June 30, 2021

What You Need To Know Before You Get Married, Gabrielle Hartley, Esq

In this episode of We Chat Divorce, we’re joined by Gabrielle Hartley to discuss the topic of What You Need to Know Before You Get Married. Here’s an overview of Gabrielle’s experience:

 

Gabrielle Hartley, Esq. is a leading online mediator and family law attorney known for keeping 99% of her cases at the settlement table. She is the author of Better Apart; The Radically Positive Way to Separate, which received a glowing recommendation from Gwyneth Paltrow and People Magazine.

 

Before opening her full-service online mediation and professional training center, Gabrielle clerked in matrimonial court in NYC where she resolved hundreds of high conflict divorces.

 

She is a sought-after expert in the positive divorce space in media outlets such as The New York Times, The New York Post, U.S. News and World Report, has been interviewed on dozens of podcasts and is a regular guest on NBC Mass Appeals. Gabrielle serves on many committees within the ABA Mediation Access to Justice Week 2020, and co-chair of the DR Just Resolutions Mediation Edition. She is also on the Western MA Mediation and Collaborative Dispute Resolution Steering Committee.

 

Gabrielle trains divorce professionals in the Better Apart Method Online. In addition to offering training for professionals, she maintains a private mediation practice and is of counsel to Lisa Zeiderman’s law firm in Westchester and NYC.

 

Hosts, Karen, and Catherine sit down with Gabrielle Hartley to discuss what you need to know before you get married.

Learn More >> www.gabriellehartley.com

Connect with Grace on LinkedIn >> @Gabrielle Hartley

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Catherine Shanahan, Karen Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work.

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Catherine Shanahan and Karen Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Catherine Shanahan or Karen Chellew.

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Karen:

Welcome to We Chat Divorce, Catherine and I are honored to welcome attorney Gabrielle Hartley to our podcast, today. In this episode, we're going to discuss what you need to know before you get married. Expert advice from the divorce lawyer, so you won't ever need one. But first, let me take a couple of minutes to introduce Gabrielle. Gabrielle is a Leading Online Mediator and Family Law Attorney. She is the author of Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate, which received a glowing recommendation from Gwyneth Paltrow and People Magazine. [inaudible 00:00:37], an expert in the positive divorce space and media outlets such as The New York Times, the New York Post, U.S. News & World Report. She's been interviewed on dozens of podcasts and is a regular guest on NBC Mass Appeal. And here she is with us today. Gabrielle trains, divorce professionals in the Better Apart method online. Welcome, Gabrielle.

Gabrielle:

Hi.

Catherine:

Hello. I love this. Flipping the story, what to do before you get married. We don't often, or do we ever even talk about that?

Gabrielle:

Well, I find the Millennial generation is really on top of things. I know there's a lot of conversation about, everything that's wrong with them, but I'm going to say they're a planning group. And so I get a lot of phone calls with people asking me what they need to know? Do they maybe need a prenup? Or sometimes they're not even really interested in a prenup, but they're just literally interviewing me to find out what do I see that goes wrong? And so I decided to write this book, what you need to know before you get married so that people who couldn't afford an hour with me could just get it for free right now. And then just for a couple of bucks on Amazon, when it goes up there. And to talk about the things that you really need to pay attention to, which you may be totally ignored while you're in the throes of romance.

Catherine:

Yeah. I say this all the time, because, I say that people will budget for their wedding. They'll... How much they can spend on their dress? And how much they can spend in a venue? And what's the band? But do you ever really talk about your budget post marriage? No. What are the expectations between the two of you post the big fun marriage? Just not a conversation, a lot of people have.

Gabrielle:

That's right. They don't talk... They're so wedding-oriented, but they're not talking about how they're going to plan for retirement, life insurance, childcare, somebody's mom going to watch kids? Are you going to have kids? Even away from the money and we will circle right back to the money. But do one of you expect that you're going to have dinner with your parents once a week or twice a week, even? Right. Are they going to come to you or are you expected to go there for Sunday dinner? Do you expect that your spouse is always going to go with you?

Gabrielle:

These are things that really break people up. What about partying? Right. I have a little section called, my girl wants to party all the time or maybe I said guy, I don't remember. But, it might be a lot of fun to go out every night when you're dating and you're just living it up. But then when you finally are settling down, it may be that one of you decides it's time to open quote, "Grow up." Close quote. And the other of you might say, "What do you mean grow up? This is who I am. This is who I thought you were." There's a lot of important conversations that don't happen. And what's so interesting is when you're getting divorced, all of these conversations are often happening for the first time.

