My previous article “you want a prenup?? why?? don’t you trust me? talked about some of the reasons for a prenup, as well as the many decisions that a couple can include in their prenup.
But what happens when one person presents the other party with a one-sided pre-written prenup and asks him or her to sign it?
A former client of mine, let’s call her Sarah, called me one day saying that her fiance had presented her with such a document, and that she wasthrown into such a state of despair that she was wondering whether she should still go forward with the wedding. Sarah and her fiance, Bruce, came into my office with a copy of that prenup. We went over it together, and Sarah pointed out at each step that either she did not understand what he meant or that she felt put in a very scary position and totally discounted as his future wife.
Bruce voiced that he wanted to make sure that Sarah was comfortable and admitted that he had not realized that this prenup, written by his attorney, would affect her so deeply. He was now open to further discussion in the mediation process.
I told them that this meeting should be an opportunity for both of them to have a voice and to express their needs. Bruce was all ears, and Sarah was able to explain why she was upset and felt so disempowered.
They spoke about the details of the prenup but also about the roles as husband and wife each wanted to have in their relationship going forward. They wanted to share responsibilities during their life together as well as in their home, dealing with their bills and their finances. They even touched upon their future role as co-parents.
The process opened up a whole dialogue for them, which they clearly expressed to me, was very enlightening and helpful. They also were now more at ease discussing things openly with each other than when they first came in.
The more important issues that were addressed included:
- In the case of divorce, what would happen with property owned by each of them before the marriage?
- Circumstances under which spousal maintenance would be paid;
- Sharing of their respective earnings during the marriage;
- How they would each take care of some of their bills; and
- Putting a portion of their income into savings and what extraordinary expenses the savings could be used for.
The wording of the original prenup was substantially modified to satisfy both Sarah and Bruce. They each had it reviewed by their own attorney and went on to dance happily down the aisle!
I recently ran into Sarah. She expressed how helpful the two mediation sessions had been for both of them and that it had even opened up a new way of communicating!
If you feel that you are not able to express your needs and concerns or to open up to your partner or someone else with whom you are close, you might want to consider mediation. Please feel free to give me a call. I may be able to help you.
jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator
divorce and family mediation
upper east side of manhattan (nyc)
new york, ny