So you’re getting married? Congratulations! It is a fun and exciting time and I’m sure you will agree with us when we say:

The last thing you want to do is talk about your prenuptial agreement.

A prenup can be a touchy subject to bring up with your partner. Will it help or hinder the relationship?

So to put it to rest, we asked some of Sydney’s best family psychologists, therapists, and counsellors their advice regarding the following question:

Does a prenuptial agreement sow the seeds of divorce or strengthen the relationship? Why?

Should I Get A Prenup

It is normal for people to feel slightly anxious at the very mention of a prenuptial agreement. It has connotations of; I love you but I love my possessions more, or, when this runs its race – this is what you will be receiving.

It just doesn’t sound like a great start to romance and may engender a feeling of distrust. There seems to be more emphasis on ‘when’ we’re done, than, ‘if’ something happens.

However, I am a believer that there is a stronger argument today for prenups than ever before. They may be a little more relevant in second time around marriages but also a great idea to set up as a practical arrangement in the event of something going wrong in any marital relationship. Think of it like ‘life-insurance’ which focuses on the worst possible scenario.

To allay fears of being ‘duped out of something’ it should be explained that the prenup is a guarantee of ensuring one’s financial stability (spouse and/or the children) should there be a reason, including death or divorce, to trigger the implementation of the agreement.

Further explanation will focus on the overall fairness and compassion that ensures an agreeable and livable outcome for all concerned. Thus, reducing any future arguing and allowing peace of mind for all parties affected.

This will open the door to strengthening the relationship and reduce the emphasis on sowing seeds of thoughts of divorce.

Rob Montgomery

Psychotherapist (North Ryde), Blue Gum Counselling

I doubt if there is a definitive answer to this question. There are several factors regarding a prenuptial agreement, which might influence a relationship.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 46,498 divorces were granted in Australia in 2014.

Although the couple considering marriage may like to believe that love alone will sustain their relationship, divorce is a harsh reality. The legal system in Australia aims to provide for the equitable distribution of property and assets following a divorce.

Nevertheless, some individuals prefer to enter into a prenuptial agreement. Such an agreement is often perceived as conveying a message of coercion, control, and mistrust.

The agreement might be a positive move from the perspective of the more financial spouse in an effort to protect his/her assets. However, this could impact the relationship negatively from the point of view of the less financial party.

The prenuptial agreement may prevent the less financial spouse from claiming his/her legal entitlement, as the terms of a prenuptial agreement are usually less than the legally acceptable rights following a divorce. This may be detrimental to the relationship and counter productive to forming a sound foundation for the trust and unconditional love necessary for a successful marriage.

On the other hand, where a person with children from a previous marriage enters into a second marriage, it may be legitimate to negotiate a prenuptial agreement to protect the children, who may be concerned about their inheritance.

Similarly, wealthy parents may wish to protect their family’s assets by requesting a prenuptial agreement between their son/daughter and spouse.

Clearly, this is a very complex matter, which needs to be addressed with sensitivity and honesty to the utmost benefit of the concerned parties.

The process by which the agreement is negotiated, as well as the content of the agreement, could either diminish or enhance the intimacy within a relationship.

Rosemarie Nugent

Counselling Psychologist, Manly Pittwater Psychology

I am yet to see a couple who have had a prenuptial agreement in place where this has not been an issue.

For the person who wanted it, it’s rarely an issue. But for the other person, it is. This is rarely about the money itself. It’s more about the meaning about why this agreement is necessary – for some, it says “I don’t trust you” or “I don’t expect this relationship to last” “or you are less than”.

Finance is a highly emotive subject and it’s even more complex today as many people are re-partnering with assets later in life so they also want to protect their children’s assets.

General legal agreements about how money is distributed on both sides appear to be okay – but a prenuptial agreement that one person demands automatically sets up a power imbalance in the relationship.

Jacqueline McDiarmid

Director, Couple & Family Therapist (Paddington), Sydney Couple & Family Specialists

Marriage is a contract of understanding at many levels and because of the individuals every marriage is different. Having a relationship based on good two-way communication and understanding built on trust and respect hold the couple in good stead.

