Prenuptial Agreements: Divorce Planning or Collaborative Marriage Planning?

Prenuptial agreements have been around for quite some time in Florida.  They are an agreement between people who are about to wed in which the parties set out their rights and responsibilities in a written document that is executed in front of a notary and two witnesses.  Prenuptial agreements are oftentimes thought of as “divorce planning” so as to avoid a future nasty court battle, should the parties’ marriage not work out.

But who wants to plan a divorce, especially when you are not even done making the wedding plans?

There is an alternative.  It is a new process known as Collaborative Marriage Planning.

Collaborative Marriage Planning focuses not on the lifestyle of the parties in the event of divorce, but on how they want to live their lives during the marriage.  It is a process that fosters transparency and full financial and emotional disclosure between the parties, while offering a private legal framework to handle disputes that may arise.

In the process, each party is represented by their own collaborative attorney whose sole purpose is to help them reach an understanding.  Unlike many traditional prenuptial lawyers, the attorneys do not attempt to negotiate to “maximize” his or her own client’s piece of the pie at the expense of the other client; rather, each lawyer focuses on his or her client’s interests and helps develop options which satisfy both parties’ needs.

Oftentimes, when clients are getting married, they are giddy and full of tremendous joy, and yet they are afraid to bring up issues that may be important to them so they do not offend their fiancé.  It is for this reason that Collaborative Marriage Planning also includes a neutral facilitator, who is generally a licensed mental health professional.  The neutral facilitator ensures that tough issues are addressed, both fiancés voices are heard during the meetings, and that all discussions remain constructive and respectful.  As a bonus, the neutral facilitator will teach clients dispute resolution skills that can help promote long and happy marriages.

One of the most important aspects of prenuptial agreements, whether through the traditional method or via Collaborative Marriage Planning, is full financial disclosure between the parties.  In the traditional prenuptial process, this is because one of the biggest reasons why prenuptial agreements are thrown out by a judge during divorce is that one or both parties did not have an understanding of the other’s finances when they signed it.  In Collaborative Marriage Planning, full financial disclosure is equally important, if not more so, as it spurs those difficult conversations about how fiancés want to handle their finances during married life.

A neutral financial professional, generally a collaboratively-trained accountant or financial planner, is retained to aid in this disclosure.  The financial professional serves as a central repository for documents (such as tax returns, checking and savings account statements, retirement statements, investment portfolios, deeds to real estate, etc.) and will review and help clients understand these documents and their options much more quickly (and less expensively) than either of the parties’ attorneys.  Depending on the parties’ needs, the financial professional will help with tax planning, business formation, or retirement and investment planning.  The financial professional can also help the parties to prepare household budgets to meet their goals.  Moreover, the financial professional will contribute to the discussion of whether and how the parties will want separate and/or joint accounts during married life and how to strike the right balance of interdependence and financial independence.

Collaborative Premarital Agreements can ultimately end up serving the same purpose as traditional prenuptial agreements, and address issues such as spousal support and the division of property in the event of divorce.  However, this will be a byproduct, and not the main focus, of Collaborative Marriage Planning.

If you are engaged and would like to participate in a process with your fiancé that will protect one another, spur difficult but necessary conversations, and focus on marriage planning rather than divorce planning, you and your fiancé should consider the Collaborative Marriage Planning Option.

If you have questions about Collaborative Marriage Planning and would like to schedule a consultation with a Florida collaborative attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

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About Adam B. Cordover, Attorney-at-Law

Family Diplomacy is dedicated to helping clients restructure their families privately and respectfully. We practice exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution, with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services. We maintain this out-of-court practice because we strongly believe that family disputes should be resolved in a private conference room, not in a hostile and public courtroom environment. This unique perspective on family law stems back to Adam B. Cordover’s experience studying International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and abroad. Adam had the rare opportunity to work closely with ambassadors and diplomats from war-torn regions around the world. He traveled around the globe, learning from diplomatic leaders as they applied dispute resolution techniques to tackle seemingly impossible conflicts. It dawned on him: If these techniques can work in the complex world of International Relations, why not Domestic Relations and Family Law? This realization lead Adam to create an exclusively out-of-court practice and to bring a more peacemaking approach to family law. In his previous role as a litigation attorney, Adam witnessed parties experience the negative emotional and financial effects that long, drawn out divorce battles can have on families. As a result, Adam has become a strong proponent of the Collaborative Process, where a structure is put in place so that life’s hardest moments do not have to be any more difficult than necessary. A thought leader in the international collaborative law community, Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida). Adam has been featured in or interviewed about collaborative practice by the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Florida Bar News, NBC, Fox 13, Bay News 9, ABC Action News, The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine, and Spirit FM 90.5. Adam regularly speaks at professional and civic organizations locally and internationally regarding the collaborative process. Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) and Florida’s largest interdisciplinary collaborative practice group with member attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties. Adam is also on the Executive Board and co-chair of the Research Committee of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida. Further, Adam is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. You can learn more about us and our services at www.FamilyDiplomacy.com. Attorney Adam B. Cordover is admitted to the Florida Bar and the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. His office is located at 412 East Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.
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One Response to Prenuptial Agreements: Divorce Planning or Collaborative Marriage Planning?

  1. Alex Toolsie says:

    Adam , your Blog is great! appreciating !

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