Love, Marriage, and Pre-Nups

should I sign a pre-nupReader C has a great question about how to deal with her fiance, who wants her to sign a pre-nuptial agreement…

After 7 years of dating (since my junior year of college) and one year of being engaged, my fiance just brought them up. Both of us have advanced degrees but he’s in finance and I work in public interest law. I am significantly less financially secure than him and will make significantly less in my career. But we’ve always functioned like a team. We’ve both made moves and career decisions for each other. He’s my best friend. But I’m really hurt. Our wedding is only a month and a half out and this feels very rushed to me. We both have said we would never get divorced (and after 8 happy years together, I truly believe we’ll make it), but his phrasing is that “he analyzes risk for a living and he just wants to be extra secure that in the unlikely event of divorce, he is prepared.” I think that even having a pre-nupt opens the door to divorce and don’t understand why if he says he doesn’t believe in divorce that he’d request one. This feels like the biggest breach in our relationship ever. Advice? Am I being ridiculous? Is he? How many corporette readers have pre-nupts (statistics I found said 5-10% of marriages but that includes second marriages and marriages with children from previous marriages where I think it makes more sense)? Can anyone help me get on board with this or am I right to be freaking out (after all, a pre-nupt can only hurt me)?

Interesting question.  I’ve seen articles that say pre-nups are on the rise (even though the oft-quoted statistic that 50% of couples divorce isn’t really true).  Personally, I come to pre-nups from the other side of things: even though I’m wildly in love, as well as Catholic and of the “divorce is not an option” mindset, I’m the one who brought them up with my husband, R. I broached the subject with this little speech:  Good Kat and Good R are marrying now, and we love each other and of course would want to take care of each other (or at least be fair to each other) even if something were to happen and if we were to divorce.  But — if we actually WERE to divorce, that would be a sea change (because we love each other so much right now and can’t possibly imagine it!!) and, in that event, we’d probably be dealing with either Bad Kat or Bad R or both.  And my point was that if we really loved each other now, wouldn’t it be a nice thing if Good Kat and Good R had agreed to the terms of the divorce — and not Bad Kat or Bad R, who probably would have hurt feelings and maybe a bit of blood thirst. Furthermore, even though the pre-nup terms we discussed were very close to New York state law, something else I liked was that if the law changed, or if we moved to a new state, we wouldn’t have to deal with new information — the terms of the divorce would always be a known quantity.

Another side of this discussion, of course, is the adage “don’t marry someone you wouldn’t want to divorce.”  I think that’s very true — but I will say that sometimes qualities that can be attractive to a person, such as competitiveness and determination, can turn against you, and turn hard.  If you’re up against that partner in a divorce, a pre-nup can be a great way to guard against an unfair divorce.

So I would look at the agreement your fiance is proposing (or the terms that he’s proposing, if nothing is written yet) — are the terms fair to you?  Are they what a loving mate would want you to have now, if things go sour in the future? It sounds like he’s going to have a lot of assets (or already does) — what do you want of that?  It doesn’t hurt to talk explicitly about how the situation would change if you have children, especially in the event you take time off from your career to stay home with them for a bit.  (Which, no matter how strongly you think you know one way or another whether you’d like to be a working mom or not, can totally change once the baby arrives — some women find they just can’t leave their little one; others can’t deal with the drudgery of baby rearing.) I recommend the book What to Do Before I Do to you, if only to think about all of the different things you should discuss.

Now, that said, R and I never actually got around to signing the pre-nup — it turned into a post-nup, which we intended to sign before we bought the apartment, but never quite got around to it.  And now that we have a son… well, meh.  (We always joke that everything we have is his now, anyway.)

Readers, what are your thoughts?  Do you have a pre-nup?  Would you be offended if your partner wanted one?

Social media images via Stencil.

should I sign a prenup (or should I make him sign a prenup) - image of a man signing a document A reader wondered: Should I sign a pre-nup? In this case her wealthier fiance sprung this on her kind of at the last minute, but we explored the question in a deeper sense -- are pre-nupts a good thing or a bad thing? Our readers (professional, career-driven women) weighed in with a lot of great advice on prenups.


  1. So…this has been discussed fairly frequently on here before, but I really liked what another commenter said:

    You essentially already have a Pre-nup that decide the terms of your divorce, they are the divorce laws of your state. A pre-nup is just a couples way of deciding ahead of time how those laws will or will not apply to them. It helped me mentally get around the hurdle of OMG, we’re planning a divorce!!

    That aside, I don’t have a pre-nup, so take my comment with a grain of salt.

    • Pre-nups can be really useful for you :

      I have a prenup. Like Kat, it was my idea. But we actually found that it helped the relationship more than I had anticipated. This is why I think prenups are always good:
      1. I believe in marriage forever and after over 4 years we are trully as happy as on the first day. In fact, this was one of the main reasons to get the prenup. The prenup is not only a divorce tool, it is also a dispute resolution tool. For example, my husband really wanted to make sure we couldn’t just run to the court, so we agreed that before filing for divorce we HAVE to mediate our problems with a professional mediator for 6 months. I have 3 sets of friends who loved eachother and thought marriage would last forever, one couple had dated for almost 10 years, and they all got divorced within a year. Completelyl different reasons for each, and noone would have anticipated any of them to end. My parents had one of those great happy marriages everyone envies, and after almost 40 years, theya re now getting divorced – no major breach of trust or anything, they just are unhappy. You just never know, but having a dispute resolution mechanism might help work it out, or at least divorce amicably.
      2. Both of us manage certain assets that really belong to our parents, and we want to be crystal clear that those are not marital property. I NEVER want to feel that I have a claim to his parents house, no matter how angry I may be or what he did to me, or what his family did to me. Today I feel certain I wouldn’t, and he wouldn’t either, but who knows what could happen.
      3. The best surprise, was that we used the prenup to straighten out money management during the marriage. So, for example, say 100% of the money goes into the same pot. After we pay all expenses (incuding student loans), 5% goes to each person’s separate bank account for fun, no questions asked purchases or expenses. Then 80% of the rest goes to savings and 20% to agreed investments. If I want to use my 5% to buy jewelry or to invest in a risky business, save for years and buy a boat, give it all to charity, loan it to my family, or buy lottery tickets, that is my problem. Same for his 5%. This, I found, was the best surprise outcome of the prenup negotiations. It is not enforceable unless we actually get divorced and want to enforce money allocation calculating backwards. But setting it out in writing has really helped us agree on money management and stick to it from the very begining. It also avoids fights (i.e., I think buying that video game is stupid, but as long as it comes from his no-questions-asked %, it is ok, same if I want a super expensive purse or whatever).
      4. I am a lawyer afterall, and there are some things of the default divorce law in my state we don’t agree with, so we changed them, for example, you might not agree on how alimony or child support is calculated. Maybe both of you agree that if one is the main breadwinner that person should give double to the kids than what the law says.

      In my opinion, marriage forces you to face lots of discussions and situations together that you did not expect to face. It is important to learn to negotiate and not to take things personally. If you cannot be honest about your relationship and plan togetehr how to solve potential problems in the future, it will be a lot harder to solve emergencies that you could have never planned for.

      Maybe your fiance is just not great at expressing why the prenup does not eman he thinks you will divorce. Or maybe he is like mine and he just leaves everything to the last minute. Or maybe he was afraid of your reaction. or maybe someone mentioned it to him and he had never thought of it before. It is totally fair to tell him you dislike the appraoch, but I would not knock out prenups alltogetehr based on what society thinks they are (a way for the rich guy to take advantage of the less-afluent girl). Look at the advantages of the prenup. For example, in your case, you might want to set in writing that you are a team and absolutely everything is owened 50%. In fact, you might benefit more from having one than him. In my limited 4 year experience, discussing things in the open and coming to an agreement is ALWAYS better than avoiding the hard talks.

      It took us 10 days to negotiate. A month and a half is short, but longer than you think. And as Kat mentioned, you can always sign a postnup.

  2. If the fiance has significant family money, I understand the interest in a pre-nup. But I do think 6 weeks before a wedding is a rather unfortunate choice of his.

    • I agree the timing is not ideal!

    • I completely agree. Fiance and I are both attorneys and we fully intended to enter into a prenup, not because we expect to divorce or have very different assets or earnings expectations, but because it seemed smart. I think we ultimately won’t do so just because we are okay with the default divorce laws in our state and found the prenup attorneys we contacted to be either overpriced or overly “litigious.” (We had wanted the prenup drafting to be collaborative, but in our state, seems like that is not done.) However, we both agreed on this, and we discussed it as soon as we were engaged. One of us didn’t spring it on the other six weeks before the wedding, when there (presumably) are other, major things to take care of. A post-nup is generally as valid as a prenup, and I would advise that this couple wait until after the wedding to deal with the divorce terms. It requires some amount of time and thought, and while a court might not find six weeks’ notice to be coercive, I certainly would. Or at least, the finance guy should be paying for the corporette attorney to have her own prenup attorney, and that prenup attorney should be high-quality and willing to approach this from a non-collaborative, client-defensive standpoint.

    • The timing makes it seem like a family member or friend talked him into asking for it or planted the seed of doubt. I doubt he randomly started changing his tune a month before the wedding…

      • I wondered if many it was a coworker, since he referred to what he “does for a living.”

  3. My husband and I briefly discussed a prenup but eventually decided not to go for it. In the UK I believe the default assumption on divorce is that assets (including income) acquired during a marriage are divided equally, while assets acquired before a marriage are retained by the individual, which we’re both happy with. (We were also dealing with the expense and bother of a metric ton of immigration-related paperwork at the time, and didn’t feel up to drafting and paying for another legal document we didn’t have to!)

    What we have done is made it very clear in the paperwork for all assets we acquire (ie: house) what will happen to them in case of divorce. I think of it as planning for an alternate universe, rather than any kind of reflection on our current relationship. I strongly feel it’s very important to have arrangements in place, but the nice thing about them is that you can just do them once and then forget about them.

    That said, it sounds like “hey, let’s have a prenup just in case” isn’t necessarily what’s going on here, what with your fiance using language like “need[ing] to protect himself”. I would address that. I also agree with: “Are they what a loving mate would want you to have now, if things go sour in the future?”

    • Woods-comma-Elle :

      Sorry to hijack this, but a hello from a fellow London reader is in order here, so hello!


  4. Interested to hear the conversation here. I own the house my S/O and I live in and have spent a significant amount of personal cash on renovations, building equity, etc. I will also inherit family land someday and decisions with that will be made between my siblings and I without spousal input. My S/O is also likely to inherit some family assets as well. How should one handle these non-marital assets after marriage?

    • I’m in a similar situation, and would love to get some input.

    • Anonymous :

      Is the deed to the house you live in in your name only? I’m not a lawyer so don’t quote me on this but I think if his name isn’t on the deed it will be harder for him to claim half of it. Also, have in the pre-nup that you get the house.

      • Yes, the deed is in my name. Also, I have paid 100% of the mortgage payments, taxes, permanent alterations to the house. This should always remain my asset. Inheriting family land is probably my larger concern. Should we divorce after it is inherited, there is no way I would be willing to split it. Assuming the divorce is nasty, I also assume he would be less than thrilled to have to abide by the requirements around the land dictated in my parents will. It would seem only proper that in the “Good Cat” scenario, we would agree in a prenup that all iheritances are off the divorce settlement table.

        • This varies by state, but my understanding of my jurisdiction (and I am a lawyer, though not in this field) is that the house would be yours, however, you will have to pay him out for the money he contributed to its improvement during the marriage. Any gifts given to you individually during the marriage would remain your indivudual property – I think inheritance falls under gifts, but not 100% sure. However, if you invest any marital asset (and this includes time spent on the property) to increase the value of the property, that value will have to be split. Because all of this stuff gets very muddy, it is a good idea to have a prenup if you have something you specifically want to protect. (not saying it isn’t a good idea otherwise, but it would especially be in your case).

