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Tips For Navigating a Prenuptial Agreement Conversation

March 15, 2023 | by Michael J. Denning

This article will go through some helpful tips on approaching the topic of a prenup. This is one of the most challenging conversations a couple can have, so having some useful tips can ease users into the conversation.

Regardless of how often you have been married and whether it is the first, second, or third time, marriage comes with emotional and practical issues that should be planned for. For a couple about to get married, usually, the last thing on either partner’s mind is what happens if this does not work out and how to mitigate that risk.

In the event of a divorce, it can be helpful to have made a prior prenuptial agreement to make the process smoother when it comes to finances, including bank accounts, estate plans, retirement benefits, child support, the right to seek alimony (spousal support), personal property, and more.

What does a Prenuptial Agreement Do?

A prenuptial agreement (postnuptial agreement/antenuptial agreement) defines the property rights and division of assets if a marriage ends. In its most basic terms, a good prenuptial agreement establishes each party’s rights in case of divorce. Terms may also include how marital property is defined for the purposes of distribution, support terms, or entitlement to a waiver of or an exception to either.

A prenuptial agreement can also specify a spouse’s right or waiver of alimony while allowing for the protection of ownership rights and personal assets a party brings into the marriage that may increase in value because of the marriage. In a second marriage where the parties are older, there may be a waiver of support with the exception of a marriage breakup due to marital misconduct /or infidelity.

In the best of circumstances, marriage can be difficult. However, goodwill and optimism early on tend to make for easier communication, making it a better time to take on difficult issues and agree on how to resolve them with a prenup.

How a Couple Should Frame the Prenup Conversation

Planning a wedding can be demanding, and dealing with sensitive legal documents like this can be emotional. Talking to your future spouse about a prenup can be a tricky proposition. How tricky depends on what season in life you both are in. Regardless of your season, if you’re getting married or moving in that direction, the earlier in your relationship you start talking about a prenup, the better.

Starting early allows you to approach the issue of a prenup deliberately well before the marriage and in stages. A deliberate approach allows for time to articulate your reasons for wanting a prenup and the mutual benefit/protections to each of you. Not the least of these benefits is how a prenup allows for anticipation of changed circumstances, such as children, and the avoidance or significant mitigation of emotional and financial trauma to the parties and any future children if the relationship ends.

In addition, discussing a prenup early allows both parties to seek competent legal counsel. Advice from an objective professional allows for direct, frank questions and equally direct, frank answers. Finally, doing this with someone other than your future spouse avoids the emotional pitfalls, stress, and relational angst caused by a partner asking for a prenup.

Nobody goes into a marriage planning for it to end.

Everyone has had and pursued adventurous and exciting experiences. Marriage can and should be the most rewarding and exciting experience we have. In seeking out and having these experiences, there is a balance between excitement and risk. Nobody goes into a marriage planning for it to end. In the unfortunate event it does, though, a prenup helps strike a balance and mitigate the risks for both parties.

Marriage is supposed to be about love. In the context of what is anticipated as a permanent relationship, love is a verb much more so than a continual feeling or emotion. No one goes into marriage excited about the day-to-day mundane things it takes to maintain a relationship: paying property taxes, getting the registration for the car, buying groceries, paying rent/the mortgage, buying insurance, or paying unanticipated expenses for a broken appliance or vehicle.

But neither are they offended by having to do these things. These things are part and parcel of a healthy and stable relationship before and after marriage. They are also an essential part. A prenup written contract is a practical extension of what every couple must do before and during marriage to maintain a stable, loving relationship.

Work with a Reliable Family Law Attorney in Establishing Your Prenup

At Smith Debnam, our family law attorneys provide knowledgeable insight to help couples navigate the prenuptial and postnuptial agreement conversation. To learn more about the ins and outs of prenuptial agreements, please contact us today.

Michael Denning is an accomplished jurist and former District Court Judge for Judicial District 10 in Wake County, North Carolina. In his capacity as Of Counsel in Smith Debnam's Mediation and Arbitration Practice Group, he focuses his mediation practice in the areas of Business Litigation, Corporate and Business Law, and Family Law. Michael is a certified family financial mediator through the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission and a North Carolina State Bar and Wake County Bar member. He is admitted to practice in all North Carolina State Courts and U.S. District Court in all North Carolina Districts....LEARN MORE

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