Dear Monica, My fiancé asked me to sign a prenup. It is my first marriage and his second. I feel like we are getting a divorce before we start. What are your thoughts? — R. P., Malvern
With the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, prenups have definitely been in the news. Most lawyers agree that William should have one, especially after the train wreck of his parents’ marriage. (Of course his Uncle Andrew, by introducing the world to the original Fergie, set the bar a few notches higher for marital misjudgments.) I am in favor of prenups. Family money should be protected, as should the accumulation of wealth that was built before the union. Here are some thoughts and facts about this much-debated topic.
- 50 percent of divorced Americans regret not having a prenup. Even though 53 percent of marriages end in divorce, more married Americans do not have a prenup agreement than do. That is scary.
- The age of the couple plays a role when considering a prenup. When marrying young, chances are you are building your career and making a life and a family together. As the decades move on you are more well-heeled and have assets to protect. Your future partner should respectfully understand this.
- When getting married for the second or third time, a prenup should be routine. Usually there are children involved and their needs have to be addressed. If you want to get along with stepchildren, don’t take away what is rightfully theirs. A secure person will understand this and want their spouse’s children to be taken care of. Who would want to be with a person that does not think to put their children first? News flash: If you don’t put your kids first you will inevitably not know how to make your spouse a priority either.
- Basically a prenup is a divorce decree. Make sure you have a good lawyer that you trust. You don’t want to end up leaving the marriage with a roll of toilet paper and a refrigerator magnet. Years = money.
- ABC News reports an increase in women wanting prenups. Women have become the breadwinners and the tables have turned on who wants to protect their money.
- Remember: It is usually the wealthier of the two who requests a prenup. Full disclosure of assets is mandatory. Let the person requesting the prenup present first and disclose first. It is always easier to negotiate once you have their intentions in hand.
- Make sure the prenup meets state requirements and is clear and understandable. In the case of first marriages, it is the norm that the prenup reads like this: What you come in with cannot be touched but what you make during the marriage is joint property. In the case of subsequent pursuits of marriage, it usually ends up being “what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours.”
- In putting together a prenup, do so way before the nuptials. This is for two reasons. A prenup will not stand up in the case of a divorce if it was signed under duress. (Of course, you have to prove duress, which is hard to do.) You also want to make sure the wedding is still happening. Doing something so emotional a few weeks before is a bad idea. Get this over with and have time to make up before saying “I do.”
In the year 2011, a prenup is pretty much a non-negotiable. People are getting married later and have already established the foundation for their careers and future paths. Although it may seem that you are being viewed in a cynical light, when presented with a prenup, the exact opposite is true. It is the people who won’t sign one that you have to be cynical about. They are either insecure with themselves or with the union. If you believe that the upcoming marriage is meant to be and will last for the ages, you should have no problem signing a piece of paper that is fair to both parties and protects what each brings to the table. Think of a prenup as the ultimate trust test. If you can be honest with each other in the beginning then this straightforwardness will set the stage for a wide-open future.
Monica Mandell, Ph.D. is the Director of the Philadelphia office of Selective Search, the premiere (off-line) upscale matchmaking firm for the most eligible singles. Please send your questions to: [email protected]