Marge and Homer are engaged to be married next summer. Marge has been married before, has two children and recently came into a large inheritance. Homer runs a marginally profitable home repair business and owns nothing but a 1997 Ford pickup. The two of them met when Homer fixed her deck last summer. The mutual attraction was immediate. Now that a wedding date is set, however, Marge turns all business and sets an appointment with a lawyer to discuss a prenuptial agreement.
Sound familiar? In an effort to protect herself from a hot, young fiancé who may possibly be nothing but a gold-digger, a wealthy spouse goes to a strident lawyer who drafts an iron-clad agreement ensuring that if said marriage goes south, moneybags walks away with everything while hot young thing remains penniless. Very Hollywood, right?
Most people think that prenuptial agreements are for couples who don’t trust each other, or trust that the marriage will last. They imagine the lawyer as a hardcore negotiator advocating solely for the client’s financial interest. But, prenuptial agreements don’t have to be this way. Hiring a lawyer and drafting a prenup can be a powerful tool for ensuring a loving, lasting marriage where communication about finances is open, and expectations around money are well understood.
In this new way of looking at prenuptials, Marge could hire a lawyer who acts as a facilitator, helping Marge and Homer lay the groundwork for a constructive financial future together, creating a plan that takes care of all of the parties involved – Marge, Homer, Marge’s children, the couple’s future children. In this scenario, good lawyering “depolarizes” the parties’ differences and pursues cooperation with direct communication.
It may be that Marge, with her significant wealth, really wants to take care of Homer into the future even if there is a divorce or death. At the same time, she doesn’t want all of her assets to disappear so that her children receive nothing. It may also be that Marge views Homer as a penniless repairman who can’t manage assets properly and although she loves him madly, she never wants him to touch one dollar of her money. Whatever the case, the good lawyer listens to Marge, addresses assumptions and concerns, and creates a plan that supports the couple and brings them closer together, rather than creating a rift.
If Marge and Homer sit down together and work out the details about how they will handle their finances during the marriage, before they walk down the aisle, they can prevent years of frustration and fighting about money matters. Committing all of that to an agreement solidifies a pattern of honest and open communication about money and can create healthy, lasting marriages.
Robert (Bob) Good has practiced law in Jackson County for twenty four years, specializing in family law, estate planning and business law. Contact him at his Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.