          • Midwest atty :

            I think the house would or could be considered marital property if both spouses have been living in it, absent a prenup or similar agreement. No-marital or separate” property can be converted to marital property if both spouses live in it, use it, etc. Property received by inheritance or gift, or brought to the marriage, by one spouse is typically protected under state law as separate property in a divorce as long as it’s kept separate and not used or owned by the other spouse. Once separate property is used to buy a car, house, boat, cabin, home improvements that the other spouse uses, etc., it may be converted to marital property and divided in a divorce. Worth checking with a divorce lawyer for the facts.

          • CA law states any inheritances are separate so long as they’re kept separate. i.e. don’t put an inherited house into both spouses’ names. It’s still separate if you do co-mingle, but messier. Same with FLA, you would have to pay back improvements he made to the house with his separate money.

    • Isn’t there such a thing as a “post-nup”? I don’t know the details about what protections it offers but feel like this is a term I have heard before…

      • Yep. My stay-at-home SIL got her DH to sign a postnup when her high-net-worth DH cheated on her. It addresses alimony, residency, asset division, custody and visitation in the event of a divorce. I don’t know if postnups are valid in every state.

    • IL estate planning attorney :

      In Illinois, if you keep inherited property separate (money not kept in a joint bank account- not even for a little while, land titled in your name only, no co-mingling of inherited assets) it stays the property of the person who inherited it. I don’t know the family law rules at all.

  5. While prenups can be ok in certain limited circumstances (and I liked Kat’s explanation, even though I wouldn’t do so), this guy sounds like the WORST. Dropping it on her at this time, given how long they dated/have been engaged, is the definition of duress, particularly given the huge disparity in their financial states/bargaining positions. And too, if they’ve “functioned as a team,” how much of her current status/degree/career path has to do with his input? Worst of all though is that HE wants to be extra secure in ensuring that HE is prepared. Shouldn’t it be about taking care of her too? Will he amend the prenup after the divorce in the case of kids/is there a clause in there dealing with that situation? Even if no kids, what if his job would take them one place, forcing her to give up her job — does she get post-nup amendments/consideration reflecting her sacrifices? Seems like a lot of bean counting and not particularly in tune with the partnership ideal.

    Side note: are they maintaining separate bank accounts after marriage?

    • Okay — if she signed it, even if it was at the last minute, there’s no way a judge would find duress (assuming she had her own attorney and the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed).

      While I generally agree that six weeks before the wedding is a terrible time to bring this up, who knows whats going on in the background. Maybe he’s been working up the nerve to bring it up. Maybe he’s getting family pressure. Maybe a friend of his is going through a messy divorce and he’s freaking out. Plus, we know NOTHING from the OP’s letter about the terms proposed for the pre-nup. SO I think you’re streching with some of your assumptions about this guy based only on the knowledge of the timing on when he asked for this.

      • Sorry — there should of been a willingly in that first sentence. My understanding of duress in these situations was like “wife’s pregnant and has no representation and is forced to sign it the day before the wedding” kind of things. Maybe different jurisdictions differ.

        • Agreed. Not duress. Even in the pregnant wife with no representation day before scenario it’s not so easy to set aside a pre nup – I have a friend in that situation and it is surprisingly not a sure thing, by any means. Here, the OP is a grown woman who went to law school – there is not a judge in the world who would find this situation, esp. at six weeks out, to be anything resembling duress.

          • This is definitely a “know your jurisdiction” issue. In my state, there is precedent for the proposition that springing a prenup on someone close to the wedding (not sure if 6 weeks is within that period, but I know it can be more than a day or a week and still be in that window of doubt) is inherently coercive because the big day is so close that the economic and social costs of postponing or calling-off the wedding creates a situation where a person feels compelled to go along with the whole thing even if they are uneasy about the agreement. Having said that, I agree that it is harder for an attorney to make this argument, as she presumably knows enough to identify a raw deal and make an informed decision.

          • At six weeks out I’d assume save the dates have been sent, invitations have probably gone out, vendor deposits have been made, wedding attire is purchased, there are clearly family expectations that the couple will marry. Sure, it isn’t “unemployed pregnant woman the day before her wedding” but it’s certainly shitty and disrespectful behavior for the guy and the OP should really figure out what is behind this. I like the idea of the “good couple” determining the terms—but shouldn’t he have brought it up before six weeks?

    • Well, OK, it sounds like you should file away for future reference that he’ll avoid talking about important things till it can’t be helped any longer. So be prepared to take the bull by the horns when -you- think something needs discussing.
      But I don’t see why 6 weeks is so horrible. Plenty of time to think it over, hire a lawyer of your own, negociate something fair. Since it’s so close to the wedding, you should be able to drive a hard bargain :-).
      Think of it as rehearsal for future difficult situations. This is as good as negotiation is ever going to be. If it’s not good enough, just bail. You don’t have to leave him if you’re not prepared to, just don’t enter into a legal and financial bond with him. Don’t do the usual straight woman thing, first have 2 kids and then dump him, that’s sooo inefficient.

  6. Legally waiting until 6 weeks out was a dumb move on his part. It ups the chances you could get it thrown out and signed under ‘duress’.

    But what are the terms he wants? A properly negotiated pre-nup can help you not hurt you.

    • Little Background :

      Will duress even be considered in terms of getting married? Asking your partner to sign a prenup before marrying them doesn’t sound like something a court would consider duress for.

      Although I completely agree with you, I’d just like a better understanding for myself.

    • No offense to anyone, but are any of the people throwing the “duress” term around U.S. lawyers? While this isn’t my area of expertise, I remember “duress” being defined very narrowly under the law. Picture “gun to your head” not “oh my God, I’ll have to cancel the wedding!”

      • My (very vague) understanding from law school is that duress is interpreted much more broadly in the pre-nup context than in the general contract law context. Possibly because pre-nups are a melding of contract law and family law, and those two legal areas are based in very different policy rationales? I’m not sure.

        • Duress is easier to establish in a pre nup scenario vs. reg. contract, but this situation would not be duress. Six weeks is plenty of time. Having to make an unpleasant decision you’d rather avoid making is not duress.

      • Happy Anon :

        Depending on the family law/code in your jurisdiction, there can be certain time frames within which a prenup will no longer be valid because it gives the indication of duress or coercion or that it wasn’t entered into freely. As far as I can recall from some family law in law school, this varies by state, but I think it might have to be something like 2 months before the marriage in order to be valid in some places?? So in that sense, it’s not “duress” like it would be in a typical contract case.

        • Anon Fam Law Attny :

          It would not be 2 months because that would assume that people have to have a lengthy waiting period pre-marriage. Not everyone has long engagements. The states with waiting periods, like California, have it set at 7 days. Honestly, I get that this is not ideal timing, but six weeks is not even remotely unusual. Anything above a month, and more like two weeks, won’t even raise a red flag in court. No offense at all, but I really hope everyone consults matrimonial lawyers on these issues and does not rely on vague recollections from law school.

  7. Even though he’s the more financially secure partner, a pre-nup can work to your benefit too by ensuring that you will come out ok in the event of a divorce. I would hire your own lawyer – you two should not share a lawyer on this – and work out an agreement that is beneficial to both of you. Having a disinterested party (i.e. the lawyers) handling the negotiations and drafting of the agreement will spare both of you a lot of emotional stress.

    • This. Get thee to a good lawyer immediately. If cost is an issue, since you work in public interest, agree that you’ll pay for the lawyer together. If he wants to be fair then he’ll want you to have your own lawyer. A good lawyer can look at a proposed prenup and pretty quickly get a sense of whether or not it’s fair.

    • ChickintheStix :

      I am so sorry that you’re having to wrestle with this just before your wedding. I think your fiance’s timing is bad, but he may be right about trying to prepare for the unexpected.

      I can think of a real world example of where a friend wishes she had a pre-nuptual agreement to make the division of assets easier in the face of the unexpected. Married 10 years; a lovely couple. Then, husband had a sky diving accident and sufferd a TBI. He is now a different person from the man we knew: he has a violent temper and can’t help himself from saying shocking and painfully inappropriate (raunchy/sexist/racist) things–no matter the circumstances/company. She can’t stay married to him, for many reasons–the primary being that they have small children. Obviously, trajedy doesn’t come to all couples, and I don’t want to be a scare monger. Their story reminds me, though, that what we know today might not be true tomorrow. Get (good) counsel and think about it before you reject the idea.

    • Ugh. Huge bummer. Contacting a divorce lawyer six weeks before my wedding would be tremendously upsetting for me. The whole thing would make me feel angry and sick to my stomach. We all know marriages don’t always last, but the point is to build your life together, not to start counting out what will belong to who when you decide to end it.

      • PS: don’t get a divorce lawyer! That;s way too antagonistic, and not at all the point. Get an estate planning mediator kind of person.

    • The positive side of a prenup :

      I have a prenup (husband is in law and makes a ton more than me, had a lot of assets built up since he is 15 years older, has a child from a previous marriage, and had a pretty ugly divorce that kind of burned him on things).
      I was kind of uncomfortable with the idea coming from a Catholic background of divorce not being an option but knew he wouldn’t go into marriage without one.

      Now, six years in (mind you, mostly very happy years), I have to say it has been a comfort at a few low points. In some ways, it has given me more equality in the relationship. Because the terms dictate that I would leave with a certain amount of money per year of marriage and that he’ll pay my legal fees in the event of a divorce, I’ve never had to deal with feeling like I’m “trapped” in any way. I’m a working professional and know with the extra income that I would be more than financially comfortable (although not as financially comfortable as married since he picks up all house expenses since the house remains his asset). But more important, I know he won’t “outspend” me to keep a divorce from happening since he would be picking up the tab. This is very ugly thinking, but just want to be honest with you. I look at it now sort of like long-term financial planning. What if X happens (in this case divorce), would I be appropriately looked out for? Also, terms can be set so things are revisited if children come along. (I don’t have kids or plan to, but just want to put that out there since someone earlier expressed concern if you became a stay at home mom or something similar.) Honestly, it’s not a fun process but in the long run, I think it can be positive for you, too. In hindsight, I’m glad we have it in place. (I’m a bit of a worrier though by nature.) My married friends without prenups have gone through much more stress when low points hit (and I think they do for anyone), since they’re often questioning whether they could support themselves or their kids if they wanted or needed to move out, etc. A prenup doesn’t mean you don’t see the marriage succeeding any more than contributing more into your 401K means you’re less invested in working.

      • “A prenup doesn’t mean you don’t see the marriage succeeding any more than contributing more into your 401K means you’re less invested in working.”

        I really like this, but then on second thought…the whole idea behind a 401k is to be able to stop working someday, right?

        • Anon Fam Law Attny :

          A lot of people cry when they sign their will. It is so common that we keep tissues on hand for the occasion. Not making a will will not prevent you from dying, yet people think they’ll sign it and get hit by a bus immediately thereafter.

          Like a will, a prenup just forces you to think through the various possibilities and how you would want them to work out if the worst happened. It does not mean you will divorce, just that you have a fair plan in places should that occur. The horror stories are usually ones that result from one spouse not taking it as an opportunity to make a sound plan. Quite frankly, in many situations, it is the responsible thing to do. Like getting tested for STDs before going condomless.

      • Amelia Bedelia :

        I think a pre-nup is easily compared to disability insurance. No one wants to spend money on that. No one wants to plan for a debilitating accident. Those types of accidents do not happen to everyone and you hope they will not happen to you if you live very, very carefully. But sh*t happens. Unplanned things outside our control happen. And if the devastating occurs, you will be happy you bought disability insurance.

