Couples debate on many things. What Netflix movie to watch tonight, what to have for dinner, who’s family’s Christmas to attend, where to go on vacation, what to name their firstborn child, and much more. A little debate never hurt nobody! The same goes for a prenup; couples should debate over the contents. Otherwise, the prenup is beneficial for one party and one party only. A one-sided prenup is truly a recipe for disaster, including getting it thrown out completely if it’s too one-sided. So, with that being said, debating may be uncomfortable. Still, it is truly necessary for the prenup-making process. There are also other benefits to debating on a prenup. Keep reading to find out.
What is a prenup?
First, let’s start with what a prenup actually is. A prenup is a contract created by two people who are about to get married. The contract details what should happen to their finances in the event of a divorce, such as property division and alimony (i.e., spousal support). Prenups can also cover non-financial topics like pet “custody” or infidelity clauses (depending on your state). The topics you can debate over in a prenup include property division, alimony, debt allocation, lump sum clauses, joint bank account vs. separate accounts during the marriage, life insurance, pet custody, sunset clauses, and much more.
Benefits of debating a prenup
Couples argue, debate, negotiate, compromise, and everything in between. It’s totally natural! Without a little debate, it would be kind of strange, right? Two people don’t always agree on EVERY last thing. But if you and your boo do agree on every last thing, then congrats, you guys broke the matrix! In all seriousness, there are several real benefits to “debating” (i.e., negotiating) during the prenup-making process.
Improving the relationship. Yes, debating over what goes into the prenup can improve your relationship in a few ways. First, it can help you understand each other more deeply by really getting to know what the other wants. Maybe your partner really wants to keep alimony on the table because they want to be a stay-at-home parent one day. At first, maybe you would be against it, but after learning their reasoning and debating the topic, you better understand their goals.
Second, get aligned with one another’s goals. Debating on topics during the prenup process helps couples align their goals, expectations, and roles. For example, how will you two maintain expenses and bank accounts during the marriage? Will it be a joint account or separate accounts? If joint, how much money will each of you deposit, and what will be taken out for expenses? These are the questions, among others, that may arise and may help you two align.
Facilitating open conversation. Ever heard the phrase “communication is key to a successful relationship”? Well, if you haven’t, now you have! Yes, communication is key to any successful relationship, be it a business partnership, a friendship, a mother-daughter relationship, or a marriage. Communication matters! And not just any communication, real communication. This means being open and honest. If both of you are truly open and honest, it may foster healthy debate, and that’s okay! If you just tried to keep the peace, you’re not being true to yourself, which is missing the whole point.
Sharing finances. Scary, we know! Disclosing finances for (possibly) the first time with your partner can be daunting. Maybe you have tons of debt, and you’re ashamed to disclose that, or maybe you’re just a very private person, and sharing finances makes you uncomfortable. Either way, you can’t really properly debate over a prenup without the full picture. For example, if you aren’t aware that your spouse has $500k in medical school loans, it would be very hard for you to have a healthy debate over how to treat debt in a prenup.
Sharing finances → being open and honest → healthy debate → better relationship.
Making sure both your needs are met. A key benefit to debating during the prenup process is making sure both of you are getting a fair outcome in the prenup. Prenups should not be so one-sided that someone is left destitute. Both parties should walk away feeling comfortable with the outcome. How do you reach a comfortable outcome for both people? DEBATE. You speak your mind; they speak their mind. There’s some healthy debate (i.e., negotiations), and then you come to a compromise. For example, let’s say your partner is significantly wealthier than you. You secretly want some assurances if things go south, like a lump sum clause (i.e., wealth equalization clause). Maybe your spouse is openly against it, or at least you think they are, but you never bring it up! This may leave you with an uneven power dynamic during the marriage and then leave you with the short end of the stick after the marriage, as well. So, speak up… don’t be afraid of a little debate… and make sure both of your needs are met!
Drawbacks of debating on a prenup
There aren’t many drawbacks to debating on a prenup. Plus, there’s rarely any avoiding it, as it’s like a right of passage during the prenup-making process. However, one drawback may be the fact that debating can sometimes be intense. If you or your partner are headstrong on a certain outcome, the debating aspect of this process may be uncomfortable.
However, there are ways to help with this. Here are some tips to help debate “better” without letting it get to that uncomfortable and tense place:
- Keep things light. Try not to go to the dark side and bring out that anger or frustration. As much as humanly possible, try to maintain a positive attitude.
- Truly listen and ask questions. Stay curious! Try to understand where they are coming from. Most people don’t have malicious intent. If you really listen without just waiting for your turn to talk, you may be able to come to a resolution faster.
- Stay on topic. Try not to make this about any other aspect of your relationship. “You never take the trash out, so why should I give you anything?” Not only does this escalate the situation, but it gets you off-topic and farther from your goal of creating a fair prenup.
- Don’t make demands. This can push the other to get defensive and retaliate or hold their ground even more so. Keep the conversation open like a democracy, not like a dictatorship.
- Remember, you are in this together. Don’t lose sight of the big picture: you are planning a marriage! A lifelong partnership. Treat it that way!
- If you are coming to a dead end on a certain topic, walk away and come back later. If you are just repeatedly coming to the same conclusion and cannot reach a resolution, then it may be time to take a step back and sleep on it. Give each other some time and space to consider the issue and come back when your heads are clear.
Now, you guys don’t need to have been on the debate team in high school to have a healthy debate. Debating on your prenup is a necessary thing that comes with the territory of prenup-making. It can really help you create a fair outcome for both parties. To keep it light, all you really need is love for each other, the shared goal of having a win-win prenuptial agreement, and a positive attitude. With all of those things, it’s hard to go wrong.
Not to mention, HelloPrenup has a negotiation phase of the prenup-making process that makes resolving any discrepancies a piece of cake. You two can discuss your differences from the comfort of your own home, which truly facilitates an open discussion!
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]