"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", the old adage reads from Benjamin Franklin.
For better or worse. In sickness and in health. To love and honor... Vows soon-to-be newlyweds recite on the day of their weddings. But really, what about premarital planning? Brides and grooms spend countless hours discussing wedding guests, flowers, menus for the reception -- few devote significant time to the all-important conversations on issues that will affect their entire married life including finances, children, healthcare and estate planning.
Enter the Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt, 48 and Angelina Jolie, 36, who are finally tying the knot after seven years of dating, cohabiting and six children together. According to Forbes, Brad is worth an estimated $150 million, while Angelina is worth $120 million, equaling a net worth of $270 million. Both Brad and Angelina have been married before, once and twice respectively, dramatically increasing their chances of divorce (to over 60 percent), so the odds are clearly stacked against them. The burning question is: can they beat the odds and make their marriage last?
Because Brad and Angelina have a lot to lose in the event they divorce, both financially and emotionally, they need to truly work on staying happily married from the beginning. That is where I come in! Here are a guidelines on what this couple needs to do in order to build a marriage from the ground up based on respect and honesty and to make it last.
1. Discuss entering into a prenuptial agreement.
Good communication about money is essential to ensuring a successful partnership well into the future. But make no mistake, bringing up the topic of prenuptial agreements can be extremely difficult, and even starting that financial conversation can be overwhelming.
Prenuptial agreements are often used as financial planning tools to help resolve many issues regarding property ownership, resolution of debt, division of business interests, spousal support, and other asset-based issues that might arise in the event of a divorce. A married couple must work together to understand how they will run their financial lives. If a prenuptial agreement is right for you, it should reflect the spirit of your partnership and be viewed as a financial counterpart to your wedding vows.
Without a prenuptial agreement, Brad and Angelina have hundreds of millions to lose in the event of divorce. They should absolutely enter into a prenuptial agreement and work together to share in their marital earnings. I would suggest they keep all other premarital assets separate, to preserve what they worked so hard to acquire. IF things are going well five, 10 or 15 years down the road they can rip up the prenuptial agreement and live financially happily ever after.
2. Know your roles and expectations.
Roles and expectations are created and defined when two people enter into a romantic relationship, and they begin to change and modify as the partnership grows. A role defines how you and your partner handle responsibilities, assume leadership on an emotional and financial level, divide household tasks, and parent together. Expectations may be based on previous relationships, family dynamics, or images picked up from the media. Those images in particular can lead to unrealistic beliefs that can contribute to dissatisfaction in a marriage. If you're expecting your partner to leave rose petals on the bed, run your bath water every night, and cook breakfast for you on the weekends, you're bound to be disappointed at some point.
In traditional or religious households, the expectations are often that people get married at a young age, and that men and women should stick to traditional gender roles. They might ask, "Did your mother take care of the needs of the household while your father went out to work? Or was it the opposite? If both of your parents worked, were you left alone or with your siblings to take care of you?" If you were unhappy with the way your parents handled things, it's likely that you'll want your own marriage to be different.
Despite being busy actors and film producers, Brad and Angelina should still be able to create their own roles and expectations within their family dynamic, regardless of tradition. It's also critical for them to acknowledge the roles that they're currently playing and the expectations that they share for future roles. Sharing the roles will allow them to enjoy their careers but also co-parent effectively and without one parent feeling like they are shouldering all of the responsibilities themselves. That's what a marriage truly is -- a partnership.
3. Establish parameters for a happy marriage.
As Angelina and Brad's lives become hectic with movies, interviews and juggling six children, it's important for them to stay tuned into what's going on with their lives. Knowing the parameters for a happy marriage will help, but Brad and Angelina will need these skills in order to be able to follow them: Direct, honest, and assertive communication is crucial. Brad and Angelina need to talk to each other about their dreams, their goals, their feelings, their needs, their wants, their everything. Communication, listening, and conflict resolution skills within a marriage tend to be more charged with emotion than in other relationships and can evolve into unhealthy patterns.
Talking about these topics is not easy. But these kinds of conversations are essential to ensuring a firm foundation for a happy and healthy marriage. The key to a happy, healthy and long-lasting marriage appears to weigh heavily on honesty and careful planning. Discussing vital topics such as children, money, family relationships' and dynamics, prior relationships will lead couples to a stronger union. You can live together for years but getting married changes the legal aspect of your relationship.
As a practicing attorney for more than a decade, Vikki S. Ziegler (www.VikkiZiegler.com) was named one of the "Top 40 Lawyers Under 40" by New Jersey Law Journal, Top Lawyer Under 40 by NJ BIZ, included in Super Lawyers for the past several years, and has appeared on many national television shows to comment on high-profile divorce and custody cases, including the trials of Madonna, Tiger Woods, Sandra Bullock, and Mel Gibson. Ziegler is the author of "The Premarital Planner: Your Complete Legal Guide to a Perfect Marriage". She is recently engaged, and is certainly living by the rules she presents in her book.