        That being said, I do not have a prenup. I got married very young and had nothing. My husband is much older than I and had significant savings. We discussed it and I was in favour of entering into one (for the same reasons Kat articulated). In the end, we did not enter into one due to his family’s pressure (cultural/religious reasons). I earn more now, so it might have helped me more, but I am okay without one. Had I been ten years older when I married, I would have insisted on one.

  8. In Texas you can actually contract with your spouse regarding more rights after marriage than before, so some people recommend signing your nupt agreement both Pre and Post to get all the rights of both statuses. That said, if you can do the same thing post marriage (assuming you don’t immediately acquire substantial assets), why not wait until after the marriage? (Note: I don’t practice family law).

    I also agree with other commenters on the odd timing of this, it seems to me to be a bit of a pressure tactic.

    • I also don’t practice in this area, but I would not wait till after marriage without consulting a lawyer first. If I remember correctly, many states, if not most, do not enforce post nuptial agreements. I think it has something to do with lack of consideration and a public policy determination to not interfere in the couples’ marriage once it takes place.

    • Pressure tactic?
      Ppl seem to be universally assuming bad faith on his part somehow. Don’t a lot of peoe get cold feet shortly before they actually tie the knot? Cut the guy a break, willya?!

      • Yeah, we haven’t heard the first word about what the guy may be proposing. Let’s not assume the worst before he coughs it up.

  9. Corporette Babymamma :

    Sorry that you’re having to deal with this. We did not have a prenup and we didn’t discuss it. I got married when I was young (24) and DH was 29. I had no assets to speak of and $75K in loans, and DH was financially much better off. I understand why people get it done, but I personally would have felt very hurt if DH had brought it up to me. On the other hand, if DH was seriously wealthy, I could (maybe) understand why he would want to protect his assets. In your situation, given the length of the relationship and the timing of the wedding, I’m confused why your fiance did not bring this up earlier. Hope it all works out for you, hang in there.

  10. My husband and I also discussed whether a pre-nup was needed, and decided that we didn’t have existing assets to protect. And we’ve adopted the philosophy that anything we had before the marriage (like, pre-marriage 401k values, etc.) would remain separate. I don’t think that pre-nups are “bad” (and actually think prenups can be good) although I think I would also feel hurt and betrayed if this was a surprise 6 weeks before the wedding.

    I have friends who have a pre-nup because he has a lot of family money and a family business, and his family wanted to protect that. I also have a friend whose husband was adamently against having a pre-nup because he thought it was going into marriage with the expectation of divorce, and, despite having substantial personal assets, she acceded to his demands (despite both of her parents having been divorced multiple times, and having lost substantial assets in each divorce). I think in both of those situations a pre-nup would have been appropriate.

    I think Reader C needs to have a more in-depth discussion with her fiance about why he wants a pre-nup — does he have substantial assets that he wants to keep from her in the event of divorce? Does he want to negotiate about alimony? The language about “needing to protect himself” is raising a red flag — and also to consult with a lawyer. Because just as much as a pre-nup can “protect” him, it can also protect her.

  11. Associette :

    A pre-nup is a good idea, I think, especially if one or both of you enter into the marriage with notable property or wealth. Children, pets and anticipated inheritances may also be things to consider. Of course, your fiance’s timing is poor, but realistically most people think of these agreements right before they head into marriage. I recommend obtaining your own attorney to not only review your fiance’s proposed pre-nup, but also to advise you of what your options are. Having a good attorney will also take some of the emotion out of it for you, which alone, can be quite valuable. After hearing from a family law attorney, you will be in a far better position to determine whether or not having an agreement at all makes sense for you, whether you want to sign the proposed agreement as is, or modify it.

    FWIW, my H and I did not enter into a pre-nup because we did not own any property and did not have significant savings or retirement accounts to “protect.” Entering into an agreement for us would have been too speculative to be valuable for us.

  12. My now-husband and I signed a pre-nup before we got married because there is a chance that I could inherit a significant amount of family money. I don’t think that pre-nups are for every couple, but as stated above, it does give the couple a chance to at least discuss divorce while they still care about each other. Even a couple who doesn’t look at divorce as an option, myself included, the future is unpredictable and we are human. With that said though, I agree with the points made above that the fiance’s timing here was not ideal. The discussion of a pre-nup should be just that, a discussion about the future, and not one partner being blindsided.

  13. Lionheart :

    In California pre-nups presented at a late hour before a wedding can be thrown out as an attempt to railroad the surprised party. Plus I think both parties have to have an opportunity to be represented by counsel. I don’t practice in this area myself but I remember the case from law school because it involved Barry Bond’s marriage to a Swedish waitress or something.
    It’s poor timing but it’s an elephant in the room now so I think you’d be well served to flesh out the issue and try to understand what he’s looking to achieve and decide if that’s something you’ll meet halfway. Good luck!

    • I think you might have the holding on that Barry Bonds case backwards.

      But I don’t practice in this area (or in Cal) so I’m far from an expert.

  14. Anon for this :

    On the topic of “family money” – so BF and i are in the talking about getting married stages, but he has a year and a half left of law school, so it’s a ways out. He and I have briefly discussed prenups, when we’d see them in a movie or whatever, (i think it was entourage, because the situation was basicalyl the same) and he’s always said he’d be really offended. I come from a family of means and I know that I have money that will be left to me from my parents. My BF on the other hand, does not, and will be in the hole for his legal education, while I have no debts. My father has said many times he wants whoever I marry to sign a pre nup, as he believes he’s leaving this money for me and my future, not for someone who’d not be with me….how do i cross this gap between father and BF? im so nervous to even mention this to boyfriend, for fear that he’ll think I think he’s after me for money, or that we’d get divorced? BF and i have a very solid relationship, especially wtih money – ironically, it will probably end up that he makes way more than me down the road, with him entering big law and me…not.

    • Go see a lawyer after you get engaged. If s/he can tell you that, under your state’s law, your spouse won’t have access to anything you inherit, that should pacify your father. My parents were also very insistent on considering a pre-nup for this reason; I saw a lawyer and she told me the above; and they chilled out.

      • You probably have to be careful with the inherited assets, though. In my state, inherited assets are separate as long as they are not co-mingled. This means that if you put an inherited sum into a bank account that only you have access to, great. But once you deposit it into the joint account, or use it to buy a marital home, or similar, it’s property of the marriage.

    • As someone who has not been in your shoes, take this for what you will. I think you need to decide what you want. Are you willing to give 50% of your inheritance to your boyfriend in the event of divorce (or whatever the divorce laws of your state are)? If no, then I think you need to start thinking about having some more in-depth discussions with your boyfriend about pre-nups.

      • But, as some other posters have pointed out, she may not nescessarily need to give 50% of her inheretance to her boyfriend. In many states, inhereted assets are not marital property.

        • Right – she needs to check her state laws. It can also depend on how you use or invest those inherited assets – depending on the laws of the state, if you take an active role in managing those assets (i.e., not just putting them in a mutual fund and leaving them there indefinitely), that could bring them within the purview of marital assets. Or, if you use some of those assets for a down payment on a house, it could do the same.

          Anon for this – you should talk to a lawyer and discuss what you can reasonably expect, in your state, if you were to get divorced without a prenup.

    • MaggieLizer :

      I agree with the commenters that have recommended talking to a lawyer; at the very least, you want to know what you’re facing if things go wrong.

      I would also talk to a lawyer about getting a will. If you predecease future-DH, do you want part or all of your family money passing to his new wife if he remarries and dies before she does? If not, you need to plan for that as soon as you get married.

      Discussing a will might also be a good way to broach the pre-nup topic. All marriages end; they either end in death or divorce. Wills and prenups are just ways to plan for what happens when (not if) the marriage ends.

      • Anon for this :

        Thanks, everyone for the imput. I like the idea of bringing the topic up as a “will” one, and having that segway into prenups, rather than “lets talk about prenup” time. I guess i really wouldn’t want him to have 50% of what’s mine, especially considering that he’d probably use that to pay his law school debts off, which would leave him financially succesful and and debt free, while I reap none of the benefits of working and supporting us while he’s in schoool. Off to start my hunt for a DC area lawyer whose rate isn’t 8 million dollars/hour!

        • We were in a similar situation, although we both had some separate assets going into the marriage and the potential for more, and we have a prenup. Our goal was to allow us to comingle assets without worrying about those assets becoming part of the marital pot by considering it a “loan” to the marriage that would be forgiven over time. We developed this idea, and our lawyers (each had one) helped us craft it. Something you might think about.

          • And I don’t mean salaries or that kind of thing–those go into our joint account. I’m talking about significant separate assets, inheritance, etc.

    • IL estate planning attorney :

      I would tell your dad to create a trust for you in his estate plan. The inherited money can be go into a trust that can be used for your benefit – you could even be your own trustee (although there are possible benefits to having someone else be the trustee, depending on your state and the wording of the trust).
      If you had the power to withdraw money and if you took money out of the trust and put it in a joint account, then the money would be co-mingled and could become marital property – but you would be making that decision with your eyes open.
      The trust could buy things for you – like a house or a car. The trust would own the assets for you. A trust with you as beneficiary could only be used for your benefit – not to benefit your husband or pay off his education bills.
      It’s a way for your dad to be sure that his money will go to benefit you and only you. Your dad could even designate who the balance goes to if you die before it is used up.
      I would not have wanted my dad to put pressure on me to create a prenup before I married (30 years this May). That would have bothered me a lot. I was young and in love…

      • Kind off off topic but…
        Right? My dad is obnoxious (lovingly of course) enough without butting his head into my relationship. Whenever he does, I tell him in no uncertain terms that it is none of his business.
        That said, we have had very serious inheritance issues on both sides of our families resulting in siblings not communicating– so I would strongly suggest you ask you have your parents set up a living trust if inheritance is an issue (even if you are an only child– it will save you time & taxes). My parents did as soon as my younger brother turned 18. It is very simple and says things are split 50/50 (I asked for some family heirlooms that are particularly important to me, my brother asked for others)… but now it is in the open & off the table & will hopefully avoid any possible bad fights.
        I also have this philosophy that if certain things are deal breakers for you, that you KNOW could be big deals for some people (ex. prenups, not changing last name, not wanting kids, wanting your SO to convert to a different religion), you have a responsibility to bring them up early & often in a relationship to avoid misunderstandings later on– and allow the person to either adjust to the idea or move on.

        • And on another side note– Corporette has been a great way for me to discuss things in my relationship with my boyfriend. We have been together several years, will get married eventually but are in no rush, and for the most part, I feel like I know him like the back of my hand. But then every once in a while, he’ll react to something in a way I wouldn’t expect.
          After reading this post, I realized we had never really talked about pre-nups and it was great to bring up the situation in the post & discuss it & see how he felt about them. I always thought we were on the same page… but now I know we are.
          Also, people keep saying “divorce is not an option for me” but I wonder if anyone actually goes into a marriage (besides on reality shows) thinking, hey if it doesn’t work out…… it’s cool.
          I feel like a PSA ;-p

    • I would not gamble with your state’s laws. What if you stay married a really long time and the laws on inherited money and divorce are completely different by the time you finally divorce, when Dad is no more and your kids are grown?

      However, I think this is an instance where it’s OK to play ‘Daddy really insists’ good girl and use that argument to say you really must have a prenup. Feel free to point out that it’s really Daddy’s prenup because it’s Daddy’s money, which makes it more legitimate. It’ll be a little painful to your dignity, but so much less than losing half your assets in a bloody divorce.

