Prenups and Love with Jane Libbis

Episode 14 - The Wedding Guide Podcast

Meet Jane Libbis, a lawyer who specialises in Family Law at Umbrella Family Law. Her personal slogan is: “When you’re in pain, standing in rain, call Jane”

Tell us about Umbrella Family Law and Yourself?

Sure, so I’m Jane from Umbrella Family Law. We started a couple of years ago and our mission is to help people who are separating to start their new life.

We do all of the things that family lawyers do at Umbrella. We do it with great passion and it’s really our goal to make sure that our clients are comfortable as I start on that journey from being too, to becoming one and coming out the other side of a separation.

So we help them with all of the practical things arising from separation from a legal perspective, time with their kids, property settlements, ultimately divorce if they’ve been married. And we also deal with people who are at your end of the spectrum. We also help people with pre-nuptial agreements for wanting to protect their assets in the event that they should separate.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement? Or Prenup?

Yes, often called Pre-nup, so, essentially, and also, it doesn’t actually have to be entered into before your marriage. It can be entered into after and can also be entered into if you’re not marrying at all. So, essentially, it’s a bonding financial agreement entered into between two parties who are marrying or married, or who are already living together.

We want to provide for what should happen between them in the event they separate.

So, essentially, it’s quite common now with people who may be, are getting married, when they’re starting to live together When they’re a little bit older, and might have a lot of assets or one of the mice that they want to protect. And also very common in second marriages or second lengthy relationships. Where, maybe people have already been burned by the family law process once? And they want to make sure, that these new relationships should separate, that they will be able to take out of the relationship? What they brought into it?

Jane Libbis Lawyer

“When You’re In Pain, Standing In The Rain, Call Jane”

Should we get a Prenuptial Agreement?

So I guess they’re particularly good in situations where perhaps one part of the couple of both of them maybe I’ve been given some money by family, or are likely to receive a large inheritance, and they’re wanting to protect the family wealth. That’s quite a common reason, particularly often parents will actually suggests that children do that, or will make a gift of money contingent on saying, hang on a minute. I want to know that if you separate from him or her, this money is going to stay with our family and not be lost, which can happen otherwise.

So that’s one reason, again, if people have perhaps developed a business, or they have amassed a great deal of wealth before they enter into the relationship and then wanting to protect that. The best way to do that is to enter into this sort of bonding financial agreement arrangement. Or as I said, if people are wanting to maybe protect their assets for their, for their children. If they, if they’re coming to it as a second relationship. And they wanted to make sure that in the event it breaks down.

That, that wealth, which maybe came from the husband and the wife but the children’s parents will not be diluted and part of it taken by the new partner in the event of separation.

I think that if you’re kind of if you’re maybe a typical kind of young in love, couple, And neither of you have any assets. And there’s not going to be great family wealth that’s gifted or likely to be inherited you. But I think that in those cases that I’ve mentioned, it’s particularly worthwhile exercise because while there’s never any guarantees in family law, that things will be 100% bonding. You’re much better off to create the hurdle of an agreement, which creates something that the spouse would need to over.

Come if you separate, rather than having nothing at all.


Pete The Celebrant: If they don’t have any major assets or inheritances?

Jane Libbis: It’s probably something that they don’t necessarily need to look at, it’s something that they wouldn’t need to look at at that point. I think it’s something because you can enter the into them after you’ve already commenced living together or after you’ve already been married.

Then I think that it’s definitely worth considering down the track if if those circumstances arose such that there was a big inheritance or gift of money from family coming or something like that.
It’s not kind of set and forget arrangement. You could consider it down the track. I think that sometimes that would be hard to discuss as part of a relationship suddenly doable.

But you, It’s not something that you probably know prior to your wedding. And if that was your circumstance, if you would just kind of Yang didn’t have many assets, it’s not something that you’d need to worry about at that point.


Pete The Celebrant: Many see a Prenuptial Agreement as a sign that somethings wrong within the relationship?

Jane Libbis: So, I think it’s interesting, actually, because I’ve noticed sometimes when I’m doing them with couples, that, it really brings up issues that might already be there. And I think, in fact, it can be a great exercise in really kind of understanding your partner, and saying, what’s important to them.

That’s somewhat digressing from your question.
As for kind of how you would sell it and whether you should do it. And be said unromantic yes; It is, but you make a will. I mean, you will definitely want definitely separate. But I think it depends on if you’ve got a significant sum that you’re wanting to protect.

