You and your partner are moving in together or, you have just set a wedding date. These are both happy events, so why wreck the moment with discussions regarding a prenup? Prenups, or “domestic contracts” as they are called in Canada, are a difficult topic to bring up with your partner. They can deal with sole or joint finances, property, and spousal support – none of which can be easy to talk about. While it can be an uncomfortable discussion to have, there are many people who do want to have it. Here are some ways to raise the topic:
- Appropriate timing – these types of contracts are not a romantic topic, which makes them all the more difficult to discuss. However, there is a time and a place to talk about this. For example, if you’re starting to talk about purchasing a home together or your partner is moving in with you, what happens with the house should you two go your separate ways should be something you discuss. Your finances and debts are also a good segue, especially if you’re opening joint accounts or signing up for a joint credit card. Raise the topic when you know you both have time to have a meaningful talk.
- Appropriate language – starting with “I want a marriage contract” isn’t the most effective way to start this discussion. It could make your partner defensive or angry. Try to avoid “I” and “you” language as this is can be oppositional. “What would we do if” or “how would we deal with” are examples of more inclusive language. Coming to an agreement that works for both of you and is created by the two of you together is better than presenting your partner with a contract you’ve planned out or drafted on your own without warning.
- Openness – be honest with your partner. Why do you want a domestic contract? Is it to protect your house? Your pension? Has your friend or sibling been through a separation? Talk to your partner about your reasons behind wanting the contract.
- Listen – there’s no denying this is a hard conversation to have and you’re each going to have opinions. It’s important that you listen to your partner’s thoughts, his/her concerns and what s/he would like to see happen or not happen.
- Be Patient – this is likely to be an emotional discussion. Be respectful as you communicate and stay calm. The most common reaction is that your partner will think you are already planning for your relationship to fail. You may need to revisit the topic after you’ve both had time to gather your thoughts. Doing some research or talking to someone you trust may help too.
- Frame it as a Safeguard – your partner and you will likely prepare other documents that are meant to protect you or the other of you if something should happen in the future. Examples of this are wills or life insurance policies where you may designate the other as a beneficiary. A domestic contract serves a similar function, but in the context of a separation. Think of it as a way to protect and prepare each of you, if you were to separate.
You and your partner can each go see a lawyer to talk about the ins and outs in more detail. It’s important each of you seek independent legal advice and understand your contract. These contracts are tailored to meet of your respective needs and are meant to be something you are each comfortable with.