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Lives of Doctor Wives: Reader Question- Prenups

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reader Question- Prenups

A reader has asked for our advice:

I'm currently engaged to a 3rd year General Surgery Resident and we're getting married before the end of the year. No kids right now, but we plan to start trying for a family after we're married. We've been together 5 years, so I'm familiar with the struggles of being a doctor, both financially and emotionally, and have very realistic expectations how much time and energy my soon-to-be hubby has to spare.

He recently brought up the issue of signing a pre-nup before we get hitched. He didn't bring it up as a "Sign this or we don't get married," but more like, "So, what are your thoughts on pre-nups?" to test the waters. In his program, probably half of the residents are married and only a handful of the attendings he's under are married. The rest are divorced. I realize that in this day and age, divorce is all too common and that it can be very expensive and that both parties need to be sure to protect themselves. I'm sure my betrothed is influenced my his divorced attendings and thier horror stories of ex-wives and alimony and outrageous divorce settlements.

Of course, I'm sure this issue is a moot point (after all, I certainly don't plan on getting divorced!), but I'd like to hear what other doctor's wives have done regarding this issue. In all of the wedding planning, I've not once considered a pre-nup, it's not even been on my radar. So I was a little taken aback. I agree that we all (MDs and wives) need to always be aware of our finances and protect ourselves, but I'll be honest, I was a little offended by it. Of course, I realize that I wasn't the one studying until the early AM hours for 4 years, I'm not in the OR putting in the hours and logging cases, I'm not constantly sleep deprived and running on empty. BUT I do feel that I've supported him over the last 5 years to make him the successful doctor that he is today (by contributing financially, managing the house and the dogs, making sure he doesn't stave when he's on call, encouraging him when he's down, etc) by just being a loving partner. And once we have children, I'm aware that he'll of course be involved with them, but I'll be their primary caregiver and responsible for the majority of diapers, doctor's appointments and everything else that comes with them since his schedule is so demanding. Isn't that worth something?? Or am I overreacting?

Thanks so much for your help!

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Blogger Sybil said...

I would be EXTREMELY OFFENDED if my husband had even uttered the idea. Of course we dated for 3.5yrs of college, got married, then he attended medical school, residency and now fellowship. I guess I could see a prenup if you had not supported him throughout his training process...but it sounds to me like you have. I consider the sacrifices I have made to be almost as great as his and if something should happen to us, everything should be split at least equally (depending on the situation). My wonderful husband tells me all the time that he could not have gotten where he is without me. My advice - have a very long talk with him to find out what his feelings really are - is this just pressure from others or are there some real trust issues that need to be worked on.

August 2, 2011 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger annoyed army wife said...

It didn't come up for us. It's touchy subject for a lot of couples, not just doctors, but pre-nups are very common and I don't think you should be offended if he was just asking your thoughts. If you think it's a bad idea and you don't want to do it, then say so.

If you want to get married you should be able to talk about touchy subjects and arrive at a compromise or some sort of agreement. If a couple can't do that it's time to reassess communication skills. Again, just my two cents, take it with a grain of salt.

August 2, 2011 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Jaidi Clayton said...

I agree with both the previous comments (a little) I think that given that you have been with him for such a great majority of training (some of the hardest times) and supported him through tests, long nights and so forth, I think that a pre-nup should be a moot point. But I also agree that it should be something that the two of you could openly discuss. If he i adamantly opposed to marrying you without one, and you are adamantly opposed to marrying him with one, then I think that will help you in decisions. But I think if he is asking your opinion and you have been together for 5 years, than you should be able to talk about. It could just be that it was something someone told him at the hospital and he genuinely wanted to hear your opinion on it and had never even thought you guys should get one. Let him know your thoughts, and talk it over. Hopefully, you guys can come to an agreement. To me a prenup almost seems like a divorce agreement. I am marrying you today, but I expect that in the future you will want to leave me and steal all my money, so we are going to sign this contract that says if you leave me, you can't have my money...I personally, do not agree with them. But I think it should take a lot to bring up divorce. I think that you should definitely voice your concerns and listen to his. Maybe he is a legitimate reason for wanting one.

