By Amanda Singer
Getting engaged and then married is usually one of the happiest times in a couple’s life. While it differs for everyone, you’re probably focusing on where you’ll get married, what you will wear, your flowers, and your photographer as you prepare for the happy day. The last thing on your mind is probably premarital mediation and/or a premarital agreement (also commonly referred to as a prenup or prenuptial agreement), and before you stop reading because you say “we’ll never get divorced,” read on to understand the importance of premarital mediation and how you can discuss it with your fiancé. Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes (I got engaged and married just last year, and we put together a premarital agreement), and no, this wasn’t the most exciting part of preparing for our wedding, but it was one of the most important parts. Now at the end of the day, I am certainly in a position of seeing people get divorced all day long and want to make sure that my husband and I never end up there. However, I know there’s no guarantee of what the future looks like, and if we ended up getting divorced, I wanted to make sure we didn’t end up in an all-out legal battle that can tear families apart. I also know how important it is to talk about so many important things before you get married and not when you’re five years in and realize that your spouse wanted kids. Still, they actually don’t want to participate equally in parenting. Here are some things to keep in mind as you think about premarital mediation and how to discuss it with your fiancé.
First and foremost, premarital mediation and premarital agreements aren’t just for those who either “don’t trust their fiancé” or “have a lot of money to protect.” Premarital mediation is about establishing a solid foundation of communication, trust, and honesty with your soon-to-be spouse. Too many people don’t discuss the important topics with their spouse before they get married and then struggle with figuring out how to communicate about their needs, finances, children, etc. There’s no way around it. Marriage is hard, and it’s also wonderful, and to get through the hard times and appreciate the wonderful times, you need to have a strong foundation to build on and know that the second things get tough, one of you isn’t going to run away.
Oftentimes people come to me and say, well, why would we put together a premarital agreement? We don’t have any money, and I trust my fiancé that we will get along during that process if we divorce. The fact of the matter is premarital mediation doesn’t even need to include a premarital agreement. It can just be about establishing communication and discussing how you want to handle things while you’re married. For example, are you going to combine your finances and bank accounts completely, or will you keep your own separate accounts? How are you going to pay for things? Will that change whether you have children? Are you going to have children? In many religions, premarital counseling is a requirement for a religious leader to marry you. Honestly, I think it should be required for anyone wishing to get a marriage license. I can’t tell you how many times people say to me that it was so easy to get married, but it’s hard to get divorced. When I work with a couple in premarital mediation, it’s first and foremost about making sure that they’ve had conversations and started the discussion on the hard topics and questions above and many more. If they have these conversations now and can understand what the other person wants and what their expectations are, it makes everyone happier and the relationship stronger. Additionally, learning positive conflict resolution skills means that in the future, when you do hit those hard times, and you’re arguing, you know to work through the situations positively.
Now you might be thinking that premarital mediation would be a great idea for you and your future spouse and wonder, how am I going to get my fiancé on board with this? We understand that these aren’t the exciting conversations that you thought you’d be having as you lead up to your wedding and are here to help with that. It’s important to be open and honest with your fiancé about why you’re thinking about premarital mediation. Share the information you’ve found and why you think it would be good for you guys. It can help bring it up when they can think about it, and you have the time before getting married to do it. I usually meet with couples anywhere from one to four times to discuss the various areas and then either provide them with a summary or draft an actual premarital agreement. If we’re drafting an actual agreement, certain time restraints are important to be aware of. No matter what, though, you don’t want to feel like you’re rushed through the process and also want to allow your fiancé time to come to terms with the idea, especially if it’s the first that they hear of it. Also, know that they may not react positively the first time you bring it up with them. Especially if they automatically think you’re talking about a prenup, they may associate that with negative connotations of the spouse who only asks for a prenup to protect all of their money.
It can be much much easier to approach your fiancé about working with a mediator than saying to them, “so I went and hired an attorney, and they put together a prenup draft that I’m going to send to you and your attorney.” Your mediator will not represent either of you, so they can sit down together with both of you and discuss what you both are actually looking for. Working with a mediator through premarital mediation can also be a better way to discuss with your fiancé whether you guys even want an actual premarital agreement or whether you want to have the discussions that can start your marriage off on the rights foot. Starting with mediation allows you and your fiancé (and not your lawyers) to decide on the terms yourself. You’re getting married, not divorced (and hopefully not in the future), and so the terms of any agreement, if you choose to have one, should reflect mutual love, respect, and caring for each other.
If you are thinking about premarital mediation and want to learn more information to see if it would be the right fit for you, contact us for a free consultation. Call West Coast Family Mediation Center at (858) 736-2411 to schedule today!