5 “Happily After” Ways to Ask for a Prenuptial Agreement, According to an Attorney
Roses are red. Violets are blue. You’re thinking of asking for a prenuptial agreement — but should you?
Yes. And Here’s How.
The Piano Man (Billy Joel, for the unfamiliar) likes to croon, “I said I love you. That’s forever. This I promise from the heart.”
Yet forever is a…long time. Divorce rates reached record lows in 2020 and 2021 before rising slightly in 2022. These days, about 40% of marriages wind up in divorce, a decline from the 50% we saw in the 1980s and 1990s.
That’s positive news. Not to be a downer, but divorce can happen to anyone — even madly-in-love couples with the best of intentions. Millennial and Gen-Z couples know this, perhaps from experiences of being children of divorce during an era when half of all marriages ended in ‘Splitsville’.
And they’re embracing the prenuptial agreement. According to a Harris Poll conducted by Axios from 2023,41% of Gen-Z participants who are engaged or have been married said they signed a prenup. Nearly half (47%) of Millennials said the same.
Growing up in an era when divorce was constantly happening is likely only one reason younger generations are entering prenuptial agreements. People are getting married later in life and may have more assets and savings they want to protect — just in case “happily ever after” has an expiration date.
Regardless of the reason, the once so-called faux-pas of a conversation around prenuptial agreements has become far more commonplace. However, it can still be a sticky one.
Here’s how to have it (and still get hitched).
1. Express your love:
The idea of discussing a time when you might fall out of love is a sensitive one. You want to lead by expressing your love and commitment to your partner. “Think of it as laying out a cushion or mat before hopping onto a balance beam — it’ll provide a place to land that’ll soften the blow of a fall,” says Leslie F. Barbara, a partner with Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, LLP. Let them know you love them deeply and are committed to spending forever and a day with them. However, you want to be sure both — keyword both — of you are protected if life throws a curveball your way. Barbara suggests starting with, “I love you more than I can put into words, and I want to be sure we’re protected and secure.” “I want to bring your attention to another small but critical nuance of the statement: The ‘and’ rather than ‘but’ has a more positive connotation,” Barbara says. “Words matter.”
2. Frame it as financial planning:
Money is another sensitive topic, but couples must have it. “Money disagreements are one of the most common reasons someone winds up in my office for help filing for divorce,” says Adam D. Citron, a partner. “Communication is another — and a lack of communication about money is often cited there, too. So, consider this prenuptial agreement conversation as a way to put financial transparency at the top of your values list.” It’s not romantic, but neither is bickering about dollars and cents. Citron recommends trying, “As we think long-term about our life together — and I’m in this for the long haul — I want us to map out our financial future, too. A prenuptial agreement can ensure we’re fully transparent about our expectations and that our interests are protected.”
3. Share personal experiences:
Were you a child in one of the millions of marriages that ended in divorce? Perhaps you were put in challenging situations during the proceedings. “Drawing on your personal experiences makes the idea of a prenuptial agreement more about past wounds than the expectation of a future one,” says Patricia Ann Grant, a partner. “Try, ‘I’ve experienced how challenging divorce is first-hand, and I think it’s important to have candid conversations about protecting both of our assets.’”
4. Focus on the positives:
Barbara promises they exist. “Clarity, transparency, communication, and fairness are a few of the many benefits couples see after entering a prenuptial agreement — even if they never use it,” she says. “It starts conversations about finances and serves as good practice for other challenging discussions down the road.” Think other hot topics like parenting strategies (if applicable), caring for aging relatives, and tacos or burgers for dinner. “You might tell your partner, ‘Believe it or not, I think a prenup can make us stronger as a couple because it will bring clarity to our expectations and protect both of us if something comes up that we weren’t expecting,’” Barbara says.
5. Get professional advice together:
Inviting a lawyer to your next date likely doesn’t sound romantic. You need not book a table for three at “your” restaurant, but seeking professional advice from a family lawyer can help you map out the next steps. It might also help your partner better understand prenuptial agreements — an attorney can point to numerous examples of couples who never needed the prenuptial agreement. “These conversations can put their mind at ease,” Citron says. Grant adds that seeing someone together keeps you on the same team. “It takes out the ‘me vs. you” idea,’” Grant says. “Try, ‘How about we talk to a lawyer together to get a better idea of the legal aspects and how we can be sure that any agreement we sign is fair and protects both of us?’”
At DHC, we have decades of experience having these difficult conversations, approaching them with the discretion, empathy, and understanding necessary to help couples harmonize a prenuptial agreement. We represent our clients with sensitivity, knowing how emotional the experience can be.
Meet the Authors
Leslie F. Barbara, Partner & Practice Chair
Adam D. Citron, Partner
Patricia Ann Grant, Partner