Catherine:

And it's the blame game. "You never wanted to go out at night. You never wanted to do this. You never held my hand. You never got me flowers." But, they never did that before. You never had the conversation before they got married.

Gabrielle:

Or maybe when you were dating, they did get you flowers, but they were in the courting stage, right. But now it's real-life in your marriage. So, I love that you just brought up the blame game. That's something I talk a lot about in the context of divorcing positively. It's about becoming an active visionary. Same thing, having these important conversations is not just about doing an investigation of your betrothed to be, right. It's like an investigation and to yourself, what's your vision? So what you need to know before you get married is also about, really having an important conversation about what you want out of your life with yourself. Do you want to work 70 hours a week? Or do you want to work for somebody? Or do you want to work for yourself? Do you want to work part-time? Are you picturing that you're going to be a homemaker? Are you going to have a career? Or are you going to have a job just to make some money? Or does one of you have significant family money? How's that going to work with your marriage? Right.

Catherine:

But, even when you have the vision, it changes. I wanted to be Donna Mills from Knots Landing. That was my goal. I was going to be this little kind of aggressive woman in the work field. And then I had my daughter and once I had her, I didn't want to work anymore. I just could not see myself leaving her. So your goals and your dreams can change, but how do you communicate that with each other?

Gabrielle:

Right. And it's really ongoing. And, we touched briefly on the idea of, you can have... Everybody's heard of the idea of a prenup, which is making an agreement before you get married, to tie up what would happen in the case of dissolution or divorce after you're married. And there's a lot of things that we could sort of dive into that, but also just so anyone listening to this knows if you've become, if you've gotten married and things were going well for the first, seven to 13 years and year 14, your spouse says, "You know what, I'm going to take on a bunch of debt because I've always wanted to open a restaurant." And suddenly you're like, "Oh My Gosh, I don't want to take this debt with you." Or for whatever other set of reasons there is something called a postnuptial, that you can enter into, which is basically a contract after you're married, which would designate how things will unfold. Should you get divorced?

Catherine:

Let me back you up there for one second. So our listeners can understand because it's a common question and quite confusing at times. So the Millennials or whatever they're called, the younger generation, I just call them all. A lot of them keep separate accounts. The first time I got married, you wouldn't even think of keeping separate accounts because I didn't grow up that way. But now they're keeping separate accounts. And does that protect them? How do they protect those separate accounts? If they don't, if they didn't get it prenup?

Gabrielle:

It really depends where they live. In Massachusetts, anything that's acquired after the marriage is definitely considered marital, regardless of how it's titled, the same thing in New York. It's really important that you have conversations. And quite frankly, if you want to really protect yourself, you really do need to have a written agreement just because something is not in your name... Is in your name alone does not mean that it's not both of yours. In fact, in Massachusetts, even if things were acquired before marriage, everything comes into the marital part until you prove that it's not part of the marital part.

Gabrielle:

Whereas in New York, everything is considered, anything marital is marital, separate is separate, and then you have to discuss and explain and prove why it should come into the marital part? And I'm only familiar really intimately with those two states. And I would suggest anybody who has money and they want to make sure that it's considered separate, that they create a contract that protects it. Let's talk a minute about inheritances or trusts, right. Those aren't necessarily going to be deemed separate property either in case of a dissolution. And that can be really shocking for some people to find out. So it's really important, they have all these conversations.

Karen:

So to that point, we have a lot of couples come to us or individuals come to us with their net worth statement. And so that obviously defines what they consider their marital estate. But all of those points you just made and change that net worth statement as it relates to the division of property. And so I think you usually have one person who's a spreadsheet person, right. And they come in with that and they want that to be what they're dividing. And so many times that's not what you're dividing at all, because of all of these different factors. So that's why financial clarity is so important. And having financial conversations is so important so that your goals and what you're doing? And how you're living? And how you're behaving? Is in tandem with each other. So that when you, if you would choose to separate, for whatever reason, you're not having to reach that huge gap of yuckiness. Lack of a better word there.

Gabrielle:

I always say hard now, easy later, right. That's what I see about mediating with people who are having a difficult time working through details, they just want to sort of glaze over things and you never want to glaze over things. The same thing when you're getting married, you really want to have these conversations. I know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famous for saying, "A long-term marriage is predicated on everybody being a little deaf." And yes, there's value to ignoring some of the things that could make us upset and angry once we are married. But when it comes to your financial stability and integrity and ability to move forward and have respect for each other and not want to, blow your own head off or each other's heads off.