  15. i have to say, i’ve grown really tired of people who think that pre-nups are terrible. C states it herself: she is “significantly less financially secure” than her fiance. that’s the situation when pre-nups make the *most* sense. if you enter the marriage at a relatively equal place financially and have similar financial futures, then pre-nups aren’t nearly as important as for a financially unequal relationship. no one ever thinks they’ll get a divorce–their relationship will be successful, they’ll be the positive statistic. the fact is, pre-nups are a great way to protect yourself if things go sour (which they do in a majority of relationships).

    that said, his timing is clearly suspect. get a lawyer (which you should know), fight for yourself. you’re not a victim, this is just a part of relationships in our society.

    • I think if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t be upset by the pre-nup itself, but by his wording … a marriage is more than a financial transaction these days. Plus, being referred to as a
      I would also be annoyed by the timing. 6 months is probably not legal duress, but it is certainly close enough to the wedding to be extremely stressful for the OP.

  16. What other things would you consider in a pre-nup?

    For example – how do you split assets that are one person’s before marriage, but not paid off entirely (for example – a house or car that is only partially paid off )? How do you divide retirements accounts since they are legally tied to one person?

    I’d be interested in hearing any and all feedback, since most of my friends are not going this route, so I’m not sure whether to consider this option at all.

  17. I suppose there are situations when I might approve of a pre-nup, but in general I think they’re a bad idea. Usually when one party makes more money, it’s because they work longer hours. And the only reason they can do that is because the other party supports them in all kinds of ways – emotional support, doing a disproportionate share of the housework and child rearing, going to evening events with the spouse’s work colleagues, etc. And it may be that the other party could have had a high-flying job too, but sacrificed that potential for their spouse. When I get married, I expect that our contributions will be considered equal, and in the event of a divorce, I’d expect half.

    • no pre-nup :

      This, exactly! I’ve already made a cross-country move for husband’s job, which hurt my career for several years. Now he’s made a cross-country move for my job, which has slowed his career trajectory. So, technically, we’re “even”. But it’s not about “even”, it’s about building a life for us, not building a life “for me” or “for him”. He also likes doing all of our investing, and he’s put “my” money into some risky stocks or whatever, and I’m ok with that because it’s not “my” money. I can’t imagine going into marriage with the mentality that there’s still part of him that he keeps, or part of me that I keep, when we are so intertwined financially, career-wise, emotionally, etc. If you’re going to stomach the risks/hard times together, you should also be willing to share the rewards/good times.

    • MaggieLizer :

      Forgive me if I’m not following you, but isn’t this exactly why you’d want a pre-nup? To make sure that, in the case of divorce, the contributions of each party will be considered equal in a legally binding way?

      • Agreed. Pre-nups are an agreement, and dictate the terms of such. In this case, the pre-nup could recognize the contributions of each party to the marriage, not just the respective salaries.

      • found a peanut :

        In most states the default is that each party walks away with half – pre-nups are only useful if one party (usually the higher-earning spouse or the spouse that comes in with more money) wants to walk away with more.

        • I disagree with this characterization. In states that do the 50/50 distribution, you are entitled to half of the marital property – meaning income/property accumulated during the marriage only. If I work part time at a small firm at a lesser salary raising kids while my spouse works full time at some biglaw job, we would split the assets accumulated over those, let’s say, 8 years relatively equally but I would be left screwed by the arrangement b/c my husband would continue making much more money while my career would be adversly affected by my choices well after the divorce and he would make partner. Hardly the outcome I think is fair. I think people hear pre-nup and they think “way to screw me” but the opposite can be true if you are smart about it. Bottom line is that statistically most men, even when you factor for spousal maintenance and child support, end up better off financially after a divorce while women end up worse. If I was earning less than my SO, I would certainly want to at least think about these things.

        • Not really. Plus many courts do this whole “imputed income” thing for highly educated lowly paid spouses — which the OP is planning to be in the marriage (public interest law). I’ve seen at least one nasty divorce where alimony and child support was slashed where the highly educated mother/ex-wife was able (and pre-kids had) a high paying job but after kids was a SAHM and then a public interest type employee part time after all kids were in school. After the divorce high earning father / ex-husband successfully convinced the court that he should have have to fund her lifestyle choices, when she had the ability to make a high income. Never mind that it was their practice during the marriage and she provided almost all the child care.

          • I think you mean “successfully convinced the court that he should NOT have to fund her lifestyle choices . . . .”

      • I agree with those just above me — you are assuming the prenup is being used to protect the person with fewer assets. Often (maybe usually?) it is not, it is to ensure that the person with more assets does not have to share them as they otherwise would under state law with the person who has less.

        I was also presented with a pre-nup 6 weeks before my wedding, the terms of which required me to renounce the interest I would otherwise have (in the event of a divorce) in any increase in value to a very significant family asset of my husband’s during our marriage. Then, almost immediately after our wedding, I was asked by my husband’s family to make very significant sacrifices to my career so my husband could (indirectly) support the growth in value to the family asset. Nice!

        I have a very happy marriage but I admit I remain bitter about the entire experience. There was a very logical reason that the family had for expecting a pre-nup (I know that intellectually). I also know my experience does not meet the terms of duress (I am a lawyer, and I even hired my own lawyer), but I did not really feel “free” during this transaction at all. It sucked. It made us adversaries (unequal adversaries). I had no equal asset to take off the table. I now hate pre-nups. Just one person’s perspective.

        P.S. In an even more annoying twist, in years since, other family members have stood up for their kids’ new spouses and said, “no way am I insisting that my new son/daughter-in-law sign a pre-nup, that’s insulting.” No one supported me that way, which still rankles me years later.

        • Could you talk about ammending in some way with a post-nup so the amount you would receive upon divorce would reflect the financial sacrifices made post-marriage? I know it is uncomfortable to say but that only seems fair.

        • Why would your husband let his family treat you that way? This isn’t a pre-nup issue, this is a family / marital relations issues. His family should have zero input on your relationship – and it’s on him to tell them to butt out, or cut them out of your life if they do not.

          • I think it is usually a cultural thing that is VERY difficult to fight.
            That said, I think I think I would have threatened to walk.
            One of my good friends had a prenup that sort of “expired” after a certain amount of years, which I think was kind of a cool idea. Not that it disappears, but that the terms change every year and basically level off after 10 yrs of marriage.
            I do agree that prenups are usually used to push people around (mostly women- who are expected to give up or slow down their careers), but in your case & the OP case… you guys bring a lot to the table, don’t forget that- you are educated and smart and you shouldn’t let (or have let) your SO push you into an unfair agreement. And I’m not 100% sure, but I think you can get your spouse to terminate the prenup.

        • I second N, you don’t have a prenup problem, you have an in-law problem. I hope your marriage is very happy indeed, because it sounds like you’re getting royally screwed. If I were you, I’d take steps for that not to continue at least, like focus back on my own career. Your inlaws can hire a housekeeper or whatever if you husband needs it that badly.

  18. I love the idea of a prenup. I think the timing here BLOWS BIG TIME, but in theory — no, I do not think one should be hurt by discussions of a prenup. My thought is exactly as Kat’s: “[W]ouldn’t it be a nice thing if Good Kat and Good R had agreed to the terms of the divorce — and not Bad Kat or Bad R, who probably would have hurt feelings and maybe a bit of blood thirst.” You can agree to fair terms now; you will have a hard time agreeing to fair terms later. I also think that talking through a prenup serves the function of having a hard, heart-to-heart about financial priorities that couples SHOULD have before marriage.

    All that said, take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt, because I don’t have one. DH originally wanted one — his family has all the money, and his earning potential is higher — and I was willing for the reasons discussed above. Then he lost interest, and I didn’t push it. I wish I had, even though I would be the “weaker” party. Don’t get me wrong, our marriage is strong … but the longer I know him, the more convinced I am that I would NEVER want to go up against him in a divorce fight. Especially once kids are in the picture.

  19. no pre-nup :

    I married young, so take this with a grain of salt, but I don’t understand asking for a pre-nup unless you have significant family assets or a family business, or if you’re marrying later in life and you haven’t been together very long. At the point that one or both of you has made ANY sacrifice (forgoing grad school of choice, leaving job to make a cross country move, taking leave to raise a child, etc.) for the betterment of the relationship, I don’t think you should have a pre-nup. To me, the pre-nup says that you aren’t committed to marriage, and that you want a “bail out” plan. I don’t view it as insurance, and I don’t view it as the responsible thing to do, especially 6 weeks before the wedding. Again, maybe it’s because my husband and I came into our marriage with nothing, so anything we’ve acquired would be during our marriage, but I just can’t fathom signing a pre-nup. Maybe if I’d built a substantial career or had assets that belonged to siblings/children it would make more sense to me, but I am opposed to them and completely understand how you feel betrayed by this sudden request. I realize my view is completely one-sided, but I wanted the OP to know that she’s not the only person who would feel upset by a request for a pre-nup, especially after you’ve started building a life together.

  20. I have a couple of anecdotes here. I have family money, but work at an NGO to my husband’s Biglaw, so can see both sides.
    My sister was in a similar situation as me. She married someone who had higher earning potential in his chosen field, but was just starting grad school when they married. She used family money to put him through school, buy their first house, and support their lifestyle through their whole marriage. All seemed fair — it was clear he’d more than make up the balance, financially, in the long run and there was no reason to skimp for a few years knowing what their ultimate situation would be. They both like nice things.
    For reasons no one could have predicted when they were madly in love 25 year olds, they got divorced 6 years into the marriage. No kids. Because my sister had more assets then he did, she was not entitled to any spousal support. The house was in her name (she had made the down payment) and so she was left with a mortgage she could not afford, a lifestyle she could not afford, having spent a huge chunk of her family money on her now ex-husband’s education and life. She took a huge financial hit and lives in much reduced circumstances in a tiny apartment in a terrible neighborhood. Her ex husband lives free of student debt with a partner’s salary and no obligations.
    If she had had a pre nup, this would not have happened.

    When my husband and I were engaged we also talked about a prenup. We pondered the options. I ran some scenarios. We talked about it. We ended up not signing one, as we realized that we could not predict everything about the future and did not want to try. We decided to trust each other’s judgment and inherent values not to want to screw each other over, no matter what happened. It helps that my husband hates having to spend any of my family money ever, and thus my portfolio has only grown (and remains in my name). Since we have a child, we have now arranged our finances to benefit the child, which I’m sure would remain the case in the event of a divorce.
    But that said…there are some things that make this hard. I put down the down payment for our house, but it is in both of our names. He won’t have put as much money into the house as I have until we’ve owned it for about 15 years. So I feel a little like it should be in just my name…but would I feel that way if I were a stay at home mom with no family money and he had put the money down? No. I would want to know that we, as a married couple, were in it together.
    Anyway, I’m rambling. Here’s what I think: tell him you understand it’s not a referendum on love or commitment, but it stings a little. Tell him that though he has higher earning power, you’d prefer that instead of looking at it as him v. her you looked at your combined household income as one thing that supported your household in the lifestyle you both decided you wanted / could afford. And that if you were to get divorced, you (and any children) should ideally be able to all continue at the same level, as that is part of the deal with becoming a family.
    If he’s not cool with that, which is to say if he thinks of his money as only his money, then you need to think about either whether you can stand to be in his “debt” for the rest of your life or whether you can start making more money. Because, no offense, this guy sounds a little controlling (or at least insensitive)

    • found a peanut :

      “If she had had a pre nup, this would not have happened.”

      Maybe. If her prenup said, “In the event we divorce within X years you have to pay me back for the money I spent on your grad school,” then she would have the money she spent on his grad school. But it seems pretty speculative to say that had she had a pre-nup, her situation would be materially better.

      • Or if she had a prenup that required him to take responsibility for the house, or pay her spousal support if his salary (not assets) was higher than hers, etc etc. There’s more to consider than the education cost provision.

