become a staple of modern marriages. Prenups provide a valuable service for those contemplating marriage, particularly for those who have been through a difficult divorce: they provide predictability and clarity, peace of mind, and the avoidance of the huge costs, stress, and hostility typical of most divorces. While nobody relishes talking about divorce before marriage, prenups create a specific structure for that possibility, so that couples know what to expect.
Prenups also give couples the opportunity to address what happens if either of them should die during their marriage. It is a particular comfort to most couples to ensure that their beloved will be taken care of financially in the event of their death during a happy marriage.
The question, though, is how you go about it. Having a prenuptial agreement dropped in your lap can be dispiriting and feel threatening. But if you have the opportunity to sit with your fiancé and talk through the issues important to each of you, openly and honestly, and work through sometimes uncomfortable topics, you can make joint decisions that you can both agree are balanced and fair. This way, you are already establishing trust and respect for your future life together.
Working in the Collaborative process to negotiate your prenuptial agreement allows each of you to have these honest conversations with the skilled guidance and support of your Collaborative attorney, who is committed to ensuring that your needs and goals are fully discussed. Along with your Collaborative attorneys, you may also work with a Collaborative family specialist to consider the future emotional dynamics of your marriage, how best to handle future conflict, and other family issues.
Making important decisions together even before you are married sets the tone for a married life of understanding and trust. Couples who choose to create their prenuptial agreement in the Collaborative process develop a deeper understanding of each other and the importance of each other’s values and needs as they embark on their married life.