How to Prepare for THAT Prenup Conversation

So it’s your wedding day and you’re about to say those two little words. There’s something niggling at the back of your mind that you’ve haven’t got around to organizing… Food? Ordered and paid for. Presents for the in-laws? Check. Prenup? Ah. Oops.

It’s easy to put off important elements of wedding planning that are less fun. I’ll admit I’d much rather go to a cake tasting than talk to my intended about money and what happens in the eventuality that we decide to go our separate ways, and I’m a divorce attorney! I have more uncomfortable conversations with people by 10am than most people have in a month.

You can always do a postnup but let’s be honest, when you’re back from honeymoon and the tan’s starting to fade, it’s easy to get caught up in the stresses of everyday life. From a practical legal standpoint the enforceability of a postnuptial agreement is far more controversial in New York than a prenuptial agreement. And, it’s much wiser to be aware of your partner’s financial habits before getting hitched. If you’ve religiously paid off your credit card in full every month, it can be grating to see that your spouse has racked up thousands in interest thanks to their decision to make minimum payments.

So here’s how to bring up the topic, WITHOUT using the words, “By the way, when we divorce I’m keeping the house, darling.”

  • Be straightforward. Just get to the point. Show your spouse that you’re behaving in a clear-headed and sensible manner about this potentially awkward topic. They’ll respect you all the more for it. Chances are, if they read the papers (or live anywhere other than a cave) they may be having the same thoughts, but were reluctant to bring it up.
  • It’s all about timing. In the middle of a “heated discussion” about finances? Don’t throw the prenup into the mix just right now. Having lunch with the soon-to-be in-laws? Not a chat that Mom and Pop need to be part of. Remember when Carl and Ellie from Up (surely everyone’s favorite romantic movie?) drew up their prenup? Me neither. It’s not generally a conversation that comes up naturally when you’re dazzled with love. Do a little forward planning and set the scene. Plan an occasion when you’re both in a positive frame of mind, when you have the time and energy for an in-depth discussion. You might introduce it by talking about student debts or even your joint savings plan after the wedding.
  • Avoid beginning the conversation with: “I want a prenup.” This is a sensitive subject and must be handled delicately so as to avoid arguments. After all, if you begin the chat by annoying your partner, you’re hardly likely to achieve the outcome you want.
  • Blame me. Remember when you blamed your mom’s broken vase on your (completely innocent) friend? Or when the dog ate your homework? Sometimes it’s easier to take the heat off yourself. Saying that your lawyer recommended a prenup (and it’s completely true – I do!) can make the conversation easier.
  • Remind your partner that ALL marriages end.  It may seem morbid to say it – but all marriages end: either in death or divorce. You don’t hope your spouse will die prematurely but chances are (if you’re responsible) you still had a Will prepared. Why? Because you don’t want the state legislature deciding your property rights when you die and belief you and your partner are in a better position to make those decisions together. A prenup is really no different. Why trust the legislature to decide your rights and obligations if you aren’t fortunate enough to die?  Perhaps remind your spouse that legislators are elected officials and, at present, as a result of the electoral democracy Donald Trump is quite possibly 11 months away from getting the nuclear codes.
  • Reassure your partner. A lot. Let them know that your intention is to protect his or her financial independence, as well as yours. To keep the two of you, as a couple, in control of your finances and property rather than the Courts or the state.
  • Be like a window: transparent. This is the time to be 100 percent honest with your partner. Often our thoughts about prenups have been shaped by our parents’, siblings’ or even friends’ marriages. Share this with your fiancé(e) so they fully understand that this isn’t the final stage of your dastardly plan to acquire all their hard-earned money and possessions. Be honest about what is important to you, and why.
  • Use this as an opportunity to talk about expectations.  In the event the two of you split up you may be surprised at how much you share the same concerns. Who would keep the apartment? How would the one who leaves the apartment pay for movers or a security deposit? This is the kind of stuff you can discuss and include in your prenup. Take the fear of homelessness out of your marital anxieties. If there’s an economic disparity between you and your spouse you’ve got different concerns but they’re born of some of the same sensibilities. If you’re the “monied spouse” you want to know how much you would be “on the hook” for if the two of you split up. Most likely you aren’t suggesting if you break up your partner should be out on the streets eating cat food – but you don’t want him or her to be eating caviar while you’re struggling to pay bills. If you’re the “non-monied spouse” perhaps you want to ensure that it’s okay to sacrifice your career status to raise children or pursue other interests secure in the knowledge that your soon-to-be-spouse is taking care of business. You might not be looking for the marriage equivalent of a “golden parachute” in the event of divorce but you might be looking for some confirmation that you won’t leave the marriage with less than what you have when it started. There is likely room for compromise on these issues and perhaps having a discussion about what you both want and need financially in a marriage partnership is precisely the kind of thing two people considering getting hitched should do!
  • Listen. It’s the best way of avoiding misunderstandings. If people would only use their ears as much as their mouth, the world would be a much happier place, trust me on this! Ask them their opinion, their hopes, and do some research together. Chances are, neither of you have much practical experience with prenups, so you can learn together.
  • Don’t get angry. You might not get the response you want, but it’s important to stay calm. Your partner might not want to hear you. (In which case, it’s time to start working on those communication skills, folks.) They might be insulted that you’d even think of divorce. One the one hand, this is understandable, but it’s time to get real. Forty-five percent of marriages end in divorce. Being prepared is essential, for both of you.
  • Be prepared to try again. So you didn’t get the result you wanted? Don’t give up and hope it all works out for the best. It’s important that your wishes are respected in this relationship too. Allow your partner time to cool off and re-evaluate your points. Consider the services of a mediator to help both of you air your thoughts, without things turning sour.
  • Have faith. If you’re seriously considering marrying this person let me tell you, at the outset, it’s important that you two can have a difficult conversation when necessary. It’s important to have the ability to upset or disappoint your spouse when necessary to honestly express your needs and feelings. Start warming those skills up early before you get hitched. This is as bad a time as any to see that, if you’re doing it right, you can be scared or upset and still be very much in love.  