Gabrielle:

It's really important that you have these conversations. Especially if you're marrying people from different backgrounds. So, it doesn't matter if you have similar amounts of money, our money narratives are so strong and they really play into how we go through life. I was just going to say, sometimes I have clients who have millions and millions of dollars and they really don't want to spend money on two hours of mediation, where somebody else has very little money and they don't want anything for free. And they just have a different relationship with money.

Catherine:

That's exactly it. Everybody has a different money story and whether it's good or bad, it's an intimidating conversation. But I think if my advice would be for everyone to approach it with an expectation outlook. So it's not really a questioning outlook about the finances, but if you came to your spouse or your partner and said, I just want to discuss expectations as it relates to finances." It's a much gentler, kinder way to walk into that conversation. And it's something, again, like you both said, it's an ongoing conversation. So again, two years into your marriage, you can say, "Maybe our expectations have shifted here, let's re-discuss what our plan was from two years ago to today." And if you start that pattern of expectations, it's really great because it doesn't put anybody on the defensive. Just, is a great conversation to have, and I encourage everyone to have it.

Gabrielle:

I think that that's a really great point. But going back to the idea of having these conversations before you get married. Typically, how we view things, yes, of course, we mature and we grow and we start to see things differently. As we become older, we tend to feel more powerful and more able if things are going in a favorable way. But, who we essentially are? Is sort of there from the beginning and having conversations about all different things, including money, even if the conversations are uncomfortable, you're doing yourself a favor. Even if you end up breaking your engagement, right. Or maybe you say, "We're going to get married." But, you get married with the knowledge of how each other thinks. You just saved yourself in 20 years, like, "Oh My Gosh, who are you?" I never knew conversations. Right.

Catherine:

Exactly. Yeah.

Karen:

Yeah. Gabrielle, how often should the prenup be revisited?

Gabrielle:

So a prenup is just what it says, it's prenuptial. It is created before you get married. And once you are married, you cannot have a new prenup. That would be a postnup. So after you're married, typically actually people don't revisit them all that often. The whole idea is that it's done, right. The only reason that typically people would enter a postnup is that something changed, maybe the economic position of one person or another, or the attitudes of one person or the other has changed. Maybe the people, somebody found out that their husband or wife cheated on them and they want a divorce. And they say, "The only way I'm going to stay with you is if you enter a postnup where I get 80% of everything." And the person says, "I promise, I'll never do it again." And then they call me and I say, "Oh, don't make those promises. You might not keep buddy." Right.

Catherine:

Yeah.

Karen:

Yeah.

Catherine:

Give her the 80%. Yeah. We have a lot of people that come through our and do our portrait. And because we provide a space where they can decompress, where they're gathering information and really let out their feelings on how their financial life has been for the past 20 years or what have you. They come to a new understanding and we send them to mediation afterward, or we send them to a marriage counselor because they decide that they just want to postnup. They want to stay together, but they want a new financial understanding between the two of them. And they want to work on their emotional side, not so much the financial side because that would be taken care of. And I think it's really a good approach if you're not sure whether you want to get divorced or not.

Gabrielle:

Absolutely. I actually have, I train mediators in the Better Apart method. And I have a set of mediators who I refer to, who that's, all they do is people who want to stay married, but need to create new rules for their marriage going forward, right. So it's not one size fits all. It's just when I say that, I mean the outcome is not one size fits all. People can get through all kinds of adversity. You can have really different ways of viewing things. There's always compromise concessions, acquiescence, all different ways to get along, right. But you have to be able to have meaningful conversations to get there. And I'm just going to add in a little conflict resolution tip, when you're stuck in an argument loop, let's say you start having these important premarital conversations or you're already married and you're having a hard time. When we get stuck in a loop, we're typically perseverating on the, what? What we're arguing about? Right. But if we can get beneath the what? And get to the why we care? We can start to have conversations that get some movement.

Gabrielle:

So it's like what we want? That's our wants and the why we want it? Is typically the need. So when we can satisfy our needs, then we can start making agreements with each other. So let's say you're getting married. And one of you wants a big family and one of you doesn't want kids. Well, red flag stop, have a conversation, "Why do you want a big family?" "Well, because we said, we're moving across the country and I don't want to feel isolated." "Why don't you want any kids?" "I feel like I'm going to be pulled in too many directions and I want a career." Well, there's a lot of space in there, right. Maybe you don't need to move across the country. Maybe you can agree to have a nanny. When we get to the why? When we dive into the why? We can create solutions and it's the same thing with financial wellness, "Why do we need $10 million of life insurance?" "Well, if you die, I'm afraid of this, that, and the other thing." "Okay, how else might we find a solution for that?"