It’s not planning to fail, it’s just planning to avoid a big argument in the event that you do happen to not succeed.
And my experience is that, particularly, it’s pretty easy in second marriages to do. That it’s sometimes harder in the first relationship, where, people maybe are a little bit younger, but it becomes more complicated as well, because then there’s the issue of, well, you might do one thing, if you separate not having had children. But you might do another thing If you’re separating, having had children.

The conversation’s can become quite messy.
Yeah. But I think that it’s better to have a financial agreement, if you’re going to be worried about it, than to live your life, trying to protect your assets as part of your relationship.

I had a woman once who was, and this isn’t quite right from a legal perspective, but she was kind of in tears at the thought of, ‘Can I let him mow my lawn, if he does my lawn, does that give him entitlement to my property?’ No, it doesn’t. But, you know, that’s where it is better to just do it, put it aside, forget that it’s done, and not have to worry.

It’s not romantic, but wise.

Jane and her Husband Chris

A Lawyers view on marriage?

I think that marriage is, I think it’s a beautiful thing.

I think that, whereas once it could be beneficial from a legal perspective, that’s no longer the case, because from a separation perspective, certainly, we divide assets in the same way. Now, whether people are de facto or whether they’re married.

I think that there are still some non family law aspects such as wills and estates and superannuation beneficiaries and various things, where perhaps for same sex couples, for example, married still gives you some entitlements that you wouldn’t have if you weren’t married.
From a psychological kind of romance perspective, I still think that there’s something lovely about the public declaration of your match.

And whether I guess that be a commitment ceremony or a formal marriage.
I still think it’s a really beautiful thing to do. And I think there’s something about the ceremony of it, whatever it looks like, and whether or not you’re signing a marriage certificate.
That, it’s just a lovely way to say, “hi, this is my person.”

Yeah, you know it, because you’ve seen us together and you know what together. But having a big celebration of our love that, I do think that sometimes people get too much caught up in the wedding and not enough in the marriage. And it’s really the marriage, IE the union of the two. That’s kind of more important than how you look at what you do and how many people you have and how much money you spend.

Pete The Celebrant: And you are married yourself?

Jane Libbis: I am. And I did kind of feel different when I got married.
I think there is that kind of moment of, yes, we’re actually publicly declaring what we privately know.

Pete The Celebrant: Now, you mentioned that there wasn’t a big difference. Let’s just talk about in terms of that separation of assets, whether you were married or de facto.
Are there any other differences, legally, if someone was saying, Well, I don’t see the point of getting married. We just, we’ve been living with each other for X amount of years.

Jane Libbis: I think that now, and I don’t know every area of law. But in my experience, there’s no general life area where you’re necessarily better off being married than being de facto.

I do think, as I said, from a same sex couple perspective, I believe that there are still differences.

Pete The Celebrant Can you talk to us a little bit about that? Like, what are some of those differences that?

Jane Libbis: Well, my understanding, and again, this is not exactly my area, but my recollection when last I heard is that there was still some issues about, for example, around being next of kin, in terms of if somebody’s dying and hospital around who they would listen to. I think that there’s still can be some issues, with same sex perspective. I think that there may be some issues in relation to beneficiary of superannuation fund, type issues, but, again, I’m sorry to be vague, but I don’t, I haven’t had to know the specifics of it, but just by recollection is that there is still some small aspect where, from a same sex perspective, in particular, it’s problematic if you’re not married.

OK, but certainly from the area that I know which is around, how are your assets going to be divided if you separate no difference anymore, except insofar as Minor, minor differences. If it’s a short relationship, the minutia that I won’t bother your lovely business with, but if somebody is in a de facto relationship and concerned about separating, that should get us. And we advise them to.

Umbrella Family Law’s website; a great resource for relationships before and after marriage.

How to Build a Healthy Relationship?

I think couples should have a lot of conversation before they get into it. We have from time to time, provided some kind of thoughtful tips for things of things that people might want to discuss. For example, like basics, like, if somebody is offered a job interstate state, how is the couple going to handle that?

Is somebody a workaholic how is the couple go to handle somebody actually being at work from six AM until 10 PM? Are they congruent in terms of their life values? Does one want to be the provider and the other one wants to stay at home, or do they both want to do one of those roles and how is that going to work? What is going to happen if, I don’t know, are your in-laws are wanting to spend all their time? Your house? How’s that going to work? How are you going to play that? I think that there are a lot of these sort of fundamental conversations.

Which, when you’re kinda just young and not necessarily young in that first blush of love, mm, you get along well, you’re passionate, you don’t necessarily discuss the big, the big what ifs. And suddenly, from my perspective, We say that A lot of those what ifs or things that can end a relationship down the track particularly, for example.