        Of course, neither my husband nor I have family money. We came into marriage with roughly the same assets. No prenup here, because, well – everything is marital property. While I make less than he does, it’s not enough less that I would need spousal support (though I live in a state that still favors it) and I’d be entitled to half his pension in the event that we divorced. Given our specific situation, I didn’t think it necessary to have one.

    • I know it’s different by state, but in CA, at least on the bar exam, I remember there being something about you having to pay your spouse back if they pay for your education & you divorce w/in a certain amount of years.

  21. My main question would be “protect what, exactly”? That’s not intended to be rude, but practical. If there’s something specific (family property, a business, pre-marital property, anything related to pre-marital children) at issue, then a pre-nup is almost certainly a good idea. But, if that’s not the case, then what? What do you want to be different from what happens under standard divorce laws? (Keeping in mind that circumstances change drastically and any plans are inherently speculative.)

    I hate to say this, but in my experiences as a family law attorney, the majority of the times that I’ve seen pre-nups, they’ve really been ones that a more powerful and affluent man used to protect his assets from a less affluent, less sophisticated, potentially golddigging (at least in his eyes, I guess) woman. I’m not saying that they’re all like that, of course, that’s just the ones that I’ve come across.

    Pre-nups don’t necessarily help avoid litigation – often, they can open the door to more litigation because they just give you more to argue over. (X means this, X was unfairly influenced, etc.) Also, you make them for your present circumstances, but things can change (i.e., A & B might have similar earnings and decide to agree no alimony. Later, B quits to stay home with the kids, and is out of the workforce for 10 years – is it fair to have B still not get alimony? Well, that’s what the pre-nup says.).

    • Diana Barry :

      Ditto, although I have seen prenups the other way (woman with high-flying career or family money wanting to protect it from ne’er do well husband). It often indicates a power imbalance.

      We never would have gotten a prenup – we would joint up all our retirement assets if it were possible! If I ever get widowed and have a 2nd marriage, though, I would get a prenup so my kids would be sure to get the $$ flowing out of my husband’s estate.

      • Ditto to both Lyssa and Diana Barry. I’m not a family law attorney, but these reflect what I have observed and how I feel.

      • Yeah, I have to say, this is my tack. Although, I’m currently refusing to marry my bf (which I think is confusing to him because at first I was gung-ho about the idea) because I don’t want him to be on the hook for my student loan debt. Also, I am still working (darn paperwork!) on getting my loans into a public interest reduction and I don’t want his salary (currently much higher than mine, but I have more earning potential in the long run) to be calculated as part of my “income.” Also, he has kids who are already suspicious of the “gold digger” (which is irritating because I was actually friends with one of them before ever meeting bf!) but they want to make sure their inheritances are protected. Which, while it annoys me that they would actually SAY something like that to their father, I agree with the sentiment.

        Unfortunately, he’s already told one son (the deadbeat) that he probably will NOT leave him the family home as previously discussed because the ne’er do well will just lose it in foreclosure within the year. That son blames me for the “change of heart” (acknowledgement of reality that I had nothing to do with at all!) and it’s been a little bit of an issue.

        Just one other anecdotal experience. My grandfather and grandmother divorced after at least 25 years of marriage around…25 years ago. My grandfather then married his mistress and they were married for about…15 years-ish and had a fabulous life. This was a high school dropout married to an aerospace engineer, traveled all over the world, never wanted for anything, never worked a day in her life. When he died about 5 years ago, he left everything, including a significant inheritance from his side of the family, all the family silver (we used to have a crest!), china, heirlooms, etc…to the step-grandma, who really never liked us. My aunt called a few months after his death (cancer, he’d been ill for a while) and asked about the will and step-grandma immediately cut her off, and has completely cut off the rest of the family. We don’t even know what’s happening with the family home that my mother grew up in.

        Ultimately we discovered that everything was in trust, step-grandma’s the sole trustee, upon her death (she’s my mom’s age, she could actually outlive my parents!) the estate will be divided equally EQUALLY!!!!! between “her side” and “his side.” Her side brought NOTHING into the marriage. He supported her essentially her ENTIRE LIFE. Now her niece and nephew are each going to get 1/4 of MY family’s inheritance and my mother and her siblings will each get 1/8. They’re not even her children!!!

        While I really don’t care about the money in the estate, it drives me entirely insane that my grandfather cared so little for his own children and grandchildren that he would essentially give away our inheritance from our great grandfather, and our great great grandfather, etc…including antiques and heirlooms such as the crib that my great grandfather used as a baby, the paintings and art from the 1700s and 1800s that were brought out around the horn to San Francisco at the time of the gold rush, the tennis trophys that my great and great great grandfather won in Los Angeles in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Such family history!

        In this case it wouldn’t have mattered to have a prenup, clearly, he valued step-grandmother enough to give her what he did. However, I do wish my grandmother had had a prenup. She now lives in a small house, on a very small stipend from some investments and some art she sells, while the mistress lives in the family home on the cliffs above the pacific ocean (probably, unless she sold that too), has never worked a day in her life and never will.

        Okay, I’ve definitely just overshared the family bitterness, I must get back to work!

        • CA Atty, I know this wasn’t the point of your story at all, but your family seems like they could have the American version of a Downton Abbey-esque show made about them! Antiques! Heirlooms! Home on the cliffs above Pacific Ocean! Illustrious forefathers! Wow. :)

          • Hahaha, I never thought about it that way! It’s just dirty laundry *sigh*. Quite honestly, the last time I was in the home I was too young to remember if anything was an antique or an heirloom or just old. But my mom really wants her grandmother’s wedding silver, used in her high society San Francisco wedding way back when to use at her 50th wedding anniversary. That’s still…ugh, way too far away for me to calculate (thank goodness) but when my mom does remember to call me back (currently on day 3 of forgetting!) she frequently talks about all the fabulous historical heirloomy stuff. And not that any of us would want to live there, but the house in LA is pretty fabulous. It’s an old house, at least 50 years and slowly sliding down into the ocean. Not very big, etc…but it’s worth it to walk out in the backyard and…OCEAN! :-)

        • FYI, if you’re working on a federal loan forgiveness program like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you can get married without your spouses income affecting your Income Contingent Repayment plan. You do have to file your taxes separately.

  22. My husband suggested a prenup before we got married 7 years ago. He had substantially more assets and had recently been through a nasty divorce. I told him no way because state law provided that our “premarital assets” would remain ours in the event of a divorce, so he did not need one. In addition, I was absolutely sure that I would not “do anything” in the course of our marriage to justify my getting less than 50% of post-marital asssets and I did not intend to give him any comfort to think that I would take it easy on him if he did such a thing. For gods’ sake, we’re lawyers. If he wants to commit any marriage ending act, he should rest assured that I would take him to the proverbial cleaners.

    • This! My husband and I do not have a pre-nup for the same reason.

    • I agree, BUT, not every state’s law is the same. My fiance–who has significant family money–suggested a pre-nup at first when we were living in State A. We have since moved to State B, a community property state, where we intend to live for the foreseeable future. However, we have not ruled out the possibility of moving back to State A some day. As a lawyer, I like certainty above all else, so even though the pre-nup is for his protection, I see value in getting one, if only to say which state’s rules we’ll use in the even of a divorce.

      Moreover, the more I thought about it, the more I realized a pre-nup could help me, too. If ever I do decide to stay home and give up my career, with the assurance from him that we don’t have to worry about it because he can take care of the family, I want protection from the nightmare scenario of being dropped for version 2.0 and not having a safety net of my own pre-negotiated.

      • I don’t have a pre-nup; but if I ever stay home with our children (or if he stays home, although that’s less likely) I’m definitely going to get a post-nup. He knows this, and I believe is fine with it, although it hasn’t come up yet.

    • I don’t agree wiht the means SDD, I’d have wanted a prenup that garanteed me half. But I love your attitude :-).

  23. I’m really torn on the whole idea of a pre-nup. I’m not married, but I am in a serious relationship heading towards marriage, where my partner earns significantly more than I do (and it will likely always be that way).

    I used to be 100% against them, believing love and state laws to be enough to sort everything out. However, watching my parents get divorced after 23 years of marriage has changed my mind. I watched one parent walk out on the other with virtually no warning. When they split, my dad morphed into a different person (the bad version of himself), seemingly overnight, and my parents are going on their FOURTH YEAR of battling it out via the court system. They don’t even speak anymore, solely due to ongoing battle of dividing their assets, and it’s absolutely awful to watch.

    I think that when I do get married, which will likely be in the next few years, I am okay with signing a prenup. I would like the financial nitty-gritty to be worked out when we love each other, versus down the road, when things may not be nearly as rosy. I also look at it like a slightly twisted form insurance. I don’t plan on my apartment burning down, but that doesn’t stop me from insuring against it, just in case.

    • It might be a good idea to think about how having a pre-nup could have helped your parents’ situation, though (which I’m sorry to hear about). It would have been very hard for them to have anticipated the issues that they are now arguing over (I would assume that they didn’t even have the assets in question 23 years ago) or what the arguments would be. My general thinking is that pre-nups can’t do much to avoid litigation in long-term marriages.

    • Yes, exactly. Assuming you’ve already talked about finances and expectations for your marriage (relationship-wise and financially), I’d be having a loooong talk with your fiance about where the heck his sudden desire for a pre-nup came from.

      • Whoops, I replied in the wrong place. But the sentiment remains the same: why in the world is he springing this on you 6 weeks before the wedding? For most young couples just starting out, a prenup doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    • Gosh that is so hard. I’m sorry you’re going through that. I really don’t understand it, I had a friend who’s dad did that and overnight went from coaching little league (figuratively, we’d grown out of it by then!) hosting backyard bbqs, typical wonderful loving family…to living in “the city” calling people bro, growing his hair, smarming on girls his daughter’s age, making inappropriate remarks about every female including her mom, etc…it was bizarre! At first we though mid life crisis, though he should be through that, and now we’re thinking somehow he had a traumatic brain injury we don’t know about.

      “Luckily” in her situation her dad is so bizarre and she’s out of the house, so she just kind of avoids him, supports her mom and we ALL laugh about his craziness. Obviously her mom is hurting, but more from the man she’d loved for 30 years suddenly disappearing than the “new” loser dropping out of her life.

  24. Husband and I are both lawyers. We got married right out of law school. Neither one of us had anything to our name at the time, no family money, property, etc. There did not seem to be a need and was not discussed (that I recall). Agree with others – timing seems terrible. Also, would definitely want to know how what he is proposing would be different than applicable state law, especially if it is all post-marital (and not pre-existing property, money, etc., if I understand your situation correctly).

  25. Negotiate Your Own Terms :

    I am among the frequent commenters who believe that you end up with a contract when you get married, so it might as well be the one whose terms you and your husband negotiate instead of the ones your state decided on for you. So the idea that you should have one is remedial to me. What bothers me about this situation is that you have been together 8 years and he is proposing a pre-nup for the first time now, six weeks before the wedding? Either you have terrible communication or he knows something you don’t know. You have to figure out which one it is.

    Also, I agree with BlueJay and Nancy P. that having a pre-nup isn’t the issue. What the terms of the pre-nup say is the issue. It could really help you if it secures you more than what you would get under your state’s law (aka the terms of your marriage contract if you choose not to have a pre-nup) in the event of divorce. The terms can be negotiated between the two of you and can even vary based on years of marriage or children born or anything else you want.

    My advice: get a lawyer STAT.

    Also, in the event this is a communication issue, I feel compelled to suggest that you find one of those lists online of all the things you are supposed to discuss with your fiance before the wedding. They usually have categories like finance (separate accounts or joint accounts? do you have any debt i don’t know about? do you want to see my credit report?), religion (yes or no? which one? how often?), kids (yes or no? how many? pre- or post-Santorum — JK), etc. If you haven’t discussed pre-nups until now, I wonder what else he has up his sleeve that you haven’t discussed.

