January 15, 2008
While cohabitation agreements are on the rise (owing to later and multiple marriages and same-sex partnerships), asking for one still seems to telegraph that you’re greedy or lack faith in the union. Translation: you don’t really love me. “Drafting a prenup that will govern finances in the event of death or breakup tends to throw a wet blanket over the fantasy of walking into the sunset,” explains Arlene G. Dubin, a New York City matrimonial lawyer (212-554-7651; mosessinger.com). Dubin’s first marriage lasted twelve years; her divorce proceedings took seven. After drafting a prenup helped her to trust enough to marry again, she decided to write a book on such contracts. Her title, Prenups for Lovers (Villard), is hardly tongue-in-cheek. Dubin keeps her prenup in a Tiffany bowl, along with other wedding mementos.
So how do you create a fair and effective agreement? First, commit to honesty and full disclosure. “The longer you wait, the harder it is,” says Dubin. To begin, talk about values, lifestyle and expectations about who will be supporting whom. Figure out exactly what you want to cover, including all property and assets, and what will happen to those assets in the event of death, divorce or long-term illness. Also keep this advice in mind: Don’t assume that a will and a prenup do the same things. Individuals draft wills, but two people sign legally enforceable prenup contracts.