My examples there of the interstate travel, or long hours at work, misconceptions around how the family is going to be built, those sorts of things can really erode what was otherwise a strong base.
So I think the more you talk, the more you learn about each other and your life goals, even though it may be feels, we’re to sit down and discuss those things. I think that it’s worth it.

Because it’s better to know early. And same thing happens, as I said, when we do the pre-nuptial type agreements.
To get a real understanding of the way that your partner thinks about money and the way that they value you, not just financially, but emotionally and where do you fit in there, in their kind of brain and their life plan.
I think that those things are really important and would solve, would save a lot of couples from kind of continuing on and on and on and then hitting a speed bump.


Pete The Celebrant: What are your thoughts on pre marriage counselling?

I think it’s brilliant. I think that it would put a lot of people off. I think that we’re not great at accepting psychological help and counselling in Australia. I know that in the US, for example, everybody seems to have a therapist.

I think that also because we also are not great at accepting, know, Extra-marital affairs in Australia, for example, whereas to your French perspective, of course, they are quite common that they would have a mistress.

I think that there are a lot of things, culturally, that are accepted in other places that aren’t accepted here. And I think that it makes counselling, all the more important, because the counsellor can help raise all of those issues that I’ve just spoken about. You can talk about it early and work out whether you’re actually compatible or not.


Pete The Celebrant: Yeah, as a celebration, we are, we’d need to raise and recommend marriage counselling with them. And it’s definitely one that still every couple of different. And I think the majority of the feeling, I get that comes back is there’s nothing wrong with us. Why would we need to go about from possibly have similar thoughts to it. Because Grace and I did go get some pre-marriage counselling, we found, extremely beneficial.

It simply directed a conversation and it gave a space within that time and those feelings to talk about just some mundane things. that you might have current expectations with kids. And, you know, like you said, how are we going to raise the family and over the different years?

And might be strange, like, Hey, let’s sit down tonight and talk about this. But it just because it created a space to talk about that. You go in with similar expectations. So, it sounds like, what your advising is?

Jane Libbis: Have those conversations. I think it’s really great to create space for it, and I think that you’re going to do that better if you do that with kind of a third person to facilitate.

And I know there are online courses and things now, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big deal, but with somebody, or something that’s going to prompt the right conversations. I don’t think it’s worthwhile.

Maybe people would kind of overlook things because if they are in the flush of love, and I suppose, particularly if they’re doing at the point that they choosing a celebrant, it may be, ironically, it’s kind of almost too late because I’d be so committed it at that stage. But I think that generally, Yeah. I can’t speak highly enough about the concept. I think it’s really worthwhile.


Who doesn’t love a good umbrella!!

What do you wish couples knew before getting married?

Well, I just wish that people would, the first thing that comes to mind in my opinion, is that I just wish that people would take notice of the Red Flags.

Because, so many of my clients say, I knew that they were this or that extreme. And I knew that they were abusive, but, but kind of at the lesser, I knew that they were rigid, or I knew that they were workaholic or I knew that. We actually had nothing in common, or I knew that blah, blah, blah. And then, you know, that’s always followed by, but I stuck with it.

Yeah, and really, I feel like if it’s hard work, it’s wrong.
You should get out, and that’s my feeling, is that it’s a, yes, a relationship, of course, is work, once you’re in it, Once you’re committed, and it’s for the long haul, You should work, and I think, but if it’s kind of new and these people often are talking about kind of in the first flush of that romance when they’re kinda really wooing each other.

Something’s not right, and I feel lucky if at that stage it doesn’t just flow. Doesn’t really bode well for the rest of the relationship.

What do you think?


Pete The Celebrant: I do have similar feelings. I know, from other relationships before where things didn’t flow and I just thought, “like I get it, everyone says it takes work to build this and I get that”.

I think there is something in, particularly those, let’s just say at least the first three years, should be pretty easy. It should like, even, from a hormonal perspective, everything should be happening; rose colored glasses, you know, should be easy, fun, easy times.

Little bits, and you know, just dealing with things and getting to know each other, and, But I agree with you. If it’s a bit of a grind at the start, I think that’s a sign that perhaps something isn’t right, and either somebody just needs to be addressed, and talked about and dealt with, all. Like you’re saying, maybe there are some red flags that need to be talked about, needs to be thought about.

Jane Libbis: I’m a big watcher of romantic comedies, and I’m just how many times even apart from real life, how many times do you see in a movie? Because you don’t get to necessarily examine your friends relationships closely necessarily, but in movies you say, so many times, these heartbroken women with me. I want to get married it now. That kind of stuff. Right? They have relationship wasn’t right, and then they found one where it was. Right. And when it’s right, I think, you know, because it flows because it’s easy.

