Prenup Queen’s Word to the Wise for the “Out Spouse”
‘Out-spouse’ is the term that we Family Law attorneys use to describe a spouse who hasn’t been the manager of the legal, tax or financial matters in the marriage or who hasn’t been the point person for the family’s attorneys, accountants or financial advisers. It’s also evolved into a catchall term for the partner who is ‘supported’, generates less wealth (if any) and is not the household’s primary breadwinner.
In traditional marriages and divorces, this was usually the wife. But guess what? This is not your grandmother’s divorce. Today, with more and more women making more and more money, I can tell you that a substantial number of out-spouses are men.
I want to transform the way “out-spouses,” view the prenuptial agreement because this powerful document holds the key to your protection if properly prepared and negotiated. I know this may sound contrary to what many of you think so let me explain.
The Reality for an Out-Spouse
Obviously, as a Family Law attorney, I’m partial because I like all terms to be in writing where legalities are concerned. But culturally, there’s a hesitation about writing agreements pertaining to marital finances as if there is something impolite or distasteful about it. I know a prenuptial agreement is not romantic but everyday conversations in a marriage are not romantic either; let’s face it, that is the reality of marriage.
Most of you go into a marriage believing you will be protected because you married someone financially secure who adores you who wants the best for you? This is precisely why you need a prenuptial agreement because it is when you hold their affection that you can negotiate your protection in writing.
I know this sounds harsh but the reality is that upon separation, your beloved breadwinner kicks you out the lavish home and holds control over the finances, bank accounts and credit cards. By that time you’ve lost your power. You tell yourself, “It’s OK, I will file for spousal support,” only to learn that the money is hidden in corporate accounts with business expenses deducting the majority of income, all the cash is gone or in some instances the funds have been transferred into accounts in the name of the new girlfriend or a family member.
As a family lawyer, I’ve obviously seen this story play out numerous times. So I decided to write this post to put an end to it all and make the prenuptial agreement standard in all marriages because it is the only way to win.
The Power of Timing
Many believe the prenuptial agreement benefits the wealthier party but this is not necessarily true. One of the benefits of a prenuptial agreement is that at the time of preparation the parties are required to disclose income, assets and debts along with the value. This is the one time your fiancé will disclose the true value because they want to bolster wealth since they have nothing to lose and only your adornment to gain. That 1 million dollar house is now a 1.5 million dollar house. The income of $800,000 a year is now 1 million dollars a year. There you have it, all the information laid out prior to marriage even with some inflation added for your benefit.
So what do you do with all that information voluntarily given to you? You negotiate. You negotiate a cushy spousal support figure to last you as long you need and you negotiate the terms of the house, business and all other assets along with marital debt just as if you were going through the divorce before you married. This way, if there is a divorce, you are protected.
The Necessity of Protecting Yourself
I want to protect everyone out there who sacrifices during marriage to support and elevate the other party in their career. This protection can only come when you negotiate the terms of your investment before you invest. Nobody in their right mind would negotiate compensation of an employment position after they’ve completed the job and now quit or are fired. That is exactly what happens upon divorce. The homemaker or “out-spouse” tries to negotiate their investment after they’ve quit. That is insanity. This is why the family courts are so overburdened and emotionally volatile. We negotiate everything else in life except the most significant investment in the most important partnership of our lives.
Info for the Out-Spouse
While traditionally out-spouses knew less about the finances, let me emphasize that today those who choose or are able to stay home to raise their families should not be ignorant of what’s going on financially in their marriage. Staying home does not automatically deny you the right to be an equal, viable partner with your spouse financially in everything from information or decisions. Homemaking is valuable, but knowledge is power.
Negotiating a sound Prenuptial Agreement is the first step in gaining this power. A good marriage is worth fighting for–even before it starts. We negotiate everything else in life except the most significant investment in the most important partnership of our lives. Let’s give marriage the respect it is due. So, let’s negotiate, let’s get powerful.