Prenuptial agreements are becoming increasingly common, especially among entrepreneurs, performers, and people with significant assets. The growth in popularity makes sense: a prenup is a low-risk way to protect yourself, your partner, and your assets from complicated legal battles.
Despite the benefits, many people still hesitate to ask their partners about prenups before they get married. They may think that asking for a prenup implies that they believe the relationship will end. They might worry it makes them seem greedy. It might just seem too complicated to be worth a conversation.
None of these things are true, though. A prenuptial agreement is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for a successful marriage. With a little preparation, having the prenuptial conversation can help you start on the right foot and prevent issues that could harm your relationship. Here’s how to start the conversation and draft a prenup that fits your needs.
Understanding California Prenup Laws
Before discussing a prenup with your partner, it’s important to understand the benefits yourself. So what does a prenuptial agreement accomplish under California law?
The primary goal of these contracts is to set the terms for your marriage. Without one, your rights and obligations within your legal relationship will be dictated by the standards set in the California Family Code. Critically, it means most assets you acquire or create while married will be considered community property. The value of community property must be divided equally during divorce, regardless of who earned it.
You can use your prenup to change this restriction. You can name some or all assets as separate property, not subject to asset division. This is an excellent way to protect businesses, intellectual property, and even family heirlooms from being split in a divorce. Other potential uses for a prenup include:
- Promising or waiving spousal support
- Clarifying who will be responsible for certain debts
- Protecting the inheritance of any current dependents
- Outlining your respective financial responsibilities
You can even use the contract to set lifestyle-specific terms for during your marriage, such as where you want to live or how you want to save for retirement. The only things you can’t include are clauses that violate public policy, such as penalties for filing for divorce and terms that dictate child custody and support.
Approaching the Prenup Conversation With Your Partner
Misconceptions about prenups can make having the conversation difficult. However, a little preparation can help things go more smoothly.
Setting the Right Tone and Timing
Every relationship is different, so there’s no single answer for how to bring up the topic of prenups. The best way to start the conversation will depend on your partner. For example, if they are pragmatic and financially savvy, it might be as simple as mentioning that you want a prenup while wedding planning.
However, if your partner is a romantic at heart, that might be a little abrupt. Instead, schedule a time to discuss your finances and how you’ll blend your households. During this conversation, you can bring up the subject of a prenuptial agreement and how it could help both of you. This approach can help put your partner in the right mindset to consider the issue objectively.
Explaining the Benefits
There’s a common but inaccurate belief that the only people who use prenups are trying to “take everything” in a divorce. That’s not the case. Well-written prenuptial agreements protect both spouses. If a prenup is too one-sided, it may be considered “unconscionable” and unenforceable.
When discussing the matter, make sure you’re prepared to explain how the contract could help your partner, not just yourself. Talk about how you can use the contract to provide mutual protections and ensure you’re both treated fairly during your marriage and potentially afterward.
Preparing for Sensitive Topics
The subjects involved in prenuptial agreements are often sensitive. Depending on your partner’s attitude, you should consider how you’ll prepare for questions about matters like:
- Trust and commitment: Some people view a prenup as a sign that their partner doesn’t trust them or isn’t committed to the relationship. In actuality, these contracts can reinforce trust and commitment because they allow you to set your own terms for your relationship.
- Financial expectations and responsibilities: If your partner is uncomfortable discussing money, they may not want to discuss a prenup. However, finances are among the most commonly cited reasons for divorce. Answering questions about spending and other expectations before you get married can protect your relationship in the long run.
- Fairness and individual interests: Prenups must be considered “conscionable” or reasonably fair to be enforced in California courts. Talk to your partner about how you want to use the contract to protect certain assets while ensuring they have what they need should your marriage end.
Communicating and Celebrating the Decision
If your partner has concerns about a prenup, take the time to talk about them. Prenups are only enforceable when both parties consent to the contract freely and without coercion. If you don’t respect their perspective, you may be unable to draft a binding agreement.
Should you agree to draft a prenup, continue communicating throughout the process. The conversations that arise are often valuable opportunities to reinforce your mutual commitment and love. Remaining open and flexible helps ensure you draft a contract that accomplishes your goals while still honoring your relationship.
Prepare for Your Prenuptial Agreement With Kaspar & Lugay, LLP
Prenups may not appear in the average romantic comedy, but they are an important way to protect your happily-ever-after. Making an effort to protect each other from potential financial complications is a sign of true love and commitment. If you and your partner are ready to take the next step in your relationship, the prenuptial agreement lawyers at Kaspar & Lugay LLP can help. Reach out to our Marin County family law office today to discuss your situation and discover how we can help you draft a fair, thorough, and enforceable prenup.