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How to have a Premarital Agreement Conversation

Bringing up the subject of a premarital agreement can be tricky. For one, it is common for most of us to consider a premarital agreement a bad thing. Why consider divorce before we even tie the knot with our spouse? How tight can that knot even be if both of you are already thinking about what stuff you're going to get after the marriage ends due to divorce? It's not exactly the most romantic thing in the world, I'll grant you. However, I think there is a lot of merit in having this discussion with your fiancé before your marriage. Let's walk through some information about premarital agreements and more specifically how to begin a conversation about this subject with your fiancé. 

The trouble with premarital agreements is, in part, due to our culture. Most of the time when we hear anything about premarital agreements it is regarding a celebrity wedding or something having to do with wealthy people getting married. These folks will go through a lot of trouble to protect themselves and their wealth from a spouse-to-be who may not be entering into the marriage for all the right reasons. A premarital agreement in this context is cast into a somewhat negative light as it pertains to marriage, relationships, and monogamy in general. 

If you haven't noticed, however, most of us are not wealthy celebrities. Famous people live in a world of their own while the rest of us live in the real world. What motivates a celebrity to do something probably isn't all that relevant to why you or I would do something.  This is where we can begin to have a conversation about premarital agreements for most of us. Toss out what you've heard about premarital agreements from the news or internet and let's focus on what premarital agreements mean to regular folks like you and me. 

What are your feelings about marriage?

Talking about feelings is tricky. On the one hand, feelings and emotions are important. They drive in large part what we do and the decisions that we make as human beings. It’s always a little odd to encounter a person who seemingly has no feelings. We come out of interactions with that person with the impression that we just talked to a robot. Human connections and relationships depend a great deal on our emotions and finding an emotional connection to a person. I don’t think you would be marrying your fiancé unless you felt a strong, emotional connection to him or her. 

On the other hand, emotions cannot be the sole or even primary motivator in helping us make decisions about our lives. Our intelligence, ability to reason, experiences, and will need to combine for us to make good decisions. Emotions can and should be a part of the equation. To make decisions solely based on emotions would likely lead to a bad choice. Not to get overly philosophical in a family law blog but I think this needs to be said. Reaching a sweet spot in your decision-making where emotions and reason help you would be optimal. This is especially true where the worlds of your relationships, family, and the law intersect like in a premarital agreement. 

When you are thinking about a premarital agreement or “prenup” it is a sign that you are thinking ahead. Your motivation for thinking about a prenup can range anywhere from worrying about getting married to just trying to cover your bases. No matter what anyone else tells you there is nothing wrong with considering a prenuptial agreement and the future of a marriage. Marriage is a leap of faith to a certain extent. Depending upon your history with marriage and that of your spouse you may have good reason to be concerned about the staying power of your relationship. Becoming interested in a prenuptial agreement is probably the most productive way of approaching this concern.

For example, you may have come from a household where your parents got divorced. If that is the case, then you may have seen them struggle relationally and financially as a result of the divorce. Seeing that as a child may have left and profound impression upon you where new sought to have this never happen to you when you became an adult period now that you have an opportunity to do something about protecting yourself and your fiancé from harm I prenuptial agreement sounds like a good way for you to accomplish this.

Next, you may have been married before and have a fair amount of separate property to your name. This separate property can be substantial depending upon your age and your level of wealth. With that comes the responsibility to take care of it and to see to it that you do what you can to ensure that it does not become an issue in your marriage. Many times, it is not your spouse that you have to be concerned with when it comes to this type of property. In many cases, your fiancé will have family members who will constantly have their eye out for your possessions and property. In a situation like that, putting into place that pre-marital agreement can nip this problem in the bud before it becomes an issue for your family.

Another major consideration when it comes to a future marriage is whether you have children from a prior relationship. This is a difficult balancing act where the drafting of a will and a premarital agreement may be what is best for your family. Consider that you may have separate property that you want to keep in the family no matter what. As a result, you and your fiancé may agree that a certain piece of property is to be specifically designated as separate property of yours even before the marriage. This would remove any doubt about how that property would be treated in the event of your death or divorce. you can ensure that property stays in your family and is there for your children in the event of a divorce or you’re passing.

The reality currently is that marriage means different things to different people. Yes, all of us agree on how a marriage starts in how a marriage can end. However, the nature of your marital relationship may differ significantly from that of another person. You should speak to your fiancé about their views on marriage in the relationship before getting married. However, sometimes this is easier said than done. Sometimes bringing up the subject of a prenuptial agreement can be a great way for you to learn more about your fiancé’s view on marriage and what problem areas you all may need to work on before you get married.

What are some other reasons why you may want to sign a prenuptial agreement?