Catherine:

So I call that the emotional value to a financial asset. That's finding what's the emotional connection to this asset or to the debt? Why you're acquiring this debt? Because that's really what needs to be fixed or that's the conversation that needs to be fixed. We have the data and we can give your attorneys and your mediators, the data and all the recommendations and considerations and all of that. But then you need to do the work to get to the why? Or the emotional value behind it. Excuse me.

Gabrielle:

Yeah. And, the Better Apart process, that book was written specifically for, [inaudible 00:17:45], can see the book, for people who are going through a divorce, but it's really navigation of getting your own inner alignment in check. So it's like, "How can I slow down? How can I get clear? How do I move past disagreements? How can I address things from a zero valence clear, neutral way?" All of these things are actually important to all of us, whether we're single, married, divorced, an artist at home on a commune or a businesswoman on wall street, no matter who we are. When we are aware of our inner thoughts, we can start changing them, we can start neutralizing and then we can start having important conversations.

Karen:

Yeah. And I think to your point, it's never too late to start having those conversations and start making those agreements. Because I think, the Gray Divorce is a big movement in our country right now. And I feel like it's a lot of people looking for autonomy and having those conversations and having those agreements can create for a lot of people, not for everybody, of course, that level of autonomy that they can continue their relationship that maybe is perfectly intact, except for people have lost their autonomy.

Gabrielle:

That's so on point Karen, that is... That's my story in a way, right. I was really unhappy in my marriage because everything was about my husband and I was very full of resentment. And I wanted to write this book and I was like, "I want to write this book. I want to be a global conversation changer around divorce. And I want to get Gwyneth Paltrow to endorse it." I had this vision and I didn't know what it was going to do to my marriage because I was suddenly playing big or whatever you want to call it. And, it was definitely created some bumps in the road, but there were bumps anyway, right. So, why not see if there's a way that you can make your relationship, whatever that relationship may be like with a spouse or with whomever, see if you can make it work and you change your own behavior? You can always leave. But why not try to change from within the context of the relationship first?

Catherine:

Yeah. And it's a hard conversation because the longer you wait, the harder it is. So the earlier you can do that. Good for you. My daughter did the best thing for me when she got married this past August, the prior year, she gave me the talk, "Mom, I'm not going to be home for every Christmas, Charlie and I will be alternating Christmas and Thanksgiving." And I was kind of like, "What? I can't imagine, not having my daughter there." But she really set me up to like, "This is what we discussed and we're going to alternate holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving." [crosstalk 00:20:56]. So I was able to settle myself into that as her being my first one to go off and do that to me.

Gabrielle:

Catherine, that's such a great example because case in point, it's not just about who you're married to. We have lots of close relationships, our children, my goodness, right. Your children are like your lifeblood and the idea of not having holidays with them, I have three sons, so I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I'm never going to see them again." But, I can always try to trap them with me right now. But, but the fact of the matter is, what a gift that your daughter was so clear with you. And I'm sure she was that clear because she had a mom who did a lot of work around clarity and you modeled clarity to her. That's amazing, you should be really proud. You literally gave me complete chills on my arms.

Catherine:

What I thought was the cutest was because of my first holiday that she wasn't here. I was so worried about my son because I always want my kids to always know... As a mom, we all feel like, [inaudible 00:22:04], to know when you're not here, your kids are there to take care of each other, right. And so I remember the first thing, he was like, "Well." Trying to see if he should be with his dad that time because Danielle would be. He was trying to align the two of them. I just was so happy with that. I thought, "Oh, that's so sweet. And maybe they did this with to me."

Gabrielle:

They say it seeps in.

Catherine:

Yeah, it does seep in, right.

Gabrielle:

My kids are total teenagers. So...

Catherine:

Yeah. You'll get there.

Gabrielle:

Right now, you're all just really sweet.

Catherine:

Oh yeah. That's a sweet age. Yeah.

Karen:

All right. Gabrielle, how about three tips for people approaching marriage? 

Gabrielle:

Okay. Well, the first one we... [crosstalk 00:22:52]. Right, we've just gone through ad nauseum, which is know your financial picture, have a conversation about what you both need and want. Talk about the idea that you're going to check in every other year for adjustments. And remember taking a pause or a step back is always the best way forward.

Karen:

Love that.

Catherine:

Love that. We both just said that. That's awesome. This is awesome.

Karen:

Thank you, Gabrielle, for being here with us today.

Gabrielle:

It's my pleasure. I always love talking to you guys.

Karen:

We love talking with you too. Such a ball of energy. So this concludes this episode of what you need to know before you get married. Thank you for a great conversation.

Gabrielle:

Thank you.

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