While I was watching 90 Day Fiancé, a situation arose that made me think, “this needs to be a blog post!” First off, let’s address the fact that I was watching 90 Day Fiancé — I’m unapologetically entertained by my no-longer-guilty pleasure.
Ok, on to the situation:
A divorced, wealthy father of two becomes engaged to a young woman who is nineteen years his junior. The gentleman has a wonderful friendly relationship with his ex-wife, so she’s heavily involved in the show. The children are about nine and twelve, and adorable. In fact, everyone seems to be kind, friendly and getting along swimmingly. It’s a nice sight to see; a divorced couple getting along so well.
Of course there has to be a twist so when the ex-wife asks the ex-husband if he’s going to have a prenup to protect the children’s interests, things get uncomfortable. He is planning on doing it but hasn’t mentioned it to his fiancé yet (Issue 1). Of course you can’t blame the ex-wife. They started with nothing when they were first married and the wealth was built throughout their marriage.
When he announces (Issue 2) to his fiancé that he wants her to sign a prenup, she has no idea what he’s talking about. She’s from a small village in South America and grew up poor; prenup is literally a foreign concept. He takes her to an attorney to explain it after failing miserably to convince her that it’s not a big deal. As you can probably imagine, this didn’t go over so well with the young fiancé because she was deeply hurt at the thought that he had even considered they may divorce. This quickly led to a downward spiral in the relationship, and even a threat of no wedding.
Sometime later, he acquiesces and decides it’s not worth the emotional turmoil to have a prenup and the wedding goes on as planned. The ex-wife is even the officiant!
A few weeks after the wedding, the ex spouses are visiting over a cup of coffee when she asks how the prenup went. He informs her that he decided against it (gasp!) and her eyes practically jump out of her head. When asked why, he said it really wasn’t necessary, his fiancé was hurt, he believed in the marriage and could take care of the kids through estate planning (Issue 3). This is the end of the on-air discussion.
So what lessons can we take away from this situation? Prenups are bad? No. Prenups necessary? Sometimes. Estate planning can handle situations like divorces? Not so much.
Prenups can be very helpful in a situation like this. Not only to protect the children but to protect the new spouse as well. Ensuring that everyone is taken care of doesn’t mean that the marriage is doomed but rather that steps are being taken just to be certain that everyone is taken care. It’s like insurance: you have it and hope you’ll never have to use it.
Issues one and two are all about communication. This is a planning process that the engaged couple should do together. Surprising ones’ betrothed will cause feelings of distrust and a lack of faith in the relationship. It can easily be avoided with honest, open communication.
Issue three is the idea that estate planning will provide protection for his children in the event of a divorce. Estate planning is about what happens when you die, and although this is a partial concern in this story, it’s not the main point.
So what happens in the event of a divorce?
Where you live is a major determination of how assets are divided up during divorce. In this case, the couple live in Connecticut, which is an “all property equitable distribution state.” This gives the court the power to “distribute any and all property, regardless of how it was purchased or acquired, based on the consideration of several factors including length of marriage, education, vocation and earning capacity of the parties and others.” Notice the statement regardless of how it was purchased or acquired, meaning it doesn’t matter that his wealth was built up prior to his second marriage, nor that the assets may be in his name only.
If you live in a community property state, the law requires that a divorcing couple split their assets acquired in that state 50/50. Property owned by either spouse prior to the marriage may not be considered or divided as community property. This is quite a bit different from the laws in Connecticut.
As the episode ended and I was frantically typing this up, I was again reminded of the optimistic outlook of an engaged couple, it made me smile. Luckily, you can be both optimistic and prepared. Hopefully, their marriage will endure and the topic of dividing assets won’t ever come up.
While our team can’t draw up prenup agreements we can help you evaluate the pros and cons of having one. There are a lot of considerations to make and you shouldn’t have to do it all alone. To start your subscription, go here.