Financial conversations can be hard when you’re in a relationship, whatever stage you’re at. Bringing up a prenup needs you to have lots of hats on – your sensitive hat, your rational hat, and your honest hat. But the good news is it can be done without causing offense. Better, it can help you build trust and solidify your relationship. If you need it – great, you’re covered. And if not, then you two lovebirds have begun your lives together in the best possible way – by being open and honest about the tricky stuff. It’s win-win. It’s better to have a prenup and not need one than to need a prenup and not have one.  


James J. Sexton

Do You Need a Prenup?

Short answer: Yes!

Long answer: A prenup, or prenuptial agreement if you’re being fancy, is a contract between two people who are getting married. Every prenup is different, but usually it lays out what will happen with regard to property and spousal support if the impending marriage ends in divorce. What exactly is covered and the terms to which clauses are held vary for each couple. Some prenups can even have so-called “sunset provisions” that allow for the prenup to expire after a certain amount of time.

Is it romantic to talk about both wedding invitations and who gets the boat when this relationship bites the dust? No, not particularly. But you live in the real world not a rom-com starring Kate Hudson, so you have to plan for the future. And getting this stuff out of the way when you’re super duper in love is a great idea. The alternative is fighting it out while you’re not particularly fond of each other, with no guarantee your assets will be protected, in what may become a very lengthy divorce battle. By the way, you guys have a boat?! Invite me over, I love boats! 

Prenups are not ironclad decrees that are followed to the letter, but they are a really good foundation to work from during a divorce. It’s recommended both members of the couple have legal representation through the prenup drafting process. By the time you’re both ready to sign, you’ll have a great grasp on all your financials and feel confident knowing you’ve done all you can to protect the interests of future you.

So how do you bring up the whole prenup thing to your fiancée? Calmly and in a businesslike fashion. Also, not at the wedding as the picture above suggests. Explain how practical it is to get this stuff sorted now and emphasize how you’ll laugh about this on your golden wedding anniversary surrounded by a dozen cute grandkids. Does having this conversation sound uncomfortable to you? It shouldn’t. Open and honest communication is the basis of a healthy relationship, so let how you deal with this whopper really solidify how strong your marriage will be.

And, at the risk of sounding unromantic, it’s important to keep in mind a simple fact: all marriages end. They either end in death or divorce. Would your fiancée agree you need a Last Will and Testament? Of course!  It’s the responsible thing to do.  A Will prevents decisions from being made about the disposition of your property by the State and Federal legislature (chock full of politicians – see my prior post on the prospect of President Donald Trump). A prenup prevents decisions from being made about the disposition of your property by those same politicians in the event of divorce. To quote 70’s rock icons Rush: “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.” 

Still not sure if a prenup is right for you? Here’s a quick quiz for you two love birds to help you decide.

  • If I’ve got no big assets, should I get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I make more money than my spouse, should I get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I make less money than my spouse, should I get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I have kids from a previous relationship, should I get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I have a lot of debt or my spouse does, should we get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I own a house, should I get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I own a business, should I get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I am going to get an inheritance, should I get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I think prenups are unromantic and spoil the fairytale, should I get a prenup? Yes!

  • If I am in possession of a magical lamp that houses a genie who grants wishes, should I get a prenup? Yes and tell me more!

Prenups are for everyone, not just celebrities in Us Weekly. So, ignore the misogynistic undertones of the rest of the song and listen to Kanye, “If you ain’t no punk, holla we want prenup.” And if you’re more of a Drake fan (me too), heed his advice and, “Make sure you hit him with a prenup.”

It’s an important investment in your future and with the right attitude and a good lawyer, it can be a painless process that will give you peace of mind. If you never need to use it, great! Those grandkids can shred it and make confetti for your golden anniversary party.


