Thursday, February 26, 2009

Whys and Wherefores of Postnups

Weary of endless marriage counseling but reluctant to divorce, a small but growing number of couples are trying a new approach to keep their relationships intact, postnuptial agreements. Postnups are increasingly being used in order to deal with a change in financial circumstances, to separate assets and debts for couples who don't agree on every financial move, or even to replace older restrictive agreements as a couple moves to understand that they will indeed spend the rest of their lives together. In fact, some couples have reported that by working through and discussing the provisions of the agreement, they actually strengthened their marriages. They found that they were able to successfully resolve the issues that were straining their relationships. 

Here are a few of the ways that a postnup can be beneficial:

  • It can bring peace of mind to a spouse who quits working in order to raise the children.
  • It can spell out the division of assets to avoid difficulties when it comes to splitting the estate with adult children from a prior marriage.
  • If there have been marital difficulties, it can end or reduce arguments about money and bring harmony to a troubled marriage.
  • It can help trigger sweeping behavioral changes that might just keep a couple together.

Still, bringing up the topic of a postnup can be difficult. The following suggestions should help you get started:

  • Approach the topic from a collaborative viewpoint. For example, if you or your spouse are a stay-at-home parent, focus on the need to address your respective contributions to the relationship.
  • State your concerns in a straightforward fashion. Be sure to solicit your spouse's input and feedback. Take a break if things start to get tense. 
  • You should remain open-minded and be prepared to make compromises.
  • Rather than looking at a postnup as a form of protection, view it as a way to do the right thing when times are good, ensuring that the person you love will be protected in the event that the relationship fails.

Don't let a postnup fall to the bottom of your "to do" list. By working through these issues now, you may help head-off more difficult discussions later. Be sure to pick a place and time that will foster openness. And, whatever you do, don't ask for one in the middle of an argument.