Prenups are not only for the rich, famous, and ultra wealthy. Instead, they can be useful for any couple looking to enter into their marriage with clarity and peace of mind. Prenuptial agreements can help couples understand each other better, and encourage partners to work together to set honest and realistic goals and expectations for their relationship.
With that being said, we know that they are not always the easiest topic to talk about. There are plenty of myths, misconceptions, and stigmas out there about prenups — which can make bringing up the idea with your partner feel intimidating.
Despite this cultural taboo, prenuptial agreements have actually been on the rise in recent years. A 2018 poll among the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that 62% of lawyers had seen an increase in the total number of clients seeking prenups over the past few years. Prenuptial agreements have become five times more common over the past 20 years.
Part of the reason for the prenup boom? It’s not that couples want to get divorced — it’s that they’re being more pragmatic, transparent, and responsible. Millennials are getting married later than previous generations, giving them time to accumulate wealth, develop retirement savings, and think critically about their personal and professional goals.
Whatever your journey may have been up to this point, a prenup offers couples the opportunity to address what we call “the three P’s”:
- Plan for the future and changing income needs and circumstances
- Protect non-marital assets, such as an inheritance or privately owned business
- Provide for an efficient division of marital property, including the marital residence
Despite the many benefits provided by prenuptial agreements, they often come with a negative connotation. After all, no one looks forward to talking about divorce — especially when you’re engaged!
One study from a researcher at Harvard, for instance, found that 62% of people thought that requesting a prenuptial agreement “sends a negative signal about the future of the marriage.” The same study found that the more optimistic that a person is about the success of their marriage, the less likely they are to consider a prenup at all.
Considering whether or not you and your partner should discuss this important tool in more depth? Are you nervous about bringing up the idea of a prenup, or fearful about what your bride- or groom-to-be might say? Here are a few key ways to make talking about prenups easier and more productive for yourself and your partner:
Look at the Prenup as an Opportunity to Talk About Your Future — Beyond Divorce
Meanwhile, the topics that you will explore as part of your discussion about prenups — including sensitive issues like sex, money, and death — can be a gateway into some truly meaningful conversations.
Talking about these matters frankly, openly, and positively can allow you each to express your desires and expectations, and think more realistically about the future. How do you want to treat each other? What kind of relationship do you want to have in the years and decades to come? Does one of you plan on leaving your job to raise the kids? Do you have any plans to start a business, or go back to school? What kinds of investments are you hoping to make? The more you can anticipate and prepare for these events and potential challenges now, the more clarity you’ll have at the start of your marriage.
In fact, the simple act of having these conversations can set you up for long-term success! Even in the best of circumstances, a marriage will be full of stressful conversations — about buying a home, raising kids, estate planning, dealing with disability or a serious illness, and so on. Talking about financial and personal matters now can help give you an enhanced level of maturity for when you must face other challenging decisions and talks down the road. In contrast, a lack of communication and understanding about how to approach these issues can make a divorce more likely.
In short? Our firm’s opinion is that a premarital agreement may ultimately improve your relationship in the short-term, and increase the likelihood of a marriage surviving for the long haul.
Focus on the Benefits and Advantages
Does considering a prenuptial agreement mean that you don’t love your future spouse? Not at all! Prenups are not about love — they are about wise financial planning. And, as we mentioned earlier, prenups can allow you and your partner to set down terms and expectations about matters that go beyond divorce.
A prenuptial agreement can offer you and your partner the chance to
- Make provisions in the event of death and begin the process of estate planning
- Allocate debts, to help one partner avoid having to take on the responsibility of dealing with the other’s obligations
- Determine how bills and other joint obligations will be paid
- Set boundaries and guidelines for how to conduct business operations
And, in the unfortunate event of a divorce, the prenup will give you peace of mind knowing that many difficult matters will have already been discussed — which can help streamline and simplify the process, and save on the potential cost of litigation and attorney’s fees in the future.
Start the Conversation as Early as Possible
When in doubt, start early. Keep in mind that your prenuptial agreement should be completed at least a month or more before the date of your wedding — so it’s important to begin the conversation well in advance, to give yourself and your partner plenty of time.
