Friday, September 24, 2010

Are You and Your Fiancee Working From The Same Blueprint? The Pre-Nup Conversation as Marriage Insurance

Over at Gitlin Law Blog, Illinois family law attorney Joe Gitlin muses that marriages break down when (to use a metaphor which dates both him and me) the spouses aren't "building from the same blueprint".

This is consistent with my take: the crux of the decision to divorce isn't usually specifically about money, or sex, or intimacy, it's that moment, a year, a decade, four decades into the marriage, when one spouse says "This ISN'T the deal I thought I signed on for!"

I consult with folks frequently about whether they need, or want, a pre-marital agreement. The first part of that conversation explores whether the client, and the spouse-to-be, have ever talked seriously about the sorts of things that a pre-marital agreement might address: who's going to control the money? Are both spouses going to have accounts for "their own" money, and a joint "pot" out of which they'll pay joint expenses? Is the plan that one spouse will work, and the other will be a stay-at-home parent for a number of years? If one owns a house, what's the other's expectation as to what's going to happen with that house after the marriage?

Even if folks are okay with the "off-the-shelf" marriage contract, if they understand it, and each understands in advance what the other's expectations are, the chances that they'll manage a lasting marriage are increased.

With all respect to my friends in the floral, couture, and catering industries, marriage planning's less romantic, but more important than wedding planning, and almost nothing is less romantic than divorce court...

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