If you’re newly engaged, a prenuptial agreement is probably one of the last things on your mind. Thanks to the way these legal agreements are portrayed in movies (only the money-hungriest should have to sign them!), the mere mention of a prenup might even make your stomach turn. Why worry about drawing up a document that will only need to be enforced if your marriage fails, when you want to flash your new bling to your friends and start planning your wedding? A prenup is probably falling way at the bottom of your list — if at all — because even if a prenuptial agreement is on your radar, you might not be very excited about it.
Divorce attorney and Hello Divorce founder and CEO Erin Levine wants you to know that the way we think about (or avoid thinking about) prenups — also known as premarital agreements — is totally off base. The movies haven’t done us any favors in terms of understanding what this process is really about, so she’s identified 11 myths about prenuptial agreements that should make it easier for women everywhere to decide if getting one might actually be worth considering. Whether you’re engaged or not, there’s a lot to learn here, so keep scrolling for your down and dirty prenup education. We have a feeling you’ll walk away with a new perspective.
1. A prenup suggests that you and your significant other aren’t totally convinced of your feelings for each other. Most of the times you’ve seen a premarital agreement suggested in a movie, there’s probably been some subtle implications about what that suggestion says about the relationship’s authenticity. Not so in the real world! “Why does talking about money or how you will share finances or save or spend mean you don’t love someone?” Levine tells us. “It means that you realize that marriage isn’t just your wedding and that love is in the everyday, mundane, unglamorous parts of life, like budgets and grocery shopping and retirement planning.”
2. A prenup means you’re preparing for a divorce. Establishing some boundaries ahead of time just in case things go south isn’t the same as setting yourself up for an imminent breakup. (Also, who would do that?) Levine likens a premarital agreement to car insurance. You don’t plan to get into a car accident every time you take the wheel, but you would still never drive uninsured.
3. A prenup means you’re money-obsessed. “Many premarital agreements aren’t about money at all,” Levine says. “They can be about your grandmother’s pearls or the house you bought before your wedding or even your student loans.” An agreement like this just gives you the chance to get specific about values and belongings that are unique to you and your S.O.
4. A prenup isn’t romantic. Okay, so a legal document is hardly the equivalent of wine and chocolate. We get it. But if you think about a premarital agreement as a way for you and your partner to get really clear about how you plan to protect one another in the future — no matter what — it might feel a little less heartless. You and your significant other have probably already chatted about expenses and other serious matters, so go ahead and make it official… and maybe seal it with a dinner date and a toast to all the happy years you have ahead of you.
5. A prenup pits you and your partner against each other. A good prenuptial agreement should be a win-win scenario, so if only one partner is benefitting from the finished product, you should probably talk to your lawyer. There doesn’t need to be a loser in this situation.
6. A prenup is for people who are really rich — and really poor. Again, we have Hollywood to blame for this one. How many movies have you seen where the partners involved in a discussion about a prenup are both squarely middle class? We’re willing to bet the answer is zero, because more often than not, there is one character in this fictional relationship that’s extremely wealthy and another character at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The latter character’s motives are questioned (are they marrying for love or money?), which is where the prenup usually comes into play. This isn’t how it should work in real life, though. “No matter how much money you have or don’t have, decisions that you make in marriage might not match what the [government] says should happen if you break up,” Levine says. “And when you don’t have four homes and millions of dollars, we would argue your money and what happens to it is even more important.”
7. A prenup is only for older people. There are certainly fewer assets to protect for couples that are just starting out, but regardless of how old you are, it’s worth taking a step back and taking stock of the (modest) things that you and your S.O. bring to the table so you can consider what kinds of protection might be worth getting in writing. In the end, you might find that a prenup doesn’t make sense for you at this early stage of life, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because you’re young, you aren’t a good candidate.
8. A prenup is typically bad for women. Levine and her team think this one deserves a big, fat laugh. “Women are amazing, powerful, successful, and smart,” she says. “Getting married doesn’t change any of that. No one can make you sign something that is bad for you, right? You are capable of thinking about ‘what if’ without expecting it to happen. And you are capable of planning for ‘just in case’ in a way that protects you.” Levine advises women to look at a potential premarital agreement as an act of self-love.
9. A prenup only protects the wealthier partner. Per Levine, any premarital agreement that ignores the rights of the less wealthy S.O. is probably not even enforceable, because in most states, a rock solid prenup can only be drawn up if both individuals have a lawyer. And since no lawyer would allow for their client to be dragged through the mud financially — in writing! — it’s unlikely that either party would be left unprotected, regardless of their individual financial status. The less wealthy spouse can ask their lawyer to help them negotiate terms that feel fair and protect them from financial devastation should a divorce take place.
10. A prenup is only about financial matters. Recently, Levine says that younger couples have asked her team to draw up cohabitation and premarital agreements that include terms around pet custody and promises that intimate details (like mentions of one partner’s mental health issues, or sex videos) not be posted to social media after a breakup.
11. A prenup can punish one spouse for “bad behavior.” “Hate to break it to you, but you can’t include a term in your agreement that awards you property if your spouse cheats on you or uses illegal drugs,” Levine says. In most states, terms like this would be voided in a legal document.
Did you think any of these myths were true? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)