    Finally, in the event this is all just too much for you right now, consider these two options: (1) you can always postpone the wedding; and (2) you can always sign a POST-nuptial agreement.

  26. We have a pre-nup. Basically it just follows the law of our state. We aren’t a community property state so that makes things a bit simpler. I got some resistance when I first suggested it, but after going through it, my husband would agree that it is a very important exercise for a couple. Like Kat and others have mentioned, you are far more likely to be fair/nice when you are madly in love than when you are splitting up. There are couple of books like “Prenups for Lovers” that help navigate these discussions. Also, pre-nups generally can’t be used to decide child support/custody, at least in some states.
    Like any other agreement, it is important to periodically review and make sure it still makes sense. Some people also add a sunset provision.

  27. associate :

    I think pre-nups are like life insurance. I bought life insurance, not because I’m making it easier for myself to die, but because I want to be prepared if I do. I also created a will because I’m not happy with how the state would divide up my assests if I died. That said, I’m engaged, and while we discussed pre-nups (I brought it up) we’re not getting one because we’re content with our state’s laws. If we were to get one, I’d make sure I agreed with the terms, just like you would any other insurance plan. To the OP, the timing sucks, but I’d try to stay out of the mindset of pre-nup=bad, until there’s concerete reason to think that way.

    • big dipper :

      THIS. There are so many terrible, unimaginable things in life you can’t plan for (like…dying, getting a serious illness and racking up crazy medical bills, etc). A pre-nup is an opportunity to plan for a divorce. Even though the probability of a divorce seems near zero right now, why not save yourself some of the hassle later?

      In the unlikely event you ever get a divorce, a pre-nup will at the bare minimum give you some idea of what to expect and eliminate some of the stress.

    • Agreed. My bf’s sister was in a car accident when she was like 30, married, 2 kids. No prenup. She had a traumatic brain injury and regressed to the point her “mental/emotional” (not sure what to call it) age is 12. Her husband stuck it out for a while but he had to get out eventually. She will never be able to work or even really live on her own, can’t have relationships (you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a 60 year old woman tell you with complete seriousness that “boys have cooties and are GROSS!”) has no assets, etc…it’s really rough on the whole family. She’s a 1/2 sister and the other side of the family takes care of her so I don’t know what they ended up doing for her, I just know she’s in a home. That’s the kind of thing you can never plan for.

      • But even in this situation, don’t you morally owe your former spouse some kind of support?
        Even if I got divorced, I would support my ex-spouse in a situation like this & hope they would do the same for me. That is one of the finer points of marriage– to continue caring for the other person, even when things are more difficult than you could ever imagine.
        The only reason I could see for divorcing & leaving with the assets is if healthcare would drain the entire estate (for example, we have a family friend whose husband is in a coma & has been on life support for 2 decades, obviously, divorcing put him on medicaid & saved their assets), but even then I’d still be there with non-financial support.

        • * I meant if I had to get divorced after the accident so that I could have other relationships.

  28. found a peanut :

    Prenups are not for first-time marriages involving young people with no substantial assets. Marriage is a partnership – you are building a life together. And if that life together ends, then you each walk away with half of the life you built. I don’t think a pre-nup “opens the door to divorce” – if you’re going to get divorced, you’re going to get divorced. But what, exactly, is this guy saying? That if he makes a lot more money than you, and contributes more to your joint savings, he gets to keep most of the savings account? So if you have $100k in savings at the end of your marriage, and he can show he contributed $80k, he gets to keep $80k? How is that fair? Should you get a credit for each meal you prepare and each load of laundry you do? Maybe a $50k one-time payout per child? And extra for each time you change a diaper?

    No. Marriage is a partnership and each person puts something in and gets something else out. That one person puts in the money, and the other person puts in the housework, or the jokes, or the better set of friends, or the funny brother, is irrelevant. If he thinks you are not bringing a sufficient amount of assets to the table to warrant you getting half of the assets when you leave, he should look for a better partner.

    It is possible that as a non-lawyer he doesn’t fully understand how divorce and divorce laws work or has heard a few horror stories from divorced guys in his office.

    • Very well said. Awesomely said, even.

      I’ll add that there are a lot of horror stories out there, particularly from men, and some of them are justifiably horrible. But most of them involve child issues (custody or child support), which are a) always horrible, and b) not usually pre-nup-able. (In most states at least, you can’t make non-court-approved agreements for child custody and support.)

      • Anonymous :

        Re the horror stories from men, I’m getting to the age where my husband and I are seeing a lot of our friends go through divorce. Every woman has a different reason that the marriage didn’t work out, each one unique to the marriage, but 10 times out of 10, the man tells us “she was crazy!” Makes me wonder ….

        • Yes, and yet, the last time you checked, the Taliban probably didn’t put their guns up to these men’s heads and force them to marry these women, right?

          Maybe those women are crazy, but what does it tell you that these men chose them? No angels there, really.

    • Meh — if you have competent lawyers helping discuss these issues, they can help even young, relatively equal parties work out pre-nups that work for them. But I do think they are most common with older couples or people coming from previous marriages.

      But I would bet a decent chunk of change that its guys from work that got into his head on the pre-nup thing (especially since how he worded it). In the last month or two before our wedding, guys at my husbands work decided to regale him with all sorts of wedding and divorce horror stories — I think its a male right of passage (sort of like when a woman gets pregnant and suddenly every woman she meets decides to tell her every pregnancy horror story they’ve ever heard.)

      • I agree. As a previous poster said, it’s the terms of the pre-nup that matter, not the fact that you have one.

        If I was the OP, I would talk to my fiance about what he wanted out of a prenup, and if that was something I could work with, I would meet with my own lawyer and discuss how I could be benefited or harmed by various prenup terms and figure out what I wanted. If the terms my fiance suggested were that bad, I would explain to him why I was not comfortable agreeing to xyz (and I would not be comfortable signing a prenup that says all income earned during the marriage stays the property of the earner or that predetermines spousal support–I have signed a prenup, it said neither of those things).

  29. Wouldn’t it be great if pre-nups were mandated when you got married? Since 50% of americans divorce, can you imagine how much pain and money this would save? Not to mention making that awkward “I want a prenup” conversation non existant.

    I think prenups are great. And I think your reader should consider this an opportunity for her to help her financial security as well. Just because he is going to make more money then her doesn’t mean that a prenup has to hurt HER financial future. She should make sure the prenup gives her 50% of all assets and spousal support for x number of years since her job wont be as lucrative as his.

    • Anyone Here French? :

      I met a couple last summer who were getting married in France. They said that the standard marriage form issued by the French equivalent of the “justice of the peace” office where one goes for civil marriages included a box for people to check off: “In the event the marriage ends, do you want to divide the assets: (1) 50/50; (2) according to what each person put in; or (3) as per a pre-nup you are attaching.” Or something similar.

      I tried to find anything about this online because I thought it was a brilliant idea to remind people that they are signing a contract, but I wasn’t able to find anything.

      Anyone out there ever heard of this? I would love to know.

      BTW, I don’t read Aramaic, but I am reliably informed that the basic premise of the ketubah (marriage contract) that Jews sign is to provide liquidated damages for the bride in case of divorce.

      • I’d say prenups are a good way to get your religious principles incorporated into your marriage contract. For Muslims, the nikah (or marriage contract) stipulates dowry and other things can be put in, like no multiple wives or whatnot. In Islamic/Muslim countries, the inheritance and independent wealth issue is part of family/divorce law (also, who gets to keep what portion of the dowry) but for people living in the US, I think it’s important to explicitly state what it is you’re expecting. For instance, in Islamic law, in the case of divorce of a couple with young children, the man is supposed pay the mother of his child for breastfeeding, just like one would pay any caretaker.

      • What more would you like to know about it? Yes, it’s like that. Does it mean people put more thought into it? No way. Women are brainwashed to be ‘romantic’, read defenseless idiots about money. Any marriage contract I’ve ever heard about is usually because some thoughtful parent arm-twisted the lovebirds into it.

    • Makeup Junkie :

      I agree with this – a pre-nup is a great tool for the spouse who makes less money.

    • Actually the 50 percent number was for the baby boomers prime. The divorce rate has gone down significantly, I think its around 30 percent in recent years.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      Seconding WWM–the number is also extremely low for college-educated women who marry after 25 with an independent income–it is only 20%.

  30. I’m always a bit confused when people say they’re of the mind that “divorce is not an option”? Does that mean you would not consider leaving your husband if he had an affair or committed some other act(s) of terrible deceit or betrayal? Obviously no one can conceive of such a thing when they are happy in love, but let’s be serious here ladies. Never say never.

    • Divorce is NOT an option, until it is.

      The truth is there are a lot of things we “would never consider doing” until we absolutely have to. I feel this way about bo-tox. But get back to me in ten years. :-P Lol.

    • Not sure I agree, but I can definitely see how some people might have this opinion – that is, would not consider leaving a spouse who had committed some egregious act. I think this belief is probably most prevalent among those who are very religious. I can’t speak for other denominations of Christianity, much less other religions, but in the Catholic Church, marriage is not just a contract, but is also a sacrament – just like Holy Eucharist.

    • Some people would truly never consider divorce. They may live separately from their spouse under some circumstances, but would never legally end the relationship. Many of the people who take this position are of the mind that the government can’t end their relationship, as it was created by God (that may be oversimplifying), and even if their spouse divorced them through the state, they would consider themselves married, future relationships would be adultery, etc.

    • Right, I always find that funny too– as if some people are going into the marriage like, eh what the heck, can always change my mind tomorrow & get a divorce!
      I mean… unless you are on a reality show or a poptart. ;-)

    • I agree with you “never say never”. There are so many things we think we would not do but you might surprise yourself when faced with certain situations.

    • My sister and her first husband. both children of vindictive divorced couples, swore -they- would never divorce. So no prenup, even though he had significant family money and she didn’t, but then she supported him through a lot of angst-ridden halting career beginnings. So what happened when she finally saw the light and ditched him? He took her to the cleaners.

      She even found out later he’d been cheating significantly on the household money and pocketing much more than his agreed-upon share. Watch out for those families with money, they don’t always come by it honestly.

  31. Family Money :

    Just to throw in my two cents –

    We didn’t get a prenup, based on mutual respect of not screwing the other one over. I came into the marriage with basically nothing. My husband came into planned significant family land on which his family business is based and we discussed that I would never try to touch that if we got divorced. But five years into our marriage his brother and business partner basically dropped everything mid-air and moved to another state to be a flake. To save my husband’s sanity, I came in and put in an additional 30+ hours while also working full-time. We got some new ventures up and running – and I discovered I enjoyed running this much more – and I eventually switched to working my other job part-time and now co-run this business with him. That was ten years ago; while I have no plans to get divorced, the situation has changed so dramatically from the ‘his and his alone family business and land’ at the time of our engagement that I hate to think how a prenup would affect us.

  32. I think it’s a must in a community property state. We toy with the idea of getting married from time to time (been together 10 years),but have always said we would have a pre-nup. Not just for the concerns originally mentioned, but because we don’t want our income to be considered a 50/50 split. In a community property state you either have to file a joint return or, if you file individually, you have to each claim half of the other’s income and half of your own.

    • I actually think community property is a very fair way of doing things in a divorce & is how I’d choose to have things split if I were to put it in writing (I am from & currently live in CA).
      But obviously, if you don’t want to split your income 50/50, then you have a different opinion.

  33. found a peanut, your advice reminds me of my husband, who insisted on separate finances and went through each grocery store receipt. When he tried to charge the tampons against my account instead of the joint account, I told him that they were for a system that benefits both partners in a marraige.

