High-stakes negotiations are often characterized as intense back-and-forth battles where only one party wins. The winner takes all while the other party may suffer a loss of both objectives and dignity. A loss of dignity in negotiations for a prenup can have a long-lasting effect on the relationship. Negotiating a prenup can (and should) be about coming to a mutually beneficial agreement for both parties. While the marital relationship is considered an economic as well as social partnership, establishing a foundation for the economics of the relationship can be challenging. The goal of the negotiation should be conducive to creating a durable, family-oriented agreement. Below are five reasons the “art of the deal” is not a zero sum game when it comes to family:
- Prenup negotiations help to clarify objectives.
Entering into prenup negotiations, a party may have one or more specific goals for the agreement. A well thought out, structured negotiation process can allow for the couple to consider ideas about how the economic aspect of their relationship will work that they may not have considered or initially thought to be important. In this way, the negotiation helps the couple to develop the objectives into a meaningful agreement that reflects their unique priorities.
- Prenup negotiations should not be adversarial.
Negotiations about money can trigger deep-seated fears, leading to expressions of anger, feelings of mistrust and anxiety about the future relationship. For that reason, a cooperative approach towards addressing the priorities and goals for the prenup is highly recommended. Working with experienced, collaborative lawyers who understand the importance of a principled negotiation helps to keep the process productive. Both parties’ priorities need to be considered in coming to a comprehensive agreement.
- Negotiation may be an art form, but it is not a game.
Many successful business-people talk about deal-making as a game or competition. While there is nothing wrong with healthy competition, winning at a cost to the relationship does not make sense. A savvy business professional takes pride in conducting himself or herself with integrity and knows the importance of building trustworthy, long-lasting relationships. The same thinking applies to a prenup. A long-lasting relationship depends on establishing a good foundation and both parties being treated as equals.
- In prenups, a win-win outcome is possible.
A prenup should not put one party at a disadvantage. Even when the assets are disproportionate coming into the marriage, a prenup can actually be a win-win for both parties in consideration of the facts of the case and relevant law. A positive negotiation process can foster this principle. As stated in Point #2 above, a prenup is about planning for the future. When a couple focuses on working together to create the prenup, both parties can win in the process.
- Prenup negotiations are about open communication. It’s not about you vs. me.
Each party should have an opportunity to express their priorities and concerns in working towards a mutually beneficial agreement. By remaining flexible and listening to what is important to the other party, the parties can work together to reach a reasonable resolution.
This sets the stage for how communication will work during the marriage and builds trust.
Because the prenup process involves negotiations between the parties and/or their attorneys, it can sometimes be difficult to shed the stereotype of a hard-fought business deal. Understanding why the prenup process is not a zero-sum game is important in coming to a durable agreement with which both parties feel like equal partners in the relationship moving forward.