Do I Need A Prenup?

Sometimes people think they need a prenuptial agreement to keep property they own now, separate, in case of a divorce.  But everything that you own before the marriage will stay separate, as long as you keep it in your separate name.  So you don’t need a prenup, if all you want to do is protect your premarital property.

Still – in a good prenup mediation, we can discuss what you each feel is fair, and you can start your marriage without unexpressed assumptions and expectations.  Also, the prenup will memorialize what you have now – exactly what is your premarital assets and debt, so that there is no confusion, down the road.

Debt that you have now will be your separate debt, even after you marry

Anything you receive as a gift or inheritance, no matter when received, will be your separate property. 

Where people get in trouble is when they mix up (commingle – is the legal term) separate property and marital property.

If you have good records, you can trace it, and get a separate property credit. So – for example – you inherit $250,000 from Aunt Tilly, and you use that as the downpayment on a home. 5 years later, you sell the home, and net $650,000. $250,000 is your separate property credit, and you split the balance – $400,000 – equally with your spouse. So you have $450,000, and spouse has $200,000.

If you don’t have a prenup, here are the things that will be considered (by NY State) to be joint property – owned 50/50:

  • monies earned during the marriage
  • gifts given to both of you (such as wedding gifts)
  • retirement assets earned during the marriage
  • debts accumulated during the marriage
  • a business started during the marriage
  • equity accumulated in a home purchased during the marriage

If you want to change any of this, you can come to mediation and I’ll help you to figure out what will work for both of you, for your future.  In a prenuptial agreement, you can tailor your property rights to best meet both your needs. 

The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships

A deeper way to think about intimate relationships

I just listened to Alain de Botton (philosopher & writer who founded The School of Life)  on the podcast On Being

His work is so deep, thought-provoking, and moving. He turns upside down our commonly understood assumptions about intimate relationships, and gets to the deeper truth of what we are trying to find when we search for love. On the podcast, he also looks into why people might stray when in committed relationships. 

Within his words we can find the door to healthy communication. At any point in our relationship, we can find a key to understanding… that is what mediation is all about. 

Recommended listening for everyone. Listen here. 

And read his article on NY Times titled Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person

One should say, “Well, how are you crazy? I’m crazy like this.” There should be a mutual acceptance that two damaged people are trying to get together because pretty much all of us — there are a few totally healthy people — but pretty much all of us reach dating age with some scars, some wounds.

Alain de Botton

Negotiating A Prenuptial Agreement

Why mediating a prenuptial agreement can be beneficial:

A woman called me, distraught. She said that over the course of 4 months, she and her fiancé had paid about $10,000 in attorney’s fees, had months of stress and agony, and ended up getting married without having signed the prenup. Now, 3 months into their marriage, the unsigned prenup remained an issue, but their attorneys could not find a way to agree.

The confluence of their fears and their lack of confidence merged to produce a situation where they felt frozen and unable to move forward. When the husband’s lawyer said, “You might as well have her waive her rights to your pension and her rights of inheritance,” the husband did not know whether this was ‘standard,’ or unusual, and didn’t find a way to say “no,” to his lawyer – even though this was not his goal in entering into the prenup.

I met with them together, in a mediation session, and asked them what had been their original goals for the prenup. As we created a list of those goals, it became clear that they were quite aligned.

Robert owned some properties with his brother and mother, and wanted to keep those as separate property. Alicia was fine with that, that felt fair to her.

They asked me to use the prenup that their attorneys had drafted, and edit it. I had to do a lot of deleting, to take out all of the extraneous things that one attorney said was necessary to “protect” the client, and the other attorney refused to accept. I ended up with a postnuptial agreement that met their original goals.

They came in again, we read it through, they made a couple of changes, and then they signed it that night. They were both so happy to find a way to resolve this whole matter so smoothly, after a process which left them feeling frightened and that their conflicts were intractable.

The power of mediation!

Read more here to find out if a prenup is right for you. 


What’s it all about, anyway?

I’ve always been a person whom people like to talk to. I guess I’m a good listener – and also I don’t pass judgment. I myself have done things I’m not proud of – had a relationship wither, and cheat rather than tell my boyfriend that I wanted to end it, for example – so if someone cheats on their spouse, well – yeah it’s not the most mature way to handle the end of your marriage but – hey – we’re all doing the best we can.

So after I went to law school, and tried a few different things, mediation felt like a perfect fit.

Plus – I get to see into people’s marriages, people’s lives. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a juicy film, as they fight in my office.

But lately, I’m feeling very sad. I wish they weren’t breaking up.

A woman last week said, “He’s still my best friend, he GETS me, and I get him, and I love him. But I feel like what we want from our lives is too different for us to stay together.”

And I was thinking – lady, you’ve got it a lot better than most, having someone you love who “gets” you.

I don’t know. Why do some people stay together and others break apart? Myriad variations as there are couples. Myriad answers to that question.

Marriage is often not fun – at least in my experience. I go through weeks where I am feeling like, “Oh well, my life is really a big disappointment, but there we go – that’s how it turned out.” but then, I stick with it, and it changes – and to me that is the real magic of the whole thing – that I can be so irritated with him, for weeks even, and then it changes. And all of a sudden he’s the hunky, cutey that I fell in love with, again.

The older and more middle-aged I get, the more I think it is about an economic partnership. If I hadn’t gotten married, we wouldn’t have bought a house, we wouldn’t have pooled our incomes and began to amass savings. We wouldn’t have had these wonderful children who have become the center of our lives (at least till they become teenagers).

But – then I probably have a “good” marriage (whatever that is). And maybe my clients don’t.

Or maybe – they have lower tolerance for conflict.