James J. Sexton

P.S. – Are you already hitched sans prenup? Do not fret! You can always do a postnup, which is like a prenup except you can’t remember what color your wedding invitations were because it was so long ago.

An Open Letter to Princess Jasmine: Don't Get Taken for a Magic Carpet Ride

Dear Princess Jasmine,

I’m a little more pleased than I like to admit that I’m becoming the divorce attorney of choice for the Disney princesses. I’m glad that Cinderella referred you, that you’re happy enough to allow me to share your situation with the public, and most of all, that you’re leaving the ranks of the Real Housewives of Disney for something more fulfilling. My congratulations to you on that, and let’s begin.

Intelligently—and this doesn’t surprise me, Princess Jasmine—you arranged for a prenuptial agreement before your marriage to Aladdin. Thank you for including a copy of said prenup, which, as you informed me, does indeed ensures that in the event of divorce you will of course keep everything that you had before you married Aladdin, regardless of how those assets may have been shared during the marriage. That means no problem keeping the palace, your pet tiger, and your various royal riches. Ace. Your prenup also stipulates that as long as the sum of your assets are substantially greater than Aladdin’s, upon your divorce he’ll be provided with a monthly allowance, so that he isn’t forced to go back to the streets, begging and stealing. All very generous.

However, you came to me with a problem that you didn’t foresee at the time you wrote the prenup, and that’s what I’m really here to advise on. The problem is that Aladdin’s assets now might actually exceed yours—and by his “assets,” I’m referring now to the income from Aladdin’sillegitimate business, which, contrary to what you expected to happen, has grown exponentially since you dragged him out of poverty. Over the years, Aladdin has used his improved financial situation along with his natural talent as a con man to rise through the ranks of Agrabah organized crime. He is now an extremely powerful, and extremely well-paid, professional criminal. Tax-free. And now he wants to cash in on the spousal support from you as if he has no other income. Not with me as your lawyer.

This is how what we’re going to prove what Aladdin’s actual earnings are, rather than relying on tax records to tell the whole story.

Lesson 1: Show that the numbers don’t add up.

First, all the bills—mortgage, car payments, bank statements, credit card bills and what have you—need to be examined, and subpoenaed where necessary.

Once we have all this, we can probably show fairly easily that what Aladdin was spending, and what you were giving him from the palace accounts, don’t match up—essentially, that if Aladdin’s expenses were 10,000 gold coins per month and his royal allowance was only 6,000 gold coins, then he had another 4,000 gold coins coming in from somewhere.

Lesson 2: Find out what he’s hiding from you.

Considering Aladdin’s history of conning people. That in mind, I’m sure he’s been conning you, too, Jasmine—if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business, it’s that Disney princes never change. (It’s true; very little character development for men in Disney films.) Once a con man, always a con man, so it’s time to uncover his hidden treasures.

(I’m not talking about what Aladdin’s really been doing when he locks himself in the bathroom and says he’s “rubbing the lamp”—I’m talking about his hidden assets.)

We can subpoena bank statements in Aladdin’s name that might contain money he’s not reporting, and that you might not know about. We can also do a public records check to find out about any reported assets he hasn’t told you about, as well as any that pop up in the names of his friends, like the Genie. This is how we figure out where and how Aladdin has been siphoning off the palace fortune to purchase assets (which technically belong to you or both of you). You might be about to win treasure you never knew you had, Jasmine.

If you can enlist mutual friends to help with the search, you might consider it. Abu has been at Aladdin’s side for years, vastly unappreciated too, and he knows where the bodies are buried—I would start there.

Lesson 3: Argue for Aladdin’s earning capacity.

Even though your “diamond in the rough” turned out to be a con man in the truest sense, there’s a potential silver lining in that you might be able to use Aladdin’s con artist skills—his charisma, selling ability, his political charm—as reasons why he is extremely employable and is not and should not be, as he claims he is, entirely dependent on your wealth in the event of your divorce. At this point, we’re not arguing for his financial or property assets; we’re really discussing his skills as assets in themselves.

The Genie, oddly enough, is also a sort of asset for Aladdin; we might be able to argue this. While technically not Aladdin’s property nor indebted to him any longer, the Genie remains a powerful being who can make things happen for Aladdin (and, from the sounds of it, frequently does). Your husband is a man whose best friend has the ability to turn paupers into princes—does he really need monthly support payments from his ex-wife? Let’s discuss.

The great thing about your situation, Jasmine, is that you thought ahead, and you’re not going to get as screwed in this divorce as most of the Disney princesses will, because you got a prenup.

I hold you up as a shining example for married people everywhere, especially women; it’s not for nothing that you were named 5th Most Feminist Disney Princess by Nerve Magazine (a high honor if there ever was one).

No genies or wishes required, Princess Jasmine, just a prenup and a good lawyer. And I won’t even make a dirty joke about your Cave of Wonders.


James J Sexton