How to Create a Premarital Agreement that Paves the Path for a Happy Marriage

I recently read an article in the Huffington Post that cited 12 Happy Marriage Tips From the 2010 Smart Marriage Conference.  I would like to add a 13th tip- Take time to talk about your future and consider creating a premarital agreement.

From my experience as a divorce attorney for the past 32 years and the time I spent doing pre-marital counseling for couples who wanted to be married in the Catholic church, it became clear to me that couples planning to marry (both young and old) had talked little, if at all, about the very matters that often lead to conflict and divorce.  They had not discussed their views of money, sex, the number of children they would have or not have, whether one or both would work, whether they would have one checking account or two separate accounts, how important religious or other cultural differences might be, and so forth.  In short, expectations for their relationship were presumed rather than explored, expressed and resolved.

More often than not, couples are extremely uncomfortable having these conversations, saying they are unromantic or privately fearing that having such discussions might end their relationship.  Yet with a divorce rate of 50% or more, these unspoken and differing expectations of what life together would look like are often the very source of conflict and divorce.  Here are some suggestions that may be helpful to you in raising the subject of a premarital agreement with your fiancé in a positive way:

Rule #1:  Start the conversation early: Do not wait until three months before the wedding to raise the subject; six months to a year prior is not too soon.  Avoiding this discussion will result in unnecessary stress and insufficient time to create a custom agreement that carefully addresses each of your short and long term needs and interests.  Entering into such an agreement right before the wedding also creates the risk of having the agreement invalidated by a court if challenged.

Rule #2:  Focus on what you both want: The goal of your discussion is persuasion and consensus building, not force.

•  Start by telling your fiancé how much you value your future together and how important you feel it is to you to create a joint vision of what your lives together will look like.
•  Communicate how the process of creating a shared vision for your life together can provide clarity and avoid future misunderstandings that could lead to the breakdown of your marriage.

Rule #3:  Choose the right process: Research your options for creating a premarital agreement. Give consideration to a consensus building process called collaborative law. To learn more about the collaborative law process and its usefulness in arriving at agreements, read our Collaborative Law brochure.

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