    Seriously, between the divorce, the “love of my life” who cheated on me, and my son’s father, who *said* he wanted a baby together until I was preggo, I’m in favor of prenups. They might be less scary if you do them along with the other “scary what-if” papers–wills, insurance, etc.

    As a non-lawyer, I think the biggest window would be setting up times to make changes, because like Kat says, once there’s a baby, e v e r y thing changes, and you might not want what you think you will now.

    Good luck!

    • Oh god, it sounds like you have my luck with men! I’m so sorry!! :-) Luckily I’ve got a good one now and hope you do too!

    • Gawd, why did you marry this d-bag?????
      I know it’s not helpful incite after the fact… but I’d have strangled my SO if he said anything at all like that. He knows not to even mention PMS when I have PMS (I feel like Modern Family did a great job of explaining this on the leap year episode).
      Is this dude still living and dating other ladies, if so, we could totally arrange a corporette intervention. ;-p

      • Thanks CA atty and Esquared! It’s been years now, but I still wonder what would have happened if I had not changed my diss halfway through because he was homesick and lost a year or two to trying to help him deal with his depression and then dealing with my own when he sailed out free as a bird–just a couple months before a grant for diss research in his home country came through!

        I clearly have no clue how to pick a life partner and have already told my 9-yr-old son as much, hoping that the instruction before the onset of teenage hormones will lead him to go much more slowly than his mama did in all these things!

  34. I think the timing of the prenup request from OP’s fiance is troubling, but it could be due to number of factors (a friend’s divorce, family pressure, etc. as other’s have mentioned). That being said, if the terms are fair to the OP, I think a prenup is a great idea. I’ve seen too many women get screwed over by a divorce (my own mother included) and always swore that no matter what, I’d get one and I did.

    Neither my huband nor I have a ton of assets to protect, but having an agreement in writing as to how our property ought to be managed in the event of divorce, decided by us and not the state we happen to be living in, gives us peace of mind. I don’t think most people getting married intend to divorce, we certainly don’t, but life happens.

    While I found the initial conversations about the prenup and the questions it raised uncomfortable at the time, I appreciate the communication that took place and I now feel an enormous sense of relief and can simply put aside and not think about the issues in the prenup. I have preemtively exerted control over a situation that someday, I may not have control over. Moreover, our prenup has a disability clause that makes our expectations not only to each other, but to our families, should we ever be incapacitated and our wishes in dispute.

    A well thought out, fair, prenup can help more than it can hurt. As poster Associate said, it’s a lot like life insurance – you’re not getting ready for your marriage to die, but you’re prepared if it does and there’s, at least for me, security in that.

  35. I wouldn’t marry anyone who I couldn’t trust to act in a civil manner in the event of a divorce, absent a pre-nup, and I therefore would never sign a pre-nup. I am divorced, and when I divorced I basically took my clothes and let my then-husband have everything. House. Bank accounts. Expensive furniture and furnishings.

    Money is money. You can make more. Five years later I don’t have nearly as nice a home as I left him with but my self-respect and taking the high road is much more important.

    • Yes, but humans make mistakes and one of those mistakes is in judgment– deciding that person X is always trustworthy and civil and will remain so once the sh!t hits the fan.

      It sounds like your walking away from it all is more a denial– refusal to admit you were wrong about a person, and cutting your nose off to spite your face.

    • It sounds like you were really strong. But I would never say someone protecting what is important to them (or their children from a prior marriage) through mutally agreed legal terms as being any less of a form of self-respect. Women shouldn’t need to cause themselves undue financial hardship to be on that “high road” you speak of.

      • Your last line rings true because divorce pushes many women into the poverty ranks. It has adverse consequences especially if children are involved. I don’t believe in making yourself a martyr if you can help it. Asking for fair treatment is the least you can do.

    • Yes, but once they’re not in love with you any more, you have no idea who they’ll be trying to please. And how they’ll feel about you, and your children. Your mother in law may come to hate your guts, your successor may feel everything is due to her. Not to mention he may get run over by a bus and you may have to slug it out with his evil brother. Just saying that the person you trust and think you know may 1) not be like that when push comes to shove 2) change 3) fall under evil influences 4) not be able to protect you.

      Not everybody can just make more money. If you’d had 3 kids, or a bad car accident, you sure wouldn’t be saying this about the high road.

  36. Anonymous :

    I feel for Reader C. When I got married, I was considering law school (for public interest law, which I now practice) and my guy was in finance (he’s now shifted to another field). I would have been shocked had he suggested a prenup, and I’m pretty sure it would have been a dealbreaker for me.

    That said, we all need different things to feel secure. Money was a control issue in my parents’ marriage, so I have always insisted that we each have small personal bank accounts on the side. Honestly, I’ve never used mine, but it makes me feel good to know I have money to spend on whatever I want or need without asking anyone. (I wouldn’t feel the same way about our shared account, which we use for everyday expenses like mortgage, childcare, and groceries.)

    Divorce would be such a big deal for my husband and me that I hardly think that anything could “make it easier.” On the other hand, why plan for something that won’t happen?

    • “On the other hand, why plan for something that won’t happen?”

      Do you have health insurance? Car insurance? Life insurance? Even if you don’t like those analogies, prenups also cover what happens if one spouse predeceases the other, it’s not just divorce.

  37. Happy Anon :

    This is timely for me – getting married late this summer and I know fiance and I need a prenup. He has very significant assets and I have law school debt. It will benefit both of us. Question is, being a lawyer myself, I don’t want to get out-lawyered by his likely very highly paid/high profile attorney (fiance wouldn’t try to screw me/out lawyer me, but his attorney probably would and fiance might be oblivious). I think to be the most fair in this situation, I need to lawyer up too as I don’t know enough about family law to do a competent job. Does anyone have a recommendation for a good family law atty in NYC?

  38. I don’t have one, but I wouldn’t mind one. It’s not DH, it’s DH’s ex-wife (wild spending was a big problem for them and continues to be) and the fact that DH has a child with her. DH and I have children, but if I die first and DH follows (think: car crash), I fear DH’s ex forcing a fight with all of the children that eats up everything we have. Once they’re grown, it’s less of a concern, but while they are young, the roof over their heads isn’t all that secure. [I know a trust can help, but a prenup or postnup wouldn’t be a bad overlay.]

  39. I really don’t understand why people have such a problem with pre-nups. We don’t all have to take everything personally all the time. Sure, some people probably do it out of doubt, but if you know that isn’t you and your spouse, there’s probably another reason.

    Are there really people out there who never feel differently about something five years or ten years down the road from how they felt when they made a big decision? People who never get angry when the feel hurt and lose their ability to act with compassion and rationality, even just for a little while? Can you really have such confidence that neither of you is going to change in a really significant way?

    And once you accept that the decision to get one is a smart recognition of life’s inherent uncertainties (and your own uncertainties about your future self), where is the harm in just protecting yourself and your spouse from an unlikely but possible future feud? It’s not an expression of doubt about your love, and it’s not planning to get divorced — it’s being humble in the face of a universe that does things you cannot predict. It’s kinder to him as well as to yourself.

  40. To be honest I really don’t understand the “everyone should get a prenup” but I’m not sure how a prenup helps in general. So state law splits 50-50. Besides the two situations where one person brings in big assets pre marriage or they are protecting children from a previous marriage, what other arrangement is there besides the 50-50 split? Like when a commentator said oh I would get one if I stayed home with the children. Would that be for something other than 50-50? I guess I don’t understand what another fair arrangment would be.

    • Not every state splits 50/50. Mine requires an equitable split, but not 50/50.

      In a situation where one spouse became a stay-at-home parent (or just a lower earning spouse taking a largely supportive role), yes, I think it would be reasonable to ask for more than 50-50. As one spouse has sacrificed his/her career to support the family’s choices, you may agree to a 50-50 split of all assets + x number years of maintenance in order to allow the stay-at-home spouse to get additional education and re-enter the workplace, etc. And/or that the stay-at-home spouse gets to keep the primary residence and the higher earning spouse has to pay the mortgage. It all depends on the numbers involved (length of marriage, value of assets, etc.)

      You may also agree to something other than a 50/50 split when one spouse has significant non-marital property, based on the theory that the spouse with separate assets would have the means to support herself comfortably independently, so the other spouse should get more of the assets or assigned less of the marital debts, etc. I believe there are many fair ways to divide property other than 50/50. In fact, I think there are plenty of circumstances where 50/50 isn’t fair to the lower earning spouse.

      • This. Even a 50/50 split only involves marital assets acquired during time of marriage. So if you are married 10 years, you split what is earned in those ten years, but if you don’t work or you make substantially less and your husband has been building his career up this whole time, while yours sat on the back burner, where does that leave you?

        I have a friend in this position. She stayed home with 2 kids, he worked. They have a house that is now worth less than the mortgage. Splitting all their assetts 50/50 leaves her unable to pay the mortgage or forces them to sell at a loss, and once the mortgage is paid off, there’s nothing left. So she has to move the kids out of their home, and she will not get very far on the child support. Because she is relatively young and they’ve been married a little less than ten years, she does not get any long term maintenance. Basically ends up with a couple of years “rehabilitative” support. Meanwhile, she had a great career before they got married that she gave up and it was in an industry where being up to date matters. And now what?

      • The problem is that those things (what is an equitable split) are going to be addressed in the standard law anyway, and they are really, really circumstance dependant. You can’t know what the circumstances would be when you split up, so it’s probably not going to do any good to try to put specific numbers on it (percentages that one person would get, years of support, etc.) before the marriage has even happened. I understand wanting to be practical, but I just don’t think that you’re going to actually get there.

        • Anonymous :

          This wasn’t really an argument for a prenup – just an explanation as to fair arrangements other than a 50/50 split. That said, you can’t plan for everything, and there will always be beaucoup lawyers where there is beaucoup money, but a prenup can mitigate some x factors involved. If I move from an equitable division state to a 50/50 state as the lower earning spouse, I might be harmed by the change.

  41. Reader C, you are not being ridiculous. I think it’s a really big deal, and I think you have a very significant decision to make. Trust your instincts.

  42. My husband and I have a prenup. When we got married he had been a practicing lawyer for about 6 years and I was finishing up my last year of law school. Husband has significant assets because both of his parents had already passed away; I have an interest in my dad’s company that has potential to be worth some money down the road. Husband said he wanted a prenup before we even got engaged.

    I like to think of the whole experience as really expensive marriage counseling. At the end of the day, I don’t think it was that necessary for us because we barely changed state law at all. It was a total PITA on so many levels: my attorney wouldn’t listen to what I wanted, the process is the only time my husband and I have ever fought, and it was so awful to be dealing with my fiance as an *adversary* while we were negotiating it. But I think they are really valuable because of the conversations they force you to have. There’s nothing like the financial document dump that’s required for the prenup to make everyone come clean about their financial history and get on the same page about planning for your financial future as a couple. If you can’t handle this conversation…you’re not ready to get married.

    That timing is really awful though. You could spend 6 weeks trying to find good representation! It probably took us a good month going back and forth to finalize all the details in ours. The letter writer should talk to her finace and get him to be honest about why he wants a prenup, and why now.

  43. You don’t plan on crashing your car into a tree, but you buy insurance and wear a seatbelt. Same deal.
    My fiance and I don’t have a pre-nup yet, but we want one. We’ve been together for over 6 years, and I can’t imagine my life without him.
    But… in the event that something ever goes wrong (and you can’t predict the future), I do want the divorce to be fair. He’s in biglaw, and I’m in marketing, so you can guess the gap in salary. Plus, he clearly has the advantage of knowing more about law.
    Pre-nups (or possibly a post-nup, if we end up being like Kat), just lay the groundwork for a fair divorce. He’s even encouraging me to find my own lawyer to represent my end (which he’d split with me, since he doesn’t need to hire one), and I find that oddly romantic that he cares about protecting my future self.

