Learn To Love The Prenup


Signing on this dotted line could safeguard your financial future.

Ditto for women who've worked to put a spouse through school, another common situation where a prenup can add fairness that's not currently built into the legal system. Back when spousal support—a.k.a. alimony—was standard, this might have been unnecessary. But in today's climate, a woman who has financed her husband's eight years of medical school, only to have him leave her two years after graduation, could easily be denied any compensation by the courts.

And prenups increasingly are being used to steer a more sane course for those who, instead of children, have pets dear to their hearts. While the state courts keep a firm grip on child-custody and support matters, pets are another matter. Ditto for their vet bills, vaccines, visitations, and more other particulars than anyone who isn't a lawyer can imagine. After A Breakup Who Gets The Dog?

A carefully crafted, fair, and balanced prenup can take care of lots of things the courts of various states won't, so if it only costs a few thousand bucks, why not get one? Plenty of people still worry that a prenup, by creating an escape clause, somehow preordains divorce. But isn't that like blaming a safe and well-lit emergency exit for the emergency?

"It's ridiculous," says psychotherapist Janis Altman. "If anyone in this day and age, with the current divorce rate, thinks life isn't going to change them, they're in LaLa land. Really crazy stuff happens, and if they can't handle a piece of paper, how are they going to handle cancer or crazy stepkids or 'I got fired'? It's really about: Life happens—deal with it."

But what about the person on the brink of commitment who says, "Prenup? I'm outta here." "That's not someone you want to marry," Altman maintains. "Because, when that happens, you have to ask yourself what their agenda was in the first place."

Advocates—including a growing chorus of marriage counselors—say that if both parties bring a spirit of honesty and fairness to the table, a prenup can be a good thing for a relationship. As Bob Nachshin and Scott Weston put it in their book, "Marriage, after all, is a give-and-take process, and negotiating differences in the prenuptial agreement is good practice for other issues that will present themselves along the way." Altman is more blunt: "If you can't get through the prenup process together, you probably can't get through a marriage, either."