How Do You (Tactfully) Ask Your Partner to Sign a Prenup?

Couple reviewing monthly bills
••• Getty Images/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images

“Everyone has a prenup,” my attorney joked. “Most people just don’t know what it is.”

He’s not wrong. Each state has its own set of laws for divorcing couples, and by electing to forgo a prenuptial agreement, you’re simply defaulting to the laws of your state. For example: state law will determine the formula used to calculate maintenance (also known as alimony) payments, or whether an asset is viewed as community property and how it is split.

Having a prenup gives you and your partner control over this process. Unfortunately, the prenup has a horrific reputation; people who hear that you’re even entertaining the idea of getting a prenup will tell you that you’re planning for a divorce, and that you clearly don’t trust and love your partner enough. Even your fiancé may feel the same.

So how do you ask your partner to sign a prenup without causing a huge fight?

Discuss Your Why

Your partner will probably want to know why you want to have a prenup, and you should have a good answer to that question. For me, it was two-fold:

  1. Our marriage is about love and a commitment to each other, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it results in a merger of assets. There’s no other situation in my personal or professional life in which I’d enter into a contractual agreement without legal protections in place.
  2. I own my own business and want to retain full ownership over my business and future earnings in the case of a divorce. 

I explained these reasons to my fiancé, as well as another harsh truth: I’d be kinder now than I would in the case of a divorce. Making decisions about what we think is fair right now, when we’re so in love and the idea of divorce seems laughable, is wiser than fighting it out if we were to actually go through a divorce. Having a prenup protects each other from a future, vindictive versions of ourselves.  

And don’t try to play this off on your parents. Saying, “because my parents said we have to” is not a compelling reason, and could threaten your partner’s relationship with your parents.

Separately Write Down What You Want in the Prenup

After you’ve mentioned that you want a prenup, ask your partner to take some time and reflect on what he or she would want included. You should both write down what you want in a prenup; compare your documents to each other’s; and see where you are in alignment, and where you need further discussion.

Go Over Each Other’s Wants

 My fiancé and I both agreed to wave alimony, but after reflection, he mentioned wanting a clause to cover the event that if one of us stepped back from a career to raise children, he or she would receive financial support for a period of time while job-hunting.

You should be writing down your agreements as you discuss and negotiate with each other on what you’d want in the prenup. This helps ensure you’re both hearing each other, and that the two of you are—forgive the pun—on the same page.

The other perk of this strategy: minimize eating up billable hours with your lawyers! Agreeing and being specific about what you want in the initial draft of your prenup will help minimize the negotiations, and therefore the time your lawyers spend crafting your agreement.  

Speaking of lawyer fees…

Who is Going to Pay?

Both of you should have legal representation in order to create a strong prenup that will hold up in court in the case of divorce. That means paying two lawyers. If you’re the one that wants the prenup and your partner doesn’t see the need or value, then you may also need to be the one willing to pay for both lawyers.

Be Kind in Your Frustrations and Disagreements

The final—but arguably most important—element is to be kind to one another. Going through the process of creating a prenup will cause tension. Pride and ego are intricately tied up in this conversation, so be kind to each other, especially in moments of frustration. Take a break if things are getting too heated, reflect on why you’re feeling defensive, and then address the problem.