When you and your fiancé speak openly and honestly about the nature of your marriage and your goals for your property within the marriage that is where you can begin to have a fruitful conversation about premarital agreements. Another person can sense when you are being dishonest or trying to hide something. Having an ulterior motive going into this type of conversation almost guarantees that you will not have a productive sit down with your fiancé. You should think long and hard about your motivations for wanting to enter into a premarital agreement. Next, you should have an idea of what the premarital agreement will look like at least in your head. There will be plenty of opportunity for negotiation and putting into writing your plans.

One of the major issues that I find that people encounter in trying to have this discussion with their spouse is that their fiancé may not think that they have much to gain from entering into a premarital agreement. You can try to have a conversation with him or her to explain how the premarital agreement may benefit you but until you help your fiancé find them "why" he or she will likely have some hesitancy when it comes to agreeing. Rather than purely explaining the circumstances in your motivation for wanting to enter into a premarital agreement with your Co-parent you are better off trying to be persuasive and look at it from your fiance's perspective.

After all, your fiancé may look at this situation as one where he or she is limited in the amount that they can get in a divorce settlement. Currently, most people know that Texas is a community property state that splits property between spouses and divorce based on a just and right division. This means that if your spouse has less separate property than you do and less income earning potential from work he or she may be in line for a relatively big payday in terms of a divorce division. From their perspective, what can the value be in entering into a premarital agreement?

One of the first places that you can go in terms of an argument as to why a premarital agreement may be something you all want to consider is that money fights and money problems are the number one cause of divorce in my experience. We like to think that it is infidelity or something salacious like that which leads to most divorces. However, my experience in divorce is that problems with money, financial infidelity, and other difficulties associated with your home budget oftentimes led to arguments and disagreements that propel couples like you towards divorce.

You can talk with your fiancé about how entering into a premarital agreement can be the best and most efficient way to avoid the number one cause of divorce. if you and your fiancé could drink a potion that suddenly made the number one cause of divorce go away, wouldn't you, do it? That is how I would approach the conversation where I am in your shoes. Having a conversation where you engage in an open and honest discussion about the merits of a premarital agreement can help you avoid problems in negotiation later in your lives.

Even if you do end up getting divorced after having drafted a premarital agreement the document will provide you all with a great deal of peace of mind. The reason I say this is because, in so many divorces, disagreements on money and division of Community property become an incredibly tedious and stressful part of the divorce. If you and your fiance plan on having children, then you will want to focus all of your attention on your kids and make sure that the agreements that you come to in the divorce are in the best interests of those children.

By having to split your time between child custody determinations and Community property division you are ensuring that the two of you will have split attention throughout the divorce case. When you need to focus your attention on something as important as your children the last thing you want to do is have to engage in back-and-forth arguments about what's the silver Ware or how you are going to handle the division of a retirement account. It's not that these things are unimportant. However, I think we would all agree that matters related to your children will ultimately be the most important consideration for you in your divorce.

How you have the discussion is just as important as what is being discussed

being able to initiate a conversation with your fiance about the merits of a premarital agreement is sometimes the toughest part of the entire process. At the end of the day, you and your fiance will sign the premarital agreement. However, both you and your fiance will rarely be the ones to both have the signing of a premarital agreement on your minds at least in the first period rather, it will be one of you who needs to bring up the subject matter to the other. as a result, you need to think long and hard about how you will bring the subject up with your fiance and what you will say in response to their questions or concerns.

This is an important consideration for you to make. The simple truth is that some of us struggle more in interpersonal conversations like this than others. All of us have strong suits in a relationship. However, if initiating discussions like this with your spouse to B is not something that you excel at then you should consider how you are going to broach this subject with your fiance. This can take some degree of self-inspection and honesty which is difficult for some of us.

Think about how you use words in the tone in which you use them. Has your fiance ever brought up that you have an overly aggressive or dismissive approach to having conversations like this? Do you barrel past his or her concerns when discussing the important subject matter in hopes of reaching an agreement or consensus sooner rather than later? These are things that you need to be mindful of. When discussing something as contentious as a premarital agreement, it is possible that simply having this discussion can lead to conflict in your marriage. Many of us would rather avoid a difficult conversation than risk conflict. However, it is taking that risk and being delicate about how you discuss the subject with your fiance that can lead to a lot of benefits for you all both now and in the future.

The key to the entire process is to understand that your fiancé may not be as receptive to the idea of a premarital agreement as you would like. However, if you are steady in your approach and patient in listening to their concerns, he or they may ultimately come around to thinking more like you than you would have believed. Again, if you're fiancé has been married before or has seen difficulties with marriage in their own family then he or she may not want to even think about the subject of a divorce before you even get married. Their perceptions about premarital agreements may be shaped by our culture, as well.

Time is a great motivator. If you begin discussing with your fiancé far in advance of your wedding, then he or she may be able to take the time during the months leading up to your wedding date to consider whether he or she wants to enter into this type of agreement with you. Ultimately, even if he or she chooses not to sign a premarital agreement with you there is still an opportunity to sign a marital property agreement after you get married. However, their willingness to do so may be based on their being able to take some time to think through their options and consider what is best for them now and in the future. 

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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