We all know the mantra: “safety first”. Since it was first recorded as an accident-prevention slogan in 1873, it’s never fallen out of use. We want to make sure that our food, our children’s toys, and our communities are safe. On an individual level, inline skaters wear pads on their elbows and knees; motorcycle riders wear helmets. They don’t plan to fall, but they know it could happen, so they prepare for the worst before they begin. Similarly, good drivers put on their seatbelts when they get into the car; some cars are even equipped with automatic seatbelts, designed to keep us as safe as possible. With all this emphasis on safety, why aren’t more people preparing prenuptial agreements before they get married?

Prenuptial agreements (also called “prenups”) get a bad rap.

They’re seen as mood-killers, the death of romance, proof of a lack of trust. Asking your future spouse to make a prenup with you seems tantamount to admitting defeat before you even begin. You’d like to believe that you’ll always be able to resolve your differences in a reasonable way, without ever losing sight of your love for each other. You won’t argue about silly things, and you’ll certainly never get divorced. After all, this is true love – right?

The truth is, people break up sometimes. It happens. Nobody plans it, but it happens anyway. And when it does happen, well, most people aren’t at their best during a divorce. Think about it: have you ever been through a breakup? Were you and your former partner both at your most reasonable and considerate at the time? Really?

For most of us, the end of a romantic relationship tends to make us, well, a little cranky. It’s not the ideal state of mind for making important decisions. The best time, actually, is before you even walk down the aisle. You’re planning your future together, reveling in the knowledge that you’ll be spending the rest of your lives with each other this is the time to ensure that you and your future mate can communicate with each other about the difficult things: how to handle debt (existing and future), who will be responsible for ongoing household bills, and even how to settle any serious disagreements in future.

California law requires you and your partner to have separate attorneys when you make a prenuptial agreement. You can draft the document yourself (Nolo Press makes a terrific book on the subject) and take it to your lawyers for review. That way, you’ll learn what your legal rights really are, so that you and your partner can execute an agreement that’s fair, reasonable, and legal.

Making a prenuptial agreement doesn’t mean you’ll get divorced, anymore than wearing your seatbelt means you’ll have a car accident. What it does mean is that you’re prepared; if something terrible happens, you won’t be hurt as badly.

Traditionally, more people may get married at this time of year than any other time.  So when that special someone “pops the question” of marriage, pop one of your own: “will you sign a prenuptial agreement?”

Comments? Questions? Contact me via email at kathleenhunt@uniquelaw.com or by phone at 510-289-2288.