Negotiating a Prenuptial Agreement Doesn’t Have to Feel Like Hell

The prenup was hell, but in the end it was almost as if that document became a repository for our anxieties, holding on to them so we didn’t have to.

~Abby Mims

The above quote comes from an article in The New York Times titled “Prenup Is a Four-Letter Word.” In the article, the author Abby Mims writes about her experience being asked to sign a prenuptial agreement. She and her fiancé had been together for a number of years and already had a child when they decided to marry — but the fiancé wanted a prenup.

The fiancé had a very stable job and a comfortable nest egg, while Abby was a writer and waited tables. She had less than $10,000 in savings, and my impression from the article was that her fiancé had a net worth of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

Abby recalls meeting with her lawyer to review the agreement that her fiancé’s attorney drafted. Her lawyer asked if she read it. She said she had and she was ready to sign — but she hadn’t actually read it. She just wanted the process over with. That really struck me. She was so scared, and had such an emotional block around the whole issue of the prenup, that she was willing to sign a document she hadn’t even read.

As it turns out in Abby’s story, her fiancé hadn’t fully read the agreement either. Unbeknownst to both parties, there was a provision in the draft that would have left Abby with no rights to their future home. This isn’t something the fiancé asked for, but, since he hadn’t carefully read the agreement, he had no idea it was in there. Assumably, the fiancé’s attorney inserted the provision to protect his client. But Abby’s attorney was looking out for her, and he pushed her to seek to have the provision removed. Abby finally took her attorney’s advice, the fiancé quickly agreed, and he told his attorney to remove the provision. So, this was a positive result, but it was a close call, and this couple almost unknowingly signed an agreement that would have impacted their future in profound ways. All because of how overwhelming the prenuptial agreement felt to each of them.

Legally, a prenuptial agreement is just like any other contract. Emotionally, a “PRENUP” is so much more than that. The person who wants a prenup often hesitates and doesn’t know how or when to raise the subject. And then when he or she finally does ask, it often lands like a punch in the gut: “You say you love me but you want me to sign what?”

Prenuptial agreements bring up all kinds of issues that many people would rather never discuss. Each person may need to explain financial decisions that has brought him or her to where they are today, to acknowledge what might be very different outlooks on saving and spending and borrowing, and to face the possibility that each one may have different expectations about what marriage means.

My goal is to turn the prenup process into a conversation that brings the couple together, so they can articulate to each other what they want for their marriage and their future, and why they want it. That tends to calm things down and allow people to feel like they have a say and that they understand what they’re doing — rather than it being imposed upon them. I call it conscious coupling.

If the prenup is something that comes from thoughtful discussion, a couple may never have to think about it again. It lessens anxiety during the marriage because they know they’ve already dealt with the “what ifs.” As Abby explained, it becomes a repository for a couple’s fears, so that they can let those fears go.

To learn more about prenuptial agreements contact me.

Andrea Vacca

One Grand Central Place
60 East 42nd Street, Suite 1420
New York, NY 10165
avacca@vaccalaw.com