Three Ways to Ask for A Prenup

June 6, 2024 O'Connor Family Law Divorce

First of all, congratulations! If you’re reading this post, chances are you or someone you know is getting married and that’s an exciting life change! Your fiancé got down on one knee and expressed enduring love and commitment with a gorgeous engagement ring. How romantic! And then they dropped the “P”  bomb — that’s right, they want a prenuptial agreement, commonly known as a “prenup.” Okay, not to be the party pooper here, but as a family law attorney, I have to be the one to say it: divorce can happen to anyone, even couples who are madly in love. It’s easy to be swept up in the excitement and ready to promise the world. Truthfully, I think that most couples are approaching prenups all wrong. A prenup isn’t about divorce – it’s about honest communication, which is the foundation of every strong relationship. Think about it: if a couple can’t get on the same page about a hypothetical right now, when they are experiencing one of the most exciting times of their lives, they’re likely to run into a lot more difficulty than that throughout the course of their marriage. To me, the best relationships are the ones where each person can be real with both themselves and their partners and allow for each member of the marriage to grow. You may, throughout the course of your lives together, realize that you have grown in different directions or your goals in life have simply changed in ways that aren’t compatible with your partner’s lifestyle. In recognizing that possibility, talking about prenups with your partner is an extremely valuable step that you can take to ensure that no matter where your paths take you, you and the person that you love are able to live life to the fullest.

With more open communication across social media platforms, talking about prenups is becoming less taboo, and that’s a good thing! Again, a prenuptial agreement doesn’t mean that anyone is expecting a divorce. In fact, it often means that spouses are open with each other and committed to ensuring that both partners are afforded a good future. According to a Harris Poll conducted by Axios in 2023, Millennial and Gen Z couples are embracing prenups. Fifty percent of adults are open to signing one.  And it just makes sense. Couples are also marrying later in life and have more assets to consider. When you’ve spent decades of your life building something up, it can be difficult to determine what rights each partner has as you merge your lives. Having these discussions prior to the marriage or even during the marriage (postnups are a thing too, you know!) can help create a strong foundation for a stable relationship. Many millennials and Gen Z kids are the product of divorce, so they have an innate understanding of how prenups can minimize the difficulty of an already difficult legal process. Even though the prenup conversation is becoming more commonplace, it can still be tough to start. Here are some suggestions to get you started on having that discussion with your beloved.

Express Your Love But Include Your Real-Life Experiences

It is difficult to talk about the day when you may fall out of love. We all want to believe that our love will last forever. One possible way to bring up a prenup is presenting it as a testament to the fact that you deeply care about your partner. Being engaged is often the time when you love your partner the most you ever have, so why not draft an agreement when you are coming from a loving place, and you each want the other to be given the opportunity to live a fulfilling life, even if you aren’t together at some point in life?

If personal experiences have contributed to your desire for a prenup, share those with your partner and explain the impact that they have had on how you navigate relationships.  If you were a child of divorce – like millions of others in the United States – drawing on your personal experiences can focus the prenup discussion on healing past hurts and wounds rather than creating an expectation for future ones. Saying something like “I’ve experienced the pain of divorce first-hand. I don’t want either of us, or our potential children, to experience that pain. That’s why I want to make sure that if we ever had to go through that process, it could be as painless as possible” may be a good place to start. You may find that your soon-to-be spouse also has experiences to share. When approached with grace, prenup discussions can be a source of healing for both partners.

Frame It as Financial Planning

Disagreements about money are one of the most common reasons that marriages fail, so being on the same page about money can never hurt. When parties cannot agree on (much less talk about) money, that’s a huge impediment to a successful and happy marriage. One way to discuss a prenup is to frame it as financial planning. It’s an opportunity to be transparent about money and to talk about each party’s financial expectations for the future. Prenups can be a valuable tool for understanding your financial position as a couple, and fit well into larger financial planning discussions such as where both of you expect your career paths to take you, what kind of home or homes you hope to work towards, and what kind of lifestyle you both want to live.

