Q. I’m getting married at the end of the year. Although it’s my first marriage, I’m bringing many assets with me to our marriage: a house, cars, bank accounts and a construction business passed down to me by my father and his before him. There has been no discussion of a prenuptial agreement, but my family has relentlessly encouraged it. Should I be discussing a prenuptial with my fiancé?
A. You’re getting married for the first time and are spellbound by the mesmerizing magic of love. The first and only thing on your mind is that you have found your soul mate and your lives together will be cast in eternal love.
Certainly the last thing on your mind is the fact that almost 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, and, like so many others, your marriage could collapse and meet a devastating end as depicted in the 1989 comedy film, “The War of the Roses.” It begins with the perfect couple. When their marriage falls apart, material possessions become the center of their universe, evolving into a bitter divorce battle.
You could never have imagined that one day your grandmother’s ring would become marital property and an asset for negotiation during divorce. Nor could you have imagined that the family estate or family business acquired before marriage and passed down through many generations would be abruptly divided by divorce. This is common in divorce, and it could happen to you, as “all is fair but not equal in love and divorce.”
Marriage is an arrangement that is both emotional and economic. If you’re bringing a lot of assets into your marriage then raising the issue of a prenuptial agreement, though it may seem unpleasant, opens lines of communication between newlyweds that may build a more solid foundation in their relationship. It allows couples to think ahead about how to resolve issues regarding property and debt resolution, how to manage assets and how to better support each other during marriage. If you can’t support one another before marriage then how are you going to do so once you’re married?
Another aspect of prenuptials to consider is family influence. If family members of either person are encouraging a prenuptial, remember that you’re not only marrying each other but you’re marrying into the families of each other. So be sure to consult your families about difficult decisions before marriage.
Discussions regarding a prenuptial agreement should be approached carefully, emotionally and well in advance of the wedding day. Opening the dialogue just moments, a week, or even a month prior could irrevocably corrode your relationship. Furthermore, each person should be represented by legal counsel since prenuptials generally lean more heavily toward one spouse. So before you decide to introduce the shock and awe of a prenuptial to your future spouse, both of you should consult an attorney who is experienced in matters of prenuptial arrangements.