In addition to giving you enough lead time to deal with the practical realities, addressing the “elephant in the room” as early as possible can allow you to get rid of the tension and awkwardness that may come with thinking about a prenup. This gives you and your partner more time to truly explore all of your options, have meaningful conversations, and talk about issues and solutions in a relaxed and patient environment, without a deadline hanging overhead.
Plus, you don’t want to be dealing with collecting documents and talking about finances in the fun, last minute rush of wedding planning! Enjoy the lead-up to your wedding day more by getting things out in the open well in advance.
Be Open and Honest About Your “Why”
If you’re considering talking about a prenup with your partner, be sure to take some time to think inwardly. Be ready to help your partner understand why you’re thinking about it, what your goals are, and why this is important to you — especially if you expect to meet resistance from them.
Maybe you’ve been married before and have already gone through a difficult divorce; maybe you saw your parents’ prolonged and expensive legal battle when you were a kid. Explain the circumstances that have shaped your viewpoints, and be transparent about why you’d like to explore the possibility of creating a prenup.
To make things more effective, consider using “I” statements, such as “I believe…” or “I am concerned about…” Share your perspective and do what you can to help your partner understand your reasoning. At the same time, it’s important to…
Be a Patient and Empathetic Listener
Marriage is an agreement between two parties, built on mutual respect and understanding. As you open the floor to talking about a marital agreement, be respectful and considerate of your partner’s opinions and concerns. Don’t dismiss their views or perspective out of hand, and try to keep an open mind. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to honestly understand their concerns, or why they’re objecting.
Just as you should think about the experiences that have shaped your perspective, try to be understanding of the experiences and beliefs that your partner has had, which may be very different from your own. Remember that this moment shouldn’t be about making demands or an ultimatum — it should be about having a productive conversation. Be prepared to help out, when asked. Consider offering your partner access to any research, resources, or professionals that have been helpful to you.
Be an active and supportive listener, and be ready to start and stop this discussion multiple times. This discussion may be heavy and tense, and it may be most effective to let things flow naturally, rather than trying to squeeze everything in at once. Try not to get angry or upset.
Throughout the conversation, look for opportunities to collaborate and compromise. Keep in mind that prenups can be created collaboratively to ensure equity, and help all parties achieve a satisfying outcome.
Explore the Possibility of a “Postnup”
If you don’t have time before your wedding or want to wait for any reason, keep in mind that there are options for creating a postnuptial agreement after your marriage takes place, as well. In addition to creating a “postnup,” you can also leave room in your prenup for things to shift and change, should you decide on different terms throughout your marriage. A knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney can help you explore all of your options and consider which course of action to take, based on your unique circumstances.
Work With an Experienced and Knowledgeable Guide
When it comes to successfully obtaining a prenup, it can be intimidating to take the first step. Many people do not even know where or how to get started — and that’s OK. Fortunately, you do not have to undertake this process alone. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the entire process of obtaining a prenuptial agreement and protecting your future — from deciding what topics need to be covered, to collecting and preparing financial documents and disclosures, to making the agreement official and ensuring that it’s fair to both parties.
Ready to Move Forward? Our Chicagoland Family Law Attorneys Are Here for You
A prenuptial agreement can relieve undue stress and confusion during a very difficult time in your life. Knowing that your assets are protected and your finances will be in order can help you move forward with confidence and peace of mind.
The attorneys and staff of The Law Offices of J. Jeltes, Ltd. are here to help you navigate this challenging topic and begin your marriage with a strong foundation.
At The Law Offices of J. Jeltes, Ltd., we are here to stand by you during some of life’s most challenging and unpredictable transitions. Offering more than 20 years of combined experience, our legal professionals are driven, attentive, and dedicated to achieving the best results possible.
We truly understand that every situation is unique, and before hiring our firm our attorneys will provide you with a comprehensive one-on-one consultation to discuss your legal concerns and goals. If you have any more questions about any aspect of family law in Illinois, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of experienced and compassionate advocates to continue the conversation.