Creative Premarital Negotiations

Creative PMA Negotiations

The traditional model starts from and ends with “the law”. However, the process of creating a PMA can have a much larger scope – it can be an opportunity to plan for what kind of relationship and what kind of marriage you want to have; to learn more about each other; and to have a deeper conversation about the things that matter most to each of you.

In a creative PMA process, you and your fiancée start by disclosing all relevant information and identifying your individual life goals and your joint goals for the relationship. You explore together those areas where you share the same goals and attitudes, and those areas where your goals and attitudes may be different. For example, you may share the goal of starting a family and of retiring at age 65, but you may have different goals about what kinds of assets you want to acquire, and very different attitudes about the amount of debt you’re comfortable with.

What should emerge from these conversation is a marital plan, which then forms the basis of your PMA. Part of that plan may involve making decisions about whether to opt in or opt out of the community property system, but the plan itself is much more than that – it’s a reflection of what is most important to you as an individual and to the two of you as a couple.

For a checklist of things to think about and talk about if you are planning to get married, click here.

Process Choices for Creative PMA Negotiations

Mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process in which you and your fiancée make decisions together based on your understanding of your own views, each other’s views, and your goals for the marriage. I work as a non-coercive neutral to help both of you negotiate an agreement that serves you better than any alternative agreements.

What does the process look like? Since mediation proceeds by agreement, the first step is to make sure that you and your fiancée understand what mediation is and that I understand what kind of process you want. We together explore how we will work together. This usually involves setting ground rules for such things as the conduct of meetings; the use of lawyers; the disclosure of information; and confidentiality. I am a neutral participant who doesn’t recommend a solution but will actively help in brainstorming and evaluating options, sometimes giving legal information if you think it would be useful. I do not give legal advice and I am not a substitute for having your own lawyer. In PMA negotiations in particular it is important that each of you has a consulting lawyer.

Collaborative Negotiations. In collaborative negotiations you and your fiancée are each represented by a collaboratively trained lawyer and we all agree in advance to establish a structured process in which you and your fiancée will

  • negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement without coercion
  • maintain open communication and informal information-sharing, and
  • create shared solutions which acknowledge your highest priorities and your joint and separate goals for the future.

In addition, the lawyers agree that we will not represent you or your fiancée in any subsequent proceedings.

In a collaborative PMA negotiation other collaboratively trained professionals are available to assist you as needed. We meet and work together to gather information, discuss concerns, and work out the terms of a PMA which reflects your interests and concerns. Information about community property law is presented by the lawyers to both of you at the same time.

A collaborative team in a PMA negotiation might include lawyers, communications coaches and child specialists (both roles are filled by mental health professionals), estate planners, financial experts, and other professionals as needed. It might just be lawyers. All team members are trained in collaborative practice and agree to adhere to standards of practice that have been developed by national, statewide, and local collaborative organizations.