I was a teenager when I first heard the term “prenuptial agreement.” I asked my cousin what it meant, and she told me it was something a rich man asks a woman to sign to prevent her from marrying him just for his money. I was so intrigued by this concept that whenever I read about an older, wealthy man whose second (or third) wife fell into the “trophy-wife” category, I wondered if she had signed a prenup.
Today, I am one of those second wives — although I am not young enough to be mistaken for my husband’s trophy wife, as we’re less than six years apart. And it was I — not he — who first brought up the idea of a prenup. Apparently, that’s not so rare anymore. A member survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found 46 percent of divorce attorneys had observed an increase in women initiating requests for these agreements.
Of course, as many who aren’t in favor of these documents will quickly point out — discussing a prenup can put a damper on the romance and excitement of two people madly in love. My response? This is actually the ideal time to negotiate a prenup because each party can think in terms of fairness (as opposed to in the midst of a divorce).
Dan and I started dating in 2004, a few months after he and his wife separated. After his divorce, we bought a house together and each contributed half of the down payment. We decided we would keep separate checking accounts for everything of a personal nature, such as clothes and visits to the salon for me, and ski trips and single malt scotch for him. We would open a joint account for the mortgage, utilities, car insurance, groceries and dining out.
Since Dan’s daughter lived with us half time, he threw a little extra into the joint account each month, and I contributed a little each year to a 529 college savings plan I had set up for her. (Since I have no children of my own, I felt it was important to help fund my future stepdaughter’s college education.) After two and a half years of living together like a family, I asked Dan to consider taking the formal step of marriage.
From a financial standpoint, our relationship was working fine. We had very few conflicts about money because we decided in advance how we would address the division of financial responsibilities. But then I panicked. Would Dan have the right to half of my brokerage and retirement accounts if we married and then divorced?