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Lilah Sutphen Headshot

DOMA and Prop 8 Are Dead -- Prenup First, Then Wedding Vows

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Hip hip, hooray! Section 3 of DOMA is dead! The Constitution prevails. More people can get married.

Wedding bells are ringing in California, where same-ex marriage prevails in spite of the intrusive, outrageous spending of anti-gay marriage organizations. It's celebrations galore! Shakespeare's words ring true: "Here come the lovers, full of joy and mirth. Joy and fresh days of love accompany your hearts!"

While I don't want to rain on our parade, I am going to suggest we press pause and take a moment to talk about the often-detested prenup. This discourse is specifically important for all you same-sex couples contemplating marriage due to the state-by-state legal patchwork of same-sex marriage recognition. It is fantastic that same-sex marriage is legal in 13 states now, but that leaves 37 states where it is not. What happens if you move to one of the non-recognition states? What if you live in one of these states now but are planning to go to a marriage recognition state to get married? A prenup is a great tool to address the legal and financial issues that will arise if your home state does not recognize your marriage.

I also want to take a moment to clear the negative air that surrounds a prenup. A prenup is not a negative thing. It is not planning for divorce. It is not showing distrust. A prenup is actually a valuable tool for fortifying a relationship; it shows respect for your partner and builds a base for a sturdier marriage.

Even more, a prenup provides predictability in terms of finances and other emotion-laden obligations and expectations. It allows a relationship to remain focused on engaging with each other's hearts and emotions without wondering or worrying about a partner's worth, financial need or even who will care for a child. And if the bloom does fall off the rose, the mutual agreement you and your (soon to be) ex-spouse reached in the prenup will make the dissolution process smoother, cheaper and definitely less emotional and contentious.

I can't help but reflect on a starry-eyed folly of a close friend a few years back. My dear friend fell in love/lust with an exotically beautiful woman. Within two years they had registered as California domestic partners, and purchased a house, furniture and dog (thank goodness, they did not have a child). Fast-forward another year, and Ms. Exotic decides she might not be gay (a brief delusion) and they split. My-oh-my, were things messy! Had they completed a pre-registration agreement (equivalent of a prenup for domestic partners) expectations regarding that house, perhaps custody of the dog and definitely any interest Ms. Exotic had in my friend's business would have already been settled. They also could have discussed spousal support and other assets and debts, all of which became the fuel for a raging fire with the custody of the dog (and visitation rights) taking center stage. This dramatic (hello attorney fees) battle would not have happened had they had the entered into a prenup from the get-go.

If you love your partner and your relationship is ready to go to the next level because, thank SCOTUS, it now can, then it's time to start planning that wedding! Woo hoo! But first, buy a nice bottle of wine, assemble a cheese board or chip, dip and beer combo -- whatever rocks your boat -- and have that prenup conversation and make a plan to see an attorney and put it in writing. You can discuss wedding cake over dessert or some other activity.