Prenuptial agreements are becoming a more popular option for couples around the world—though they’re not always for everyone.
Is getting one the right call? Well, it’s different for everyone of course—but what’s important is that people talk about it.
Because though prenuptial agreements sometimes have a bit of a stigma, they’re actually a really straightforward and commonsense move, and something that’s worth discussing early on. It’s one of those times where it’s good to make sure you’re on the same page.
How prenups work: a quick recap
In New Zealand, when a relationship ends (either through separation or death), all relationship property is generally divided equally. You can read up on more of this on our Relationship Property page.
But a prenuptial agreement allows you to create your own arrangements about what should happen to your relationship property should the relationship end in separation. You and your partner can decide:
- what property is relationship property, and what is separate property
- in what proportions some or all of your property should be split (other than the default 50-50)
- who will get property that can’t be divided (such as a family pet)
Prenuptial agreements: they don’t come from a lack of confidence!
Prenups don’t come from a lack of confidence in a relationship. As in most engagements, the people who enter them usually intend their marriage to be for life, and believe it will be for life.
And luckily, most of them are. Most prenups are never put to the test.
But sometimes, usually years on, things change, or the unexpected happens. And when that happens, a prenup can be a real relief: not because you might end up with more assets than you would otherwise, but because it’s removed the prospect of uncertainty, conflict or drawn-out legal action.
Why you should talk about a prenuptial agreement
Certainty and giving your relationship the certainty it deserves
Prenups aren’t just in situations where one partner has significantly more assets than the other. They provide you certainty about your assets, and they give you the opportunity to consciously decide how you want to share your property with your partner. It’s you and your partner deciding; not just leaving it up to legislation made by people who don’t know your relationship.
Both you and your partner are on the same page about your property. You know what you have. And it’s a demonstration of respect for what each of you have earned.
Children from previous relationships
Coming into a relationship, you might have other people you have to look out for: such as children from a previous relationship.
The existence of those children doesn’t change the default position at law. Any relationship property will still be divided 50-50 between you and your new spouse should you split. That could include assets you might want to go to your children.
That’s not necessarily fair on those children, and it might also make it harder for you to care for them. A prenuptial agreement can help make assets and property are kept safe for them.
Dealing with property that might not be split easily
Not all property can be split 50-50 (for example, a family pet). Or you might want to agree in advance how you’d deal with the family home—for example, if one partner can buy the other out at a previously-agreed price. You can set out how all property is dealt with in a prenuptial agreement.
Reducing conflict if your relationship does end
The more things you agree on early in your partnership, the less you’ll have to deal with if things turn rocky. That makes for an easier and less stressful time for everyone involved.
Learning more about each other and getting any anxieties out of the way
You’re planning to spend the rest of your life together. It’s important that you can be open and transparent with each other about all your thoughts going into that. Any anxieties you might have before you marry are only going to grow over time, and chances are, your partner might have similar worries too. It’s good to get them out of the way.
So yes, talking about a prenup might make it less likely that you’ll ever actually have to use it.
How to bring up a prenup
Even though a prenuptial agreement should all be straightforward, it doesn’t always make it easy to bring up.
If you’re looking for a reason to do so, then this article can definitely serve as one. (“The lawyers said we should talk about it!” And we do say you should talk about it!)
But it’s also good to talk about it in the context of broader financial discussions, such as retirement and estate planning.
It’s not about what happens if you split: it’s about looking after each other. Before you marry, it’s important to consider things like wills, and figuring out retirement plans. A prenuptial agreement is just another part of that planning.
And remember: it’s something you might both be thinking about. So don’t stress!
Call on us for advice and help
Our relationship property experts are here to help you through all stages of your discussions. They can guide you through prenuptial agreements, division of relationship property, care arrangements for children, and anything else you might need—all with sensitivity and the benefit of experience.