  44. I know two people who almost lost their pre-relationship property in relationship breakdowns. In both cases, the exes went after a settlement aggressively causing the other party to either sell their home or up their mortgage to fund a pay-out. In both cases the exes contributed nothing financially to the asset and the property owners were not rich by any means. A pre-nup if you have critical assets like your own home going into a marriage, is sensible I think.

  45. My DH and I have a pre-nup. It wasn’t controversial for us. I inherited money that I wanted to protect, and both of us have parents who went through messy divorces. We took the pre-nup to what some might call an extreme. Whatever we had before the marriage is separate, and even the money we make during the marriage will also remain separate, unless we take certain steps to designate it as marital property. I wanted there to be as few ambiguities as possible if we did decide to split. If one of us has to scale back our careers after we have kids, it’s likely we’ll revisit these terms. I’m a little older than he is, and I met him after I got my degrees and started my career, so I think what we did was fair.

    To everyone here, I suggest that you talk about pre-nups early in the engagement, whether you are inclined to get one or not, so the wedding eve surprise does not happen. Having the discussion should not be unpleasant. The time to take steps to protect each other is before the wedding, when you still love each other, and not if/when you are bitter and hate each other.

    Because so many marriages end in divorce, I don’t think anyone should question people’s motives for wanting a pre-nup. If your fiance has or makes more money than you do, and you think he is unloving or distrustful or disloyal for wanting a prenup, then I think you should ask yourself whether you might actually want to marry him for his money.

  46. Talk, talk, talk about it! :

    I have always said when asked that the most important part of the pre-nup is the discussion of expectations and that you should have the discussion whether you sign the pre-nup or not and lay out those expectations, and shared ( hopefully) desires for your life together. I have a pre-nup, I am ashamed to say that I brought it up perilously close to the wedding date (after serious pressure from my family) and it was easier than planning the wedding itself because we had already talked and talked about what sort of a future we were planning so it was really just putting down on paper what we had already discussed. My husband was very gracious about the whole thing and I consider it a very tangible symbol of our respect for each other that we “put it in writing”.

    That was my second marriage. My first marriage also had a pre-nup at my first husband’s insistence as he was older, had two children, and had been through a nasty divorce. That pre-nup was difficult to discuss. In the end, I signed it, against advice from my separate counsel because it would not cover me in the event we had children and I quit working. The divorce was a mess, but it would have been a lot messier without that pre-nup because he tried to come after my separate assets and the pre-nup shut that down fast. I shudder to think what would have happened had we not had a pre-nup.

    I am a lawyer now and here’s what I’ve learned from negotiation lots of contracts since then:
    1) you only need the contract when you NEED the contract, i.e. when things go horribly wrong, and
    2) As goes the negotiation, so goes the relationship, i.e. if you are having difficulty talking and coming to a mutual understanding before you get into the relationship, then you are going to have difficulty talking and coming to any understanding after you get in the relationship. consider that carefully before you get into any relationship.

    It doesn’t matter whether the relationship is a supplier agreement, a services contract, or a marriage.

  47. I suggest checking out A Practical Wedding. Hands down, best wedding website ever. The only one I still read after getting married 2 years ago. They have this post on pre-nups that may be interesting to you:

    Check it out. I have no advice but to point you to a bunch of wise women.

  48. Dear OP:

    Having skimmed the comments, it seems that very few address your questions about whether you are being ridiculous or freaking out. My answer: not at all. This is a hurtful, surprising and unnecessary thing for him to do maybe ever, especially at this time. You are utterly normal to feel upset by it. I don’t agree with all the people telling you to get a lawyer. I would ask him first what’s driving the issue exactly, and tell him it makes you feel uncomfortable since you’ve had such a good long relationship and look forward to a beautiful future together. Tell him you want to focus on the weeks leading up to your wedding, your love for each other, and positive things. That if there is a particular issue at heart stressing him out, you are willing to work through it and put pen to paper after the wedding.

    I agree with others who have said each party brings intangibles at differnet times, and no agreement can capture/predict it all. One thing if he was megarich and you were a penniless golddigger without a job- but this isn’t that situation. My spouse and I are lawyers- we didn’t even get into it as we new our state law would split things if something happened but moreover: were highly excited to be together, don’t plan to divorce, and still don’t. Life’s too short too spend time on stuff like this unless there is a serious reason to do so.

    Good luck and hope things smooth out soon.

  49. CA Attorney – I got married toward the end of my 3rd year of law school. I had student loan debt [it was 34 years ago, so not nearly as high as more recent grads], and my income was going to at least start out substantially lower that my husband’s. He wasn’t rich, but had assets, I didn’t.

    I proposed, we were getting married in 2 weeks, I wanted on a pre-nup. Met with a very nice, non-confrontational battle-ax family lawyer, and I insisted on a cockamamie formula – I would be responsible for paying off all of my student loans; we would each contribute to our living expenses in proportion to our relative incomes. The pre-nup also had a schedule attached of what property each of us brought to the marriage, and that it would remain our separate property, unless we we agreed otherwise during the course of the marriage.

    When I got my first paycheck, we sat down with all of our monthly bills spread around, and did the math. My meager net income didn’t begin to cover my student loans and my % share of our expenses.

    Of course, he didn’t force me to abide by an agreement I couldn’t have carried out. We got to a point where our incomes were about even, then in much later years, his had decreased while mine increases. Mind you, neither of us was ever bringing in a huge income. We also weren’t keeping score along the way. We did make wills not long after we married.

    Ours was a long and incredibly happy and mutually supportive marriage (he died 2.5 years ago). True, we didn’t have children from previous relationships or with each other.
    I had great love and trust and respect for my last husband, and he for me, and mostly I wanted to take responsibility for my own obligations that pre-dated our relationship.

    To those of you who think that young couples without lots of assets who are just starting out don’t need/shouldn’t have a pre-nup: Your marriage may work, it may fail, if you don’t believe in divorce, your SO may walk out on you anyway and not provide for you in any way. You think it would be important when kids come along or jobs change or other financial changes happen. There will always be pressures that make it inconvenient to work on a post-nup, and then you might find your self in that surprised position, where you have the liabilities, responsibilities, less income because you were more supportive in ways other than financially, he dissipated assets, incurred debts etc., – one or all of the above. Your life will be wrecked. Yeah, you can hold your head up and feel that you’ve been the honorable one, but you’re still stuck.

    So, when you’re young, you don’t know what’s going to happen along the way, and there’s no better time to plan and have an agreement than when you’re both in love, positive, and wouldn’t want to hurt the other.

    Disclosure: I’m jaded, having had 3 earlier marriages, all failed, mostly no money issues [ #1 and #2 neither of us had enough to fight over]; #3 had assets I didn’t know about, he was very secretive, vigorously opposed any motions for support, accused me in his court pleadings of being a card-carrying member of NOW !!! etc. I didn’t get anything except some of my clothes and my own furniture, the latter mostly the worse for intentional wear and tear he’d done before he grudgingly and under legal pressure from his and my lawyers to return them to me. After that, I had never planned to marry again.

    Sorry for the autobio and long post, but this really strikes a chord.

  50. Seattle Lawyer Mom :

    I would not have signed a prenup. I think it depends on how you view marriage, and that is a very personal choice so no one can decide for you. If you truly believe that you will stay married to this person no matter what, then you don’t need a pre-nup. If you think well I’d really like to stay married but who knows, life is uncertain, then you should think about one.

  51. I don’t have a prenup w/my DH, and I don’t think either of us would have considered it at the time.
    Were I to do it all over again with what I know now (I’m in law school), I would totally do it, with a provision to revisit the agreement after a certain amount of time and/or in the event that we had kids.
    I recommend that the OP check out this article:

  52. Slightly off topic, but illustrative. My parents had an arranged (technically semi-arranged since they met several times and approved it) marriage. My Dad was in the U.S. and is a few years older than my mom – and was making bank (for the 70s) as an executive at a big engineering firm. My Mom was India, was accepted to a U.S. residency, but had no other assets. She had a several month gap between moving and the start of residency and had no skills other than a then-useless M.D. should anything happen. She’s also, bless her, a total princess, who never paid a bill, balanced a checkbook, or boiled a pot of water. Different culture, different time, but very similar to the two-professional relationships many of us are in now.

    So after they got married my Dad handed my Mom a fairly large amount of money (certainly enough to support her for some time), and told her to open her own bank account, give him absolutely zero access, and make sure she would always have financial independence from him and could leave anytime she wanted to. Note, divorce is very much not an option in our religion, and there is only one family member who has in the history of this giant and large family ever gotten a divorce (ironically a cousin living in India who spent his life sniffing in disdain at his liberal, spoiled, American and British cousins who have dated and married throughout the rainbow). My Dad isn’t a lawyer, but apparently at some point, and at his insistence, they had a post-nup agreement while my Mom was earning very little when she off ramped to be home more with me and my brother. Dad also taught Mom about money management (and for that matter housecleaning, though they almost always have had household help) – so that she could support herself if need be someday.

    My parents share everything (banking, house)- with two exceptions. After 35+ years of marriage, my father still insists that my mother have some of her own money, just in case, which is sacred and he will never touch. It may be sexist (and at many times my M.D. specialist mother made a good deal more than my father), but my Dad believes that women, particularly women with children, no matter how educated are usually in a weaker financial position when things go wrong. The other exception is the business – while my Mom is a shareholder and will inherit his shares upon his death, my Dad always kept the business finances separate, did not invest marital savings (he started it with a golden parachute) and would not put the house up for any business loans or lines of credit because he never wanted to put his family at risk.

    My parents actually have the best marriage I’ve ever seen, even better than my own very happy marriage. They are partners in every way – they both made sacrifices for each other’s careers. They’ve both played the corporate spouse. They’ve both built financial wealth – but more importantly they’ve done good. Their kids are done grad school and have careers. And they are the two most in love, romantic, silly, disgustingly cute people you will ever meet (and yeah, I did need some brain bleach after I figured out what my parents deep into their 60s did – just eww :p). They’re both still working (they love their professions), but they are more romantic and in love now than when they were first married. Or, as my Dad says, your 60s are like your 20s, just way better with less responsibilities and more money.

    YMMV, but an extremely practical stance on planning served them well.

    • In the event you’re following up on this thread–thanks for sharing such a sweet story.

  53. I have a pre-nup, and I’m the one who brought it up with my now husband. He said he was fine with it and didn’t view it as hurtful (hopefully he was telling me the truth). That said, I broached the subject early in our engagement, but both my husband and I are attorneys and are well-acquainted with the concept. It is possible that your fiance didn’t mention it previously because it didn’t occur to him until later on, given that this is not something he deals with on a regular basis.

    Like Kat and some of the other commenters, our pre-nup essentially mirrors our State’s current laws, with few exceptions for inheritance and monetary gifts from parents. Personally, I have no emotional response to the subject of pre-nups, but that may be a result of my own life experience. Both of my parents have been married and divorced multiple times. The same is true for my husband. I view it as an insurance policy. I hope I never have to use it, but I like knowing its there.

  54. Well, I must say I’m very heartened to see that such a concentration of lawyers is on the whole supporting the need for a prenup :-). The worst cases I’ve ever seen of people doing absolutely horrible things to each other in a separation has been.. lawyers, playing badly-shod cobblers to the bitter end.

    My own experience (not a lawyer, not with a lawyer) has been financially devasting once, I think mostly because I was not married, and so the thought of a contract didn’t even cross my screen as I jeopardized my entire financial future for the person I trusted. Wrongly. Don’t do as I did :-).

  55. For Reader C :

    I just saw that you posted this same question to Carolyn Hax. I hope you find a good answer.