Discussing personal, family, work or financial issues before getting married could save problems down the track. With a changing world, there may be good reasons why someone may want a prenuptial agreement, e.g.previous marriage, inheritance, family business etc.

If that is the case, discuss, work it through, seek advice and come to a decision that you are both comfortable to committing to.

Janice Killey

Principal Psychologist, Psychologists Southern Sydney

Prenuptial Agreements may or may not sow the seeds of divorce or strengthen the relationship. It is a matter of why would you want a prenuptial agreement in the first place.

Before making the decision to have this agreement prepared, seek advice from professionals such as your Solicitor and Financial Advisor, and make an appointment with your Counsellor so that you may be facilitated to explore the impact a Prenuptial Agreement could have on your relationship.

Wendy Estall

Marriage Counsellor (Liverpool & Fairfield), Emmaus Counselling

A prenuptial agreement can be an incredibly supportive document for a relationship.

The current statistics are that 77% of relationships end because of financial disputes. To this end, planning for the potential future ending of a relationship can bring a lot of peace to both parties.

From my clinical experience, it has taken much of the guesswork out of the divorce process for clients, as they are completely aware of what will happen should they end their union.

Relationships are hard work. Couples are not always told this prior to taking their vows.

As a society, we have romanticised the concept of marriage and often the realities, or indeed at the very least, the possibilities of it ending are preferred not to be thought about.

On any given year, the very best that a couple can do is upon wakening, choose their partner for that day. We all have free will and free choice, therefore if a prenuptial document is seen as an exit strategy, or sowing the seeds of divorce, then I would suggest that the couple looks at some pre-marriage counselling prior to diving into marriage.

I find that when I meet with a couple prior to their wedding day, I am often asking the tougher questions that perhaps in the highs of their romance the couple have failed to address.

I always support couples to become as transparent as possible, as early as possible. A prenuptial agreement can both start this conversation and encourage a closer investigation into some of the more challenging aspects of marriage.

Melissa Hughes

Founder, Director, Perinatal Psychotherapist & Group Facilitator (North Sydney), Baby and Beyond Parental Counselling

A prenuptial agreement can be entered into thoughtfully, maturely and respectfully by a couple.

It is when the prenuptial agreement is made out of fear, anxiety, and mistrust that this indicates the foundations of marriage are shaky, to begin with.

It is not the prenuptial agreement that sows the seeds of divorce or strength in a relationship, it is how the couple uses it (out of fear or from a place of maturity) that is indicative of how the relationship will pan out.

Martina Palombi

Psychotherapist & Family Therapist (Bondi Junction), Affinity Psychotherapy & Councelling

There is a right way to do prenuptial agreement and a wrong way.

The right way, that strengthens the relationship, is to get your partner on board, and help them understand where you are coming from. The right way is to make it a mutual agreement, in good will.

The wrong way, that sows seeds of divorce, is to make a unilateral decision, to not be completely transparent, or to leave remaining doubts in your partner’s mind.

David Bridges

Family Therapist (Parramatta), Bridges Councelling

There are those who say that a pre-nup is an unconscious recognition that the relationship will not last, or is tempting fate. Others believe that it strengthens the relationship to have been that honest and realistic from the outset.

Its true that all relationships go through stages – from the initial romantic phase to the inevitable power struggle, which hopefully leads to long term deep love and affection. Many relationships end up in divorce at the conflict stage when they could be worked through with a therapist, into safer, calmer waters.

There was a time when love was a mystery but these days relationships are a science, and we know that not only are there these classic stages which all relationships go through, there are techniques which can help couples to understand themselves and their partners better.

The message is that a pre-nup is just that – a piece of paper which states an agreement of what will happen in the case of a divorce, but it is not necessarily a ticket towards that divorce. Couples with pre-nups are no more likely to divorce than those without.

In fact, in my experience, couples who are realistic and accept that all relationships go through rocky times, are more likely to seek help from a professional to help them get through to the other side and stay married.

To pre-nup or not is not the question: The question is whether you can take the time to invest in your relationship to make it the best and more rewarding and happy it can be.

Annie Gurton

Psychological Therapist and Imago Couples Counsellor (Manly & Freshwater), www.anniegurton.com

Do you have a prenuptial agreement?

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