August 2, 2011 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

The thing with pre-nups is that they're primarily for people who already have money/assets that they need to protect going into a marriage. If your fiance is lucky he has somehow kept his debt low and maybe stored up some savings or had family gift stock etc.

For most people in this age group on this path a pre-nup doesn't make sense because you're speculating about future income. Now, if you get married, finish residency and then decide to be a SAHM you can always re-evaluate and draw up a legal document that protects you and the childrens future interest. However, it can cause tension and I know very few people who go that route. Mainly because in the event of a divorce all of that is hammered out anyways.

Do I think his question about a pre-nup was demeaning? No, he's just looking around and realizing that even people who go into this with the very best intentions get divorced. You can't predict the future. However, unless one of you has a large share hold of stock, inherited money or property, or significant savings there isn't anything to protect.

August 2, 2011 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger JumpingJane said...

Drew makes some good points. It depends on what your needs are and what type of prenup you create. Oddly enough, my stats are almost the same as you. We are in research year, right after third year of gen surg residency and get married in a month. We did a prenup. It basically stated whatever money we came in with and whatever debt we came in with is ours and we leave with that if something should happen. Everything accumulated during the marriage is evenly split. We felt this was the best way to protect both our intrests and be fair. But to be honest, I am the one coming in with the money, and he is the one coming in with the debt, so this was more to protect me then him. If he is asking for a prenup so he doesn't have to help you in the future once you bare his children, then I would be offended. I wouldn't be upset about the prenup if its in your both best interests. I agree with Jaidi, talk with him and see what he says. Here is the first step in having a good communicative marraige. :) It wont be the last time we hit a bump :)

August 2, 2011 at 5:48 PM  
Blogger Mrs. F said...

I'm married to an MD, we did not sign a prenup. In fact, I agree with the poster that said she would be VERY OFFENDED if her husband asked her to sign one. The fact that it even comes up would be a red flag to me, but that is my opinion and of course every relationship is different. I didn't support my husband one bit financially through medical school, but I truly admire those selfless wives (and husbands) who supported their spouses.

Prenups are for people who have A LOT of assets going into the marriage. On a practical note, all my friends in law school that got married during/after school did not make their spouses sign a prenup--for the simple fact that they didn't have anything (liabilities outnumbered assets at this point).

I would take into account whether or not you live in a community property state, where the presumption is basically 50/50 [how thoughtful] for all assets acquired during marriage. I would seek legal counsel if you end up having to sign a prenup.

Also, with taking care of debts...I have worked in collections and know first hand that most collections agencies are NOT required to follow divorce decrees/prenups. The debt is attached by social security numbers, so as long as your social is not attached to something, it's not your responsibility (regardless of the circummstances, regardless if you're married).

August 2, 2011 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger Kirk said...

May God bless your future family life!

August 3, 2011 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Rissy Roo said...

I'm under the assumption that prenups are to protect those going into a marriage who already have money. Once you enter a marriage, depending on the state you are in, its a "team" approach. Whatever is made during that time would be split/shared in the case of a divorce. And so, what would your prenup be protecting at this point?
I'm married to a Perinatologist. I supported him through residency and fellowship and now he supports our family as I care for our 3 little ones under 3. Some days are hard and he does miss things, a lot of things. But, its what I signed up for and we are a team. I manage everything house/kids/money/events, so that when he does get to be home - he just gets to be home with us and enjoy the time he gets to spend with us. The financial support will be there, but will you be ready to be a single parent on most days?

August 4, 2011 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Amy's Blog! said...

