MOONLIGHT, ROSES, AND PRENUPS
After a twelve-year marriage and a seven-year divorce proceeding, I married a lifelong bachelor. How did we do it? Although the complete answer could be the subject of another book, a principal reason is our prenuptial agreement.
Since my prenup paved the way to a magical marriage, it obviously has a great deal of sentimental value to me. I have it placed in a Tiffany bowl in our living room along with my dried bouquet and other romantic reminders of our wedding.
The reason that our prenup catapulted our relationship into marriage is because it enabled us, admittedly each a bit marriage challenged, to confront our worst fears. Concerned that I might become a two-time loser in marriage, I didn't want to lose another seven years in a divorce proceeding. As for my husband, in the event that bachelorhood was his ultimate destiny, he wanted to avoid any unpleasant property disputes.
Perhaps the greatest value of our prenup, though, was in its successful negotiation to completion. The process promoted honesty and openness and strengthened the bond between us. There is an old bromide that money is the last thing that people talk about before marriage and the first thing they fight about after marriage. That didn't happen to us! We had avoided our first fight.
We disclosed our assets and liabilities, expressed ourselves as to how these would be handled in various possible scenarios, and — what do you know? — We were still wild about each other. In fact, we felt closer than ever, because these practical, mundane issues were no longer ticking time bombs. Our relationship was grounded in reality, not illusion; we were marrying for love, not money. Our prenup swept aside the business part of our relationship, allowing us to enjoy the pleasures of our anticipated union.
From the vantage point of my own situation as well as my matrimonial practice, I have seen a prenup as a marriage enabler and a marriage enhancer. I have concluded that a prenup is for just about everyone. It should be standard issue for impending nuptials, along with the license and the ring, and part of the romance of courtship, like moonlight and roses. A CRASH COURSE IN FAMILY LAW
Flashback to my divorce: Over the course of seven years, my ex-husband and I each were represented by serial lawyers. (Unfortunately, this is the norm in matrimonial cases, although Patricia Duff in her tiff with Revlon billionaire Ronald Perelman may have abused the privilege with her twenty-five teams of lawyers.)
During this protracted proceeding, I took a crash course in family law. My case introduced me to the gamut of family law issues-equitable distribution, pension split-ups, divorce taxes, child support and custody, etc. I knew I could do legal work as well as or better than the next lawyer, so I researched, studied, and investigated and emerged an expert in the field.
For my entire legal career of more than twenty years, I have had the privilege of practicing law with my partners at RubinBaum LLP in New York City. Our firm represents corporations, entrepreneurial enterprises, and individuals in a full-service general practice. At the time of my divorce, I specialized in employee benefits and executive compensation. Our firm had done prenuptial agreements, but generally referred matrimonial work to other lawyers. After my divorce, I convinced my partners to turn matrimonial work over to me. I had the education, the experience, and, most important, the empathy. HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE PRENUPS AND HOW YOU WILL TOO!
In the course of practicing domestic relations law, I became passionate about prenups.
One of my observations is the transmogrifying effect of divorce on the human personality; it brings out a hidden dark side in many people. Your beloved becomes bedeviled. Your kitten becomes a wildcat in this negatively charged atmosphere, individuals are supposed to make rational choices profoundly affecting the rest of their lives. Most mortals cannot accomplish this feat. Many of us resort to counterproductive litigation rather than compromise and conciliation. We go out of our way-far out of our way-to disrupt the process and dismay the soon-to-be ex. As the late criminal defense lawyer Louis Nizer once said, "There is no murder trial, nothing that happens in the law, as acrimonious as divorce."
A prenup is a vaccine against this virulent illness. You discuss your concerns openly in advance and negotiate solutions when you are favorably disposed to your intended and in an atmosphere of mutual good faith. You arrive at a fair solution without the need for expensive and lengthy litigation. You spend less time extricating yourself from a failed relationship and more time ushering in your new life. And your children suffer far fewer side effects. A prenup assures that, in the off chance that you do end up in divorce court, you will be treated on an outpatient basis-not in the intensive care unit.
Excerpted from Prenups for Lovers by Arlene G. Dubin. Copyright © 2/6/01 by Arlene G. Dubin. Excerpted by permission of Villard, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.