When we are in love—and this love is grand—we don’t think about a possibility of us ever separating from the most amazing, unique person in the world, our spouse-to-be. Whether you live in the USA, Australia, Russia, Nigeria or Papua New Guinea, the last thing on your mind is a possibility of a divorce.
This post is for romantics. I used to be one and I still am. I am married for the second time to the most amazing man in the world. We are together for 10 years and we don’t have a marriage contract. Although after my first divorce I probably should be the primary person to ask for one.
These three years of my biography when divorce lawyers were sucking the life out of me (and my ex) comprise one giant black hole in my judgment. I wish I didn’t have to remember. But I do. This is why I want to talk to each romantic out there, everyone who is madly in love.
Guys and girls, getting married means your life is about to change fiscally. Instead of being responsible just for yourself, you will be legally accountable for your spouse, all of his or her debts, former and future, unless you sign a prenuptial agreement.
The divorce to marriages ratio in the USA is over 50%. In Belgium it’s 71%. United Kingdom goes by 47% and Australians call quits on 43% of their nuptials. If you tend not to skip on buying car insurance, read on.
Before I start talking about legalities of a marriage union, there is a disclaimer I have to make. I am not a lawyer nor a financial adviser. This means I am not allowed to give legal or financial advice. Only people who are qualified and charge either 0.5% of your investment earnings or $200-1000 per hour, are permitted to disperse such recommendations. Therefore, anything I talk about is just pure personal experience for entertainment value. For a proper legal guidance you have to go to sharks professionals.
Now that you understand that I am the last person on this page to listen to carefully, let’s begin.
Marriage as a financial contract
When you have mumbled “I do” in front of a smiling minister or civil servant, it means your bank account is no longer yours. Luckily, your debts are not only yours either. Being a union of two consenting adults, you share the financial responsibly of your mutual existence until such times you decide to call it quits, if ever.
Don’t get me wrong: I am the biggest proponent of marriage. I love being married. I adore being in a relationship. However, for hundreds of years before you got born women were not exactly equal to men, and that’s why there are laws that say people who signed a marriage register should share their property and earnings.
What does it mean for you?
- Do you own a house? He can decide to leave you and request half of it, if you had a child together or spent sufficient number of nights under the same roof.
- She came to this marriage with $30,000 credit card debt? You will have to help her pay it out.
- Do you plan to have kids together? You’ll have to pay child support and disclose your tax declarations to your ex until the children are 18. The more you earn, the more you have to pay.
- If he sells your business to pay for his gambling debts, and he could legally do it because your company account is “anyone to sign”, you have pulled the short straw.
The last one is a real life experience from my girlfriend: Her husband sold their mutual restaurant business, which she paid for, to fund his gambling addiction.
Matrimonially transmitted debt
In other words, it’s very easy for your spouse to take advantage of your perfect credit card score.
I personally know a couple where the husband borrowed extra $500 thousand cash against the business and the house by forging his wife’s signatures. Oops! What was the bank’s reaction when they found out? They refused to accept she wasn’t responsible for the money owed, when she wanted to leave the marriage.
How to protect yourself legally when getting married
The official way of safeguarding yourself lawfully when getting married is to enter into a prenuptial agreement.
To arrange this, you have to go to family lawyers. Yes, the ones that charge $200-1000 per hour. First, they need to find out how much you own, which might take them a while to learn (remember, time is money).
Following which they will draw a draft of your prenuptial agreement, if you still haven’t stopped taking their calls about paying your last bill.
Your future spouse would have to hire her own lawyers for counselling. The one who wants a prenuptial agreement is usually the genius to foot both bills.
Discussing financial arrangements in case you divorce down the line adds lots of joy to your pre-wedding timetable. Just kidding. Of course, it doesn’t. Especially when the bills evolve from hundreds to tens of thousands and you feel really annoyed with the lack of progress, and start having inclinations to talk about it directly with your one-and-only. A word of warning: Don’t. Unless your deposit for the wedding venue is returnable.
So, as much as I admire family lawyers, their help is only affordable to the ones whose bank accounts add 6-digit numbers monthly.
If you are a regular person like me, you’d better be proactive.
How to shield yourself without involving legal professionals
It would be totally irresponsible for me to recommend never involving legal professionals in your family setup. It’s not even because any prenuptial agreement can be contested and overruled.
Simply put, today’s prenuptial agreements could be worth nothing in 10 years. If they change laws, as they do from time to time, your legal contract may no longer be considered legitimate.
So, if you cannot afford $200-1000 an hour for an undisclosed amount of hours, your option is to be open and direct.
- Ask your prospective marriage partner if they have any debts.
- Both of you get your official credit scores (it’s free to obtain them).
- You have to properly check your financial documentation and bank accounts at all times during the marriage. You can’t let your spouse manage it 100%—you know what can happen. Don’t cry later.
Admittedly, women suffer from romantically transmitted debts more than men. But it doesn’t mean as a guy you are immune. Be vigilant, be open, and take care.
Wishing you good luck organization of your financial affairs. It’s marriage and it has legal implications, whether you are thrilled about it or not.
Elena Petrova is the founder of Elenasmodels.com and a dating coach with 17-year experience in the industry of relationships. She is married with 2 kids and lives on the breathtaking Gold Coast in Australia. In her spare time Elena enjoys sailing, cruising, and studying martial arts.