I don’t know if I am young or modern or just plain dumb. My bf and I – a first year intern – have been dating almost 4 years (so I did the late night studies, the delivering of toothbrushes to the hospital on spontaneous overnight stays, the chores..oh the chores… and the plumbing) and honestly… I will most likely be asking for a prenup –I feel that it is used to protect myself. Things happen. People grow and while I see marriage as a lifelong commitment, if the bf decides he would rather do medical missions in Africa in 10 years and I am the CEO of a business, our paths will diverge. Most importantly however is the fact that my loving parents have provided me the opportunity for a free undergrad education as well as a free- yep free again – Masters degree. I have zero debt, no college loans, no car debt, no credit card. While he on the other hand is 6 figures deep and the first number does not start with a 1. I currently am the bread winner and will be for the next 5 years and quite frankly in my profession… maybe more.
It isn’t that he is a Doctor or that I am projecting a career as a business woman and cant phantom the idea as a stay at home mom, protection of assets is important. And yes, who wants to think about divorce, no one. But should anything happen I need to be sure the money and debt coming into a marriage are separated and the money and assets acquired during marriage are protected and distributed.
I do feel stronger about a prenup for any marriage with children from a previous marriage or union, should one person pass away the prenup will show what was the starting financial ground for the marriage, protecting most importantly the child.
If a prenup sounds bad – then call it a will – cause no one wants to think about death as much as divorce right? and ensure that should anything happen medical debt will be covered by the dr.’s assets and assets obtained during the marriage are split upon spouses or families.

August 4, 2011 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger MrsOgg said...

I can understand your initial feeling of offense at the thought of a prenup. From what you told us you have been with him for 5 years through some of the most difficult years of his training without any real commitment from him (bc living together is not the same as being married). Now, you can probably tell I am coming from a pretty conservative background but, to me you have shown an extremely high level of commitment to your fiancee. Warning: The following statement may seem old fashioned but, You have been with him for a LONG time without expectation of a marriage which in my opinion is a sacrifice in itself (even if it didn't feel that way because you love him). In other words you took a "risk" on him so perhaps that's why you are offended now that he might be less than ready to take a "risk". I agree however, with those who said you need to talk it over with your fiancee to see why he brought it up. Also, I would think aobut your fiancee's and your background to understand why he might have some fears or trust issues with marriage. I say marriage because his fears may just be about marriage in general and not YOU. Are his parents or someone else significant in his life divorced? Has he been hurt before? All these things can play into it. I won't advise you on whether to get the prenup but, can tell you my experience and viewpoint. My husband and I did not even consider a prenup when we married (pre-medschool) although he planned to become a surgeon we didn't really have any assets yet. To us we felt that acknowledging divorce before even walking down the aisle was like saying we considered it an option. To us it isn't. I know most marriage counselors say not to mention the "D" word when you're having marital problems and I feel that writing a prenup is a similiar concept. So, my husband and I did discuss our opinions on these things and when we were young and newly in love we trusted ourselves and eachother enough to beleive we would be together forever. If I felt there was a possibility of divorce I would NOT have married him. That's how I feel and five years later I still pretty much feel the same way. Still love him though it certainly hasn't been a fairytale every single day. I think there were times that our commitment to marriage and/or our family was the only thing that got us through. Medical school/Residency is hard but, marriage -that lasts- is harder. It's amazing how you can find new solutions, new energy and renewed love when a forever marriage is your only option. I wish I could tell you what to do with the prenup but, I wish you the best and know you both can work it out. Good luck!

August 4, 2011 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Marisa said...

1. If you don't have any assets (like if your debt is greater than your net worth), you don't NEED a prenup.

2. What kind of property do you own and how is it titled? In separate property states, the way property is titled determines who gets it in case of divorce or who can devise it in case of death. In marital/community property states (AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, WI), there is a presumption that most assets acquired during marriage belong equally to husband and wife. Consider what kind of state you live in.

3. It may be a good idea to get a marital property agreement (MPA). MPAs allow you to agree in writing on how property will pass if you divorce or if one of you dies (God forbid). You might want to agree that most of your assets will be split equally except certain ones, or that most of your assets will remain separate except certain ones. Marital property agreements are common and can be useful in the event of death. They don't need to even mention divorce if you don't want to. So you should consider how you want your assets to pass in the event of death to decide if you want an MPA that will apply to assets you currently have and property you will acquire in the future.

