Do Prenups Work in California? The Psychology Perspective

In a recent article by Maples Family Law entitled Do Prenups Work our legal team explored the concept of prenuptial agreements in California.

Do Prenups work in a California Family Law Court? For the legal aspects of the matter, I will refer you back to our team at Maples Family Law to understand the matters of law that can affect the validity of your prenuptial agreement. If you find yourself in a bind because of a prenuptial agreement, a California Attorney can help. However, what are the psychological ramifications a prenuptial agreement can have on your relationship, let us explore the legal and psychology perspective.

The Legal Perspective

The team at Maples Family Law explores 5 concepts that affect the parties subject to a prenuptial agreement from an emotional, legal, and family systems perspective.

  1. Fairness matters. – One side of the parties cannot take everything while leaving the other side destitute. These terms can be effected by the language of the agreement. Read, before you sign… and always get legal advise about what the terms your agreement mean to your situation.
  2. Full disclosure is required. – Again, fairness matters. Make sure you understand what it is you are signing and make sure all disclosures are made before signing.
  3. Premarital assets are usually off-limits to both parties. – This is usually the case without a prenup, but these terms should also be spelled out in any agreement set forth before marriage. Have a thorough knowledge of your assets before marriage, so these will not considered community property. Also, this term works both ways, so if you have assets, include them in this portion. These agreements are not meant to be one sided.
  4. You can set terms for alimony. – Many times, prenups try to include language that would wave the rights to Alimony. While this may be a common practice, refer back to rule number one. Be fair. If you made six figures while your spouse took care of your children, do you really want to leave him or her destitute to raise your children without financial security. Also see below.
  5. You can’t include anything having to do with your (future) children. A judge will decide what’s in the best interest of your child. This is not for you and your future spouse to determine if you decide to nullify your union. A court will not enforce an agreement that is not in the best interest of the child.

The Psychology Perspective

Two ideas pop out for the psychology perspective: fairness and trust. When love happens, the parties are usually blinded by the gravity of the emotions present. In fact, love enlivens the same areas of the brain that cocaine does. This has been shown in scientifically in FMRI’s.

So what are we to do when the love goes up and our psychological defenses go down. What are we to do when the beer googles, or in this case, cocaine perspective shoots us into a state of lovely euphoric bliss. This is definitely a vulnerable place to be.

First, we must always approach life decisions from an objective perspective. This is much easier said than done when approaching the ideals associated with love. Even when we are in the midst of euphoria, eventually the high wears off, and we will be faced with the true work of making love work. This is where the fairness of prenups can fall apart.

When two parties enter into a prenup, they have specific goals in mind. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of communication present between one or both parties. This happens because one or the other fears what the reaction of the other party will be. If S(he) is asking me to sign this, does s(he) even love me?

This is not a place of trust to begin your relationship, and this is unfortunately where this form of relationship begins its initial descent into oblivion. If there is not this level of trust present, it is probably wise to seek premarital counseling before signing a prenuptial agreement. This will assure at a minimum that some clear boundaries of communication exist and expectations are laid out and understood before you say “I Do” and the business partnership becomes real.

Yes I said business partnership, because when you commit in a legal fashion, whether with a spouse or a business partner, you have legal obligations to that party, even if you have approached the ideal of love from a contractual basis. This, unfortunately, is a plane of expectation where trust, emotions, and the law do not mix.

The trust factor is perhaps the largest hurdle to clear with a prenuptial agreement. First, if you are even considering a prenup, there is an approach to your love life that is already being treated in a business like fashion. If this is the case, your love will be approached from a business like perspective and the negations should be such. But how do you cut through the euphoria present from the cocaine like bliss love creates and approach the person you love in a business manner?

This is done only through consistent work on your communication. If you approach things fairly, review and care for both sides of the equation, pull through the initial degrees of mistrust even asking for a prenuptial agreement can cause, you can at a minimum assure a level of good communication to push your relationship forward. But you must know your assets, what you wish to protect, and work on being fair to the party at hand.

Do not try to treat a person unfairly, because this will serve to create elements of mistrust into the foundation of your relationship. With two decades of experience counseling couples in premarital, marital, and divorce counseling, I can tell you that trust is by far the most difficult and common of element that makes or breaks any relationship.

If you liked this article, let me know in the comments. I would be happy to answer any individual question you may have either writing or in VLOG formate for a social media outlet.

©2019 by Dr. Thomas Maples

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