The annual Valentine’s Day holiday is a reminder of how much importance we place on letting our significant others know how much we care about them. The well-prepared have already made romantic dinner reservations, bought flowers, bought candy, bought jewelry – or some combination of those traditional gestures – while the not-so-well-prepared will be hitting up drugstores and roadside stands for packages that say, “I let this go until the last minute” as much as they say, “I love you.”
Some, of course, will even plan the grandest, most romantic gesture of all – a marriage proposal. For those who make proposals, and those who say yes, the holiday will be an annual reminder of the decision to make that pledge to commit to one another forever and ever.
But, as we all know, even those couples with the best intentions to stay together sometimes find themselves, unexpectedly, seeking divorce. Which is why, soon after the romantic proposal is made and accepted – or even before a marriage proposal is made – it’s a good idea for couples considering marriage to assess the need for a pre-nuptial agreement.
The main reason to create a pre-nuptial agreement is that it allows a couple to protect the assets they bring into a marriage while they’re still very much committed to each other, and can come to an agreement on what’s fair and just. Without a pre-nuptial agreement, a divorcing couple has to make those same determinations about what’s fair and just in a very different emotional state – one in which each partner might feel entitled to a larger share in response to feelings of anger or fear.
Pre-nuptial agreements can be helpful to couples who enter marriages from different financial positions. If one partner makes less money than the other, or carries more debt, a pre-nuptial agreement can alleviate some of the pressure that a financial disparity between spouses can create.
Pre-nuptial agreements can also help those couples who do end up divorcing from extensive litigation over finances. If a couple must continue to work together after a divorce – especially raising children together – a pre-nuptial agreement can make for a less contentious divorce process, and a better relationship moving forward from the divorce.
It’s helpful for couples to go into the pre-nuptial process with the idea that pre-nuptial agreements are not one-size-fits-all. It can be a process in which partners not only make legal determinations about the assets they each bring into a relationship, but can also provide an entryway for a couple to talk about financial goals and how they’ll approach finances together. Being upfront about finances at the outset, through the pre-nuptial agreement process, can help couples maintain a healthy, open discussion about money – avoiding the secrecy and avoidance around finances that’s led far too many couples down an inevitable path to divorce.
At GoransonBain Ausley, our approach is to minimize the destruction of divorce. Working with clients to create a pre-nuptial agreement is one way we help couples get into the mindset of working together to resolve financial issues, and commit to the long-term financial success of both partners.