4. Courts aren't required to follow the prenup or MPA.

Best of luck.

August 4, 2011 at 5:07 PM  
OpenID navigatingnewyork said...

I just married my Resident earlier this summer. We did not sign a pre-nup, but I did bring it up prior to the wedding. As others have mentioned, I am the one that brought assets into our marriage. I would not have been offended had my now-husband been the one to broach the subject though. I have absolutely no intention of ever getting divorced, but you just never know. I am my husband's second wife (there were no children though), and I am certain the girl he first married went into it with no thoughts of ever divorcing. I met my husband just a few weeks before he graduated from med school, so I may not have the same perspective as those who have been with their partners through it all.

August 4, 2011 at 11:28 PM  
OpenID Christina said...

Well, I can understand how this type of situation would bring up conflicting feelings. I think you can taylor make a pre-nup to your needs...make it work for both of you. You make good points about 'supporting him', etc...

I am dating a last yr surgical resident, we have gotten serious--speaking now of living together and marriage. As I read your post, I asked myself how would I feel if he asked ME to sign a pre-nup?...Of course, we have both been married before...while I have some assets,house, etc....most likely he is the one who will earn more money than me...

My thoughts....after being married, TRYING to date and meet a person of quality with whom I have a special connection with for years...(7 since my divorce..) I have finally found a special, caring wonderful man...who has the same vision for his life that I do...I feel so happy and lucky to have found him. I want a life with him-- pre- nups will not come in the way of what is important--money comes, money goes, LOVE and the ties that bind endure.

So--if I were to be asked to sign one--I would say 'yes'--BUT, I would negotiate the terms to something we could both be happy with.

August 7, 2011 at 6:01 AM  
Blogger TheFamousStacie said...

My best friend had her med school hubby sign a prenup to protect her large inheritance from any future medical lawsuit her hubby may encounter. This protects the $ for them both. Seemed smart.

Other than something that helps you both together, I wouldn't like it.

August 12, 2011 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger K said...

Say yes to the pre-nup and then put a clause that you get half of everything. If he does not agree to that or drops the idea of a pre-nup altogether at that point, well then you know where you stand with him.

August 16, 2011 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Fiesole said...

Just wanted to add a quick note here -- look at his speciality... general surgery. There are surgery residencies out there where the high divorce rate is almost a bragging right. I can easily see the other docs he works with telling him a prenup is a great idea.

I'm glad I didn't need to go through this with my husband (both surgery residency or prenup conversations), but as has already been said -- just talk to him about how you feel about it. You have very valid points about what you've already given to the relationship. Just make sure you're protected as well. There will be a lot of sacrifice on your part (especially after the first child) and there will be a lot of debt to pay off.

August 31, 2011 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Old MD Girl said...

Think of a prenup as a way to protect YOURSELF in case the unthinkable happens to your marriage. I know it's easy to get offended by the suggestion (I probably would have been), but allow your pragmatic side to see its utility. It could be a big help to you in the future.

September 16, 2011 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger MLJ said...

I understand that he is the one that is the one going through med school and that divorce is a reality for many people. I also know that whom one marries and divorces are two different people, however, I would have been extremely offended and hurt! I would never do it either. After all, you will be the one baring his children And, if the "unthinkable should happen, should you be left with children and if he's the one who wants the divorce add insult to injury by not having to pay alimony?

It would be one thing if you didn't plan on having kids, because then you could go on to do whatever career you would later choose, but being divorced with children and then having no support from an ex-husband on top of that would be pretty difficult to say the least.

