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Thinking about a prenup? Consider mediation.

Last week, we outlined five reasons why a prenuptial agreement might not stand up to court scrutiny. In light of those reasons, you might wonder how best to approach the whole prenuptial agreement issue.

Getting a prenup is never a comfortable subject to bring up, despite their many benefits. In some cases, both partners agree that a prenup makes sense, say, if they own a home or business together. More often, though, one partner - or more likely his or her wealthy parents - make a prenup a prerequisite for the wedding.

In either case, the topic may create feelings of mistrust or doubt about the wedding plans. After all, it can feel like you're planning for the marriage to fail even before it starts.

Want to avoid the awkwardness and potentially hurt feelings? Some experts suggest using mediation to discuss your prenuptial agreement.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a legal process often used by divorcing couples who seek to avoid the drama of a courtroom divorce. In mediation, a neutral third party, the mediator, helps spouses work through their differences by acting as the go-between in divorce negotiations. The mediator will identify areas of agreement and disagreement, and try to help couples come to mutually agreeable solutions. Because they do not act for either party, the mediator cannot give legal advice.

Couples usually meet with the mediator a few times to work through the issues of marital asset division, custody, and child or spousal support. Once both parties come to an agreement, they sign it and file it with the court.

Why mediation can work well for prenups

Hopefully it's clear why this process might appeal to those who aren't seeking a divorce. Being handed a prenup out of the blue shifts the balance of power in an otherwise strong relationship. Using mediation eliminates this power imbalance and puts both partners on a level playing field. It may even help to throw out an initial prenup draft and start over with a clean slate.

It also keeps the focus on the couple's financial outlook and goals, not on the emotional issue of being asked to potentially sign away your rights and future security. Since a prenup requires the full financial disclosure of both partners to be valid, using a mediator means both partners have a chance to clear the air about their financial situations.

For example, you may not have realized what your partner owed in student loans and credit card debt, or that their parents set up a sizeable trust fund for them and intends it to stay in their name only. The time to discuss these issues is now, before tying the knot. Mediation provides a safe space to discuss the ramifications of past financial choices and how they may (or may not) affect your marital future.

Finally, discussing a prenup together means both parties will have equal say in what it says. By creating an agreement together, you will likely feel more secure about the outcome. Remember, a prenuptial agreement isn't a guarantee that your marriage will fail. Hopefully it's something you'll never have to invoke or use. Approaching these issues from a position of emotional - if not economic - equality can form a sound basis for the strong marriage you hope to create.

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