And if it’s a chore and if it doesn’t, just feel like you want to be in it and that it’s kind of immersing you in fabulousness. Yeah, thank you, need to consider seriously whether it’s where you want to be.


Pete The Celebrant: One thing I hear a lot from couples is when they talk about how easy it is to talk with this person.

And that they haven’t found that with others like it. There is, it is a particular phase where you can just be yourself, you don’t need to wear a mask, it’s like it, I can just be who I am, and I know they accept me, accept them, and it works. So I think there is something to that …, but there’s also there, is that balance in the background of going, But it does take work as well. It does take an else.

Jane libbis: I think it takes work insofar as if somebody gets sick or loses their job, or their family stresses or whatever it is, you have to work through that. Yeah.

But if it’s, But if it’s kind of, you can never agree on what to have for dinner, and you never want to watch the same things on TV and you don’t like each other as friends. Well, you know, maybe that means you shouldn’t be to get them.


Pete The Celebrant: That’s a lot of, that’s a lot of life, stuff. Friends, TV, You know what? I’m doing a lot of daily basis.

Jane Libbis: But if, you know, and they’re kind of low-level things, but yet, in terms of the work, I think you work through problems together. But you shouldn’t have to work at. Like, for example, I feel like people often play games in the early phase of dating.

I think if it’s meant to be, you want Nate to play games, because the other person is going to want to move. At the same cases, you want to see them every day. They’ll pull. They want to say you every day, too. Know, and if you have to pretend, No, I’m cool lot of money. If you don’t read me for awake well, it’s not your person, OK.


Pete The Celebrant:  So, let’s talk about, say, just for example, there is a one of the couples right now. one of them, the bride and the groom sitting there and listening to this and they’re going off the pressing on something. There are some there are some red flags that I’ve been trying to avoid, but there’s somebody let me going. I’ve needed to hear this.

What do you recommend, like, what are your thoughts, what would you say to them?

Jane Libbis: Counselling! Go together, have this pre marital type counselling that we’re talking about, or if you feel like you can’t raise it with your partner, then go and have your counselling. Have some counselling yourself and talk it through with somebody completely neutral and independent. And say whether these red flags are just kind of pre wedding jitters or whether they’re actually serious things that might become an issue. And probably, ultimately, you’re going to need to talk them through with your partner, because if you can’t then, you’ve got a question strength of that relationship anyway.

But do it, Don’t just push them to the back of your mind and jump in and hope that it’ll be all fine. Because it does become more complicated the longer you’re together, not just from a legal perspective, but from a life perspective.

Not to mention if you’re having kind of, and if they’re your customers, clients and they are about to have a wedding. When we’re out of lockdown that might even be having a big fat expensive wedding Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding for a relationship? that’s not going to work?

Not to mention the personal impact, investment, and emotional commitment. So listen to the flags, listen to the flags. Look at the flags of them. Take a look at the flags.


Pete The Celebrant: Is there anything else in terms of legalities that you feel are important to touch upon?

Jane Libbis: I think that if you fall into the category of having already amassed a lot of assets, or being likely to being likely to be given or inherit family wealth, you might want to have a conversation with a family lawyer, potentially, about what that will look like in the event that you separate and you don’t have an agreement to protect those things.

Again, it’s not romantic, but it’s sensible. I think.  And I think that otherwise it’s really then just a matter of living your life. But if you fall into those categories, get advice early, get it while you’re in that. I mean, you do so much wedding preparation. People do no matter what size and what it is. God, you’re so lucky to work with people. And at that end up, so beautiful. It’s a very happy. And he dies and butterflies. Don’t just do wedding preparation, do marriage preparation.

You undo life progression, whether that’s around the legal side, or whether that’s just around those big picture questions that we discussed before. Yeah, prepare. Not just for the fun, but also for the work.

Your Best Advice for Couples?

I think, really, in all aspects, it’s about trusting your gut.

If your gut is telling you that something is amazing or that you don’t need to worry about protecting your assets or that you definitely want to marry them, then probably your guts, right?

But if you’re gut, is saying, oh, I’m wondering if maybe I should think about protecting in case we separate or I wonder if, oh, do I really like that? They work such long hours or only wanna live in Melbourne. When really, I have my heart says, I should live in Sydney. Then explore those things further.

Get some advice, don’t be afraid to get some advice. It’s really the bottom line about whatever aspect of your relationship. If you’ve got questions, if your gut is questioning something, seek help.

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