IMO, if someone loves you enough to say I do for the rest of you life, they should also be willing to support you as well. For me I'd be willing to die for my family/husband because I love him that much, I would hope that my spouse would at least be willing to share his life (which means everything, including money) with me and his children. (ps, he does)

December 9, 2011 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger lisa h. said...

i'm not gonna read all the comments cause there are so many by now...my thought on it is basically that by having a prenup you assume divorce is an option or a chance you might split. I would be upset just by that, because when we got married we decided divorce would not be an option and we were going to live up to our marriage. not always easy, but 10 1/2 yrs later we're still going and learning how to deal with stuff.

December 16, 2011 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Renewed Upon a Dream said...

I would be majorly offended at the suggestion of this as well. I was the one supporting him through med school. I paid the bills when he ran out of loan money. I paid for our food, I paid for our wedding. Now, we're paying his student loans together, and will be for a long time. I'm working full time & part time & doing EVERYTHING at home. The suggestion that he would do this would set me off big time. Our prenup would then consist of him paying me back for years of supporting him...

December 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Camilla said...

I could understand offense, and we don't have a prenup, so I'm not very familiar with them. I think you can set it up so that if you sacrifice to stay home with kids, and he works, you can be entitled to 50% of the assets aquired during the marriage? If he isn't willing to set things up that way, I'd be concerned. I can understand the desire for a prenup because I've heard of some terribly bitter, vindictive wives WHO FIGHT FOR EVERYTHING and just punish their ex. I'm sure it goes both ways, though.

My hubby is a PGY5 gen surg residency and we, too, have seen our fair share of divorces. Life isn't easy, especially when hubs is at work getting pats on the back and is very well respected, and I get to potty-train and carpool. What has made our marriage great is my husband really, truly respects the work I do. I know that in his mind he doesn't think his job is more important than mine. Also, we both talk a lot about our days to each other. I love to hear about his patients, and he loves to hear about my day, too!!

I love being married to a surgeon, even though it stinks I haven't seen him in 2 days, and he won't be here Christmas morning either. There are sacrifices. But there are so many sweet things about it too. Good luck in your marriage. You can do it!!

December 25, 2011 at 2:04 AM  
Blogger DJ & Megan said...

My husband (MD) and I have been together for almost 12 years and started dating before he went to medical school. We did not get a pre-nup and it may have only been mentioned jokingly prior to marriage. Now, I look at our life and sometimes wonder about doing a POST-NUP. In the state we live, it's a no-fault state, so I feel to protect myself in the future a post-nup would be a good way to go. With the amount of time my husband works, I am left to do just about everything for our life. We do not have any children..yet, but I am fully aware that I will be a single parent most of the time.

You never know how things will change once the MD goes behind their name...I saw some changes (i.e. nurses chasing after him), so I feel a pre-nup or post-nup would be more to protect myself than anything.

January 7, 2012 at 7:31 PM  
OpenID 63379184-5b86-11e4-952b-0348d14aace4 said...

We are not married yet.
We have BRIEFLY spoke of a prenup... He wasn't even asking how I feel about it, it just happened to come up in conversation. I am willing to sign one, as I was not the done that put in the hard work and long hours, however everything we have since we have been together (ranch, rental homes, etc) has been a part of both of us.
This is our life that we are building together.
I am willing to sign one, however, I would not want it to include anything that we have accumulated together. Does that make sense?
I feel that it is important for him to protect his assets from before we were together, and I would understand if he were to want one. His ex wife really did him in..
With that being said, he said he doesn't want one. He said that it is preparing us for devastation.
Also, remember, he is 43.. When we get married, this will be his last marriage whether it works or not.

October 24, 2014 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Audrey Butler said...

While some may say that money shouldn’t come in between love and relationship, I still think it’s better for one to think pragmatically on these things. It doesn’t have to mean that one is anticipating a divorce, and isn’t just about dividing assets. Discussing prenup agreements is also a way of knowing the dealbreakers in a relationship. Thus, it’s actually an honest and upfront way of communicating with your partner, and that’s an important thing to know before you jump into marriage.

Audrey Butler @ The law office of Amy E. Goodblatt, P.A

February 3, 2015 at 8:26 AM  

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