Three little words form the basis of every marriage: “I love you.” This crucial phrase has an evil twin, a polar opposite, a ying to its yang: “Sign the prenup.”
We’re romantics here at The Plunge. We believe that true love can conquer all. But we’re also realists: we know that true love doesn’t always conquer. True love actually has a really hard time in a nasty divorce proceeding. Remember, every spiteful breakup once began with a happy, lovey-dovey engagement…just like yours.
A prenup can take a little—just a little—of the hurt out of a divorce. But do you really want to go there? Only if you have to.
Remember, asking for a prenup is not exactly a romantic gesture. Also, it will cost you some money to set up properly. So make sure you really need one before you bring it up (and if you do bring it up, do it early. A couple of weeks before the wedding is not going to cut it.)
How do you know if you need one? Well, let’s start by clearing up one big fat misconception. Typically, a prenup does not mean that you get to keep all of your future earnings. In general, it’s designed to protect the assets that you already own. This matters a good deal for a richie rich who get’s remarried every few years, but not so much for a fresh-faced 25-year-old at the beginning of their career.
If you and your partner have about the same level of wealth (or lack thereof)…then you probably don’t need a prenup. But if one of you is loaded, or in debt, or owns a company and has partners, then yeah, you need to think seriously about it.
There are smart ways and dumb ways to negotiate this thorny topic. Choose your words carefully.
Dumb argument: “If you love me, you’ll sign the prenup.”
This is transparently condescending. It won’t win you any points and you look like a douche.
Smart argument: “This isn’t about us. It’s about our future kids.”
Stress that you can’t ever, ever, EVER imagine a scenario where you would get divorced. Ever. But fine, for the sake of argument, if it were to happen, by then you’d probably have kids, and a messy divorce would be tough on the children. At that point—because of the kids—the cleaner the separation the better. A prenup will dramatically streamline a divorce and minimize the chances of legal hell. So you’re not doing this for you…you’re doing it for the health and love of your future children.
Dumb argument: “Baby, a prenup will guarantee that I won’t cheat on you, because there’s an ‘infidelity clause.’”
Oh man. That one is so weak, we’re not even going to bother explaining why.
Smart argument: “I don’t really care. But my business partners insist.”
If you own a company—or if you’re in a partnership—a prenup may be legally required to shield the other partners. Frankly, they should insist that you get one. Otherwise, if you get divorced, your ex will be their (and your) business partner. Awkward.
Dumb argument: “50% of marriages end in divorce. Let’s be realistic.” Like a good Senator, never obscure your position with the facts. Avoid statistics (especially that one, which isn’t true anyway). Avoid the negative. Instead, focus on the other, objective stuff like your future children, debt, and business issues.
Smart argument: “This isn’t my thing. I don’t care. But my lawyer insists, and he wants you to speak to a lawyer, too. I know, I know. This sucks. But he says we should get it out of the way, put it behind us, and never think about it again.”
Blame the lawyers. And if you’re really serious about this, insist that your partner, too, sees their own lawyer. Otherwise it might not stand up in court. (Not that you’ll need it.)
Dumb argument: “This will give us both peace of mind.”
It doesn’t matter that this happens to be the truth. Wrong approach. Your angle is that you don’t personally want the prenup, you’re not personally concerned about a divorce, and that the only thing you’re personally worried about is whether you have the most beautiful wedding day ever. You’re happy and trusting and carefree. Your damn business partners, on the other hand, insist on some evil paperwork…
Smart argument: “This has nothing to do with the relationship. It’s about the creditors.” If you’re crushed by a mountain of debt, a prenup will protect your partner from the hungry creditors. So, in this case, you’re trying to protect both of your financial future from an outside threat.
These are the basics. For much, much more technical info on why you might (or might not) want a prenup—as well as online forms and how to get started—check out what the suits at MyFamilyLaw have to say here.
For one of the best resources on prenups we’ve seen online, check out prenuptialagreements.org.
For a complication almost as sensitive, click here for the pros and cons of a conversion to Judaism.