Like many people of my generation, I had started my career before I was married. Many of my friends were talking about getting prenuptial agreements before getting married, but I never thought it was a good idea. While a prenuptial agreement can protect some of you assets in the case of divorce, I believe it starts the marriage off on the wrong foot. Aside from situations with extreme wealth or messy financial complications, I don’t believe in prenups – and wouldn’t sign one.
Prenuptial agreements are adversarial
My biggest concern with prenups is that they set up future spouses as rivals. To do it right, each person needs to get a lawyer and negotiate the prenuptial agreement. Sitting on opposite sides of the table in a law office, drawing up papers, and arguing over money feels a lot more like divorce than marriage. Couples about to walk down the aisle should be working on building a life together, not figuring out how much they can take away from the marriage.
Prenuptial agreements plan for divorce
I am a big believer in planning for success, and while a prenuptial agreement may plan for personal success, it plans for the failure of a marriage. If you don’t agree that a prenuptial agreement plans for failure, remember that your partner may feel differently. Studies show that the majority of people think that divorce is more likely if a prenup is signed – including a majority of law students.
Prenups avoid financial discussions
By starting your marriage with a prenup, you are not getting on the same page financially and discussing the bigger financial picture you’ll face as a couple. Instead, you are divvying up your assets in advance, each trying to get your “fair share.” If financial concerns are prompting you to want a prenup, consider getting premarital financial counseling instead. With counseling, you’ll be able to set expectations before the marriage and see how financially compatible you actually are.
Trust issues worsen with prenups
If you tell your partner you want a prenuptial agreement, you are making your doubts about your marriage known. Also, asking for a prenup may make your partner trust you less, wondering if you’re secretly planning on a divorce if times get tough. Furthermore, you may be pushing yourself to marry someone you’re not completely comfortable with, asking for a prenup to cover up your misgivings. Instead of seeking legal protection, consider dating longer, getting extensive premarital counseling, or possibly even ending the relationship. If you don’t trust someone with your money, do you really want to trust that person with your whole life?
Do some people still need a prenup?
I can understand why people with large net worths (a few million or more), children they need to care for, or multiple divorces under their belts may insist on a prenup. I don’t oppose prenuptial agreements in these cases, but I do think alternatives can be found. I like the idea of a premarital trust for your wealth or other careful financial planning.