Focus on the Positives

Many positives can come out of a frank and honest discussion about entering into a prenup. Transparency, clarity, communication and fairness can all continue to be developed throughout your conversation. If you’re honest, you’ll realize that all through your future married life, difficult issues and difficult discussions will need to be addressed, such as how to raise a child with a learning disability or a mental illness, how to financially work through a job layoff, or how to care for aging parents. The sooner that you, as a couple, develop the communication skills to have difficult conversations, the stronger your marriage will be. This can be the first (or maybe fifth, tenth, or fiftieth) step to creating the open channels of communication that allow relationships to thrive.

What If My Partner Gets Defensive When I Bring Up a Prenup?

We all have preconceived notions about certain words. Because prenups can get a bad reputation for being associated with divorce and family law, some partners might enter a prenup conversation defensively. Try to find a safe, quiet space to talk to your partner about a prenup. Consider the timing in their lives as well. Are they extra stressed about work? Do they have other pressing needs that might keep them from giving you their full attention and care? Consider all of the things that might be contributing to your partner’s mental state in the moment and try to find a time and space that will allow them the best chance to meet you with an open mind. If you begin the conversation and realize that they’re not in a good headspace or the conversation is turning tense, it’s okay to take a step back and let them know that it might be better to revisit the issue at a later date.

Understanding a Massachusetts Prenuptial Agreement 

If you and your partner agree to enter into a prenup, there are several factors to be aware of. A prenuptial agreement typically lays out the property division of the partners in the event of divorce. The reasons for a prenup may include:

  • To protect assets for children from previous relationships
  • To set out the method for dividing premarital assets
  • To protect an individual’s inheritance or interest in a trust
  • To protect a person’s interest in a business or professional practice
  • To reduce costly litigation in the event of a divorce
  • To specify the method for dividing premarital debts

Massachusetts has certain legal requirements for a prenup to be valid, and if these requirements are not met, the judge will likely rule the prenup unenforceable. 

  • The prenuptial agreement must be reasonable and fair both at the time that the parties sign the contract and at the time of the judgment of divorce. 
  • The contract should detail the division of assets and whether property will be deemed separate or marital property in the event of divorce.
  • A prenup must also contain a full disclosure of property owned by both parties. 

Verbal contracts, including spoken prenuptial agreements, are not valid in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  In order to obtain a valid and enforceable prenuptial agreement, you will want to make sure that it adheres to certain rules. If one party challenges the validity of a prenup during a divorce, then a judge will look to several factors to determine whether it was reasonable and fair at the time that it was signed, including:

  • If both parties voluntarily sign the agreement without coercion
  • If both parties review the agreement, consulted with an attorney, and/or negotiated conditions before signing
  • If both parties had legal representation
  • If both parties completely and truthfully disclosed all assets and liabilities to each other

A prenup may also be deemed unenforceable if it contains illegal provisions. A prenup cannot limit or waive child support obligations, as child support is meant to take care of the child— not the parents.

Additionally, be careful of lifestyle clauses that limit a spouse’s right to property or alimony if they drink too much, gain weight, or involve some other “lifestyle” issues.  Massachusetts courts may be hesitant to enforce these types of clauses.

Contact a Hanover or Westborough Family Law Lawyer

Prenuptial agreements can be complex. To ensure that your prenup will protect both you and your spouse, contact a Hanover or Westborough Family Law lawyer today. Our prenuptial agreement attorneys will ensure that your agreements are comprehensive and legally sound. We will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and work collaboratively to develop a prenuptial agreement that meets your unique needs.

Contact us today at 774-314-4725.

About the Author

Hanover Prenuptial Agreement Attorney Lauren Brescia

Westborough Prenuptial Agreement Attorney Lauren Brescia is passionate about helping families and couples follow their best path forward in life. She loves helping newlyweds and engaged couples craft the perfect prenuptial agreement because she believes that planning for the future and protecting a couple’s future is the best wedding gift someone could get!

Here at O’Connor Family Law, 100% of our attorneys have personal or familial experience with family law issues which means that we understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes.