Are you are getting married soon? In the US the average wedding costs around $25,631 The US wedding industry is said to be about $120 BILLION dollars, with $50 Billion on wedding costs and the remaining $70 billion on purchasing and furnishing a new home or residence.
All of this is great and it certainly helps keep photographers, florists, bakers, caterers, dress makers, makeup artists, hair stylists, stationary companies, event spaces, real estate brokers and wedding planners employed. And don’t even get me started on the obnoxious marriage proposals that are springing up all over the internet and ridiculously over produced wedding websites. For whatever reasons…WE LOVE WEDDINGS!
With all of this focus on creating the perfect day, where is the energy and time spent on planning for the worst case scenario. People call me a naysayer but the divorce rate has been at around 40-50% for several decades. I am hardly being unreasonable to suggest that many couples will face a divorce eventually. In fact in the US the average length of a first marriage that end in divorce is only about 8 years. In the United states the average age for first marriages is 27 for brides and 29 for grooms. Even though the age for a first marriage has risen over the years, most of us embark on this huge life experience while we are still very young.
Reasons such as, infidelity, midlife crisis, secret lives, criminal activity, untreated mental illness, substance abuse, financial problems or just two people who can’t stand the sight of one another anymore…you name it marriages fall apart as a result. Well having lived through an extremely painful divorce, here are my words of advice.
Consider a prenup – I know it sounds unromantic but if you have assets or even expected inheritance you will want to protect yourself in case you get a divorce. No two prenups are alike and you can custom yours to your specific needs. You can even have clauses in case of infidelity or if the marriage has lasted past 10 years that nullifies certain restrictions. Since a marriage is a legally binding agreement, you want to make sure you protect yourself in case the worst should happen.
Keep some investments separate from your spouse – Depending on a lot of factors your spouse could still lay claim to these assets. You never know what could happen as some people can go insane during a divorce. Most joint bank accounts can be legally emptied by one spouse without consent of the other. Legally you can sue to get your half of the account back, but if the money is already spent and your spouse is not employed you will probably never see that money. Any stolen amount could come out of shared assets, if you have any left to split. So be careful how much money you keep in joint accounts. Always leave some money in individual accounts.
Credit Cards – Just as assets can be wiped out in a divorce, one spouse may rack up debt in anticipation of a divorce or in an attempt to ruin the other partner. I am not saying to never have a joint credit card, but be careful. Always have your own line of credit so if you do divorce you have a credit history and accounts that your spouse cannot max out. Even joint cell phone contracts can be next to impossible to split in half without full co-operation from one of the spouses, never assume these things can be easily resolved.
Investments – It is a good idea that if you have investments in your own name before the marriage to keep those investments as individual accounts. If the investments are in the form of stocks or mutual funds and the accounts are joint, getting them split in half requires murderous paperwork and a lot of co-operation between you and your former spouse. I would recommend NEVER getting a joint stock account, you can instead make your spouse the beneficiary . There are a multitude of legal ramifications to pensions and retirement accounts regarding a divorce depending on your circumstances. Your pension may not be entirely your own in a divorce, but it does help to keep it in your name so your spouse can’t try to raid it in a fit of rage.
Property – There are so many things that can go wrong here and scenarios that I couldn’t even begin to list them. What I would recommend though if you already own property then see a lawyer about possible scenarios BEFORE you get married. Never assume things will go smoothly in a divorce. The lawyer might be expensive but you will save yourself so much grief later if you protect yourself now.
Going into business with a Spouse - Plenty of couples do this without any problem, but you cannot assume that you will be one of the lucky ones. If you do go into business with your spouse get some type of legal written agreement before you do. Create some type of safety net for yourself if things should sour in the marriage. To have your marriage fall apart is bad enough, to lose your income at the same time is devastating.
Don’t keep Financial secrets – Even though I would recommend keeping separate accounts, you should not hide things from your spouse. In the case of a sudden death, or tragedy the surviving spouse should know where everything is, how to pay all bills, and the amount of debt owed. In any marriage, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to financial matters. Some spouses let one run the show financially and then find out to their peril when a divorce financially cripples them.
The laws regarding marital property vary from state to state and no two marriages are alike. And getting a fair settlement may cost you dearly in court, and enforcing a divorce settlement is something else entirely. People have ways of cheating the system, plus paying lawyers to fight on your behalf is extremely expensive. Protect yourself before you end up in divorce court, or in a mediation. If we only had half of the industry set up to help divorced people that we do on planning that wedding, we would have a lot less suffering and disenfranchised people. Love will blind you to the harsh realities that could await you if things go South. Take care of yourself first, and always.
- How Divorce Can Take a Toll on One’s Credit (prweb.com)
- TurboTax – Video: How to File Taxes for Divorcing Couples (turbotax.intuit.com)
- The Right Way to Start a Business With Your Spouse (openforum.com)
- What Married Couples Can learn From Divorced Couples? (grannyintraining.com)
- Money Management: 10 Questions to Ask Before Saying “I Do” (quicken.intuit.com)
- Going Through a Divorce… (drintimacy.wordpress.com)
- Should I Consider a Prenup: The Debate After New York Court Invalidates A Pre-Nuptial Agreeemnt (divorce.clementlaw.com)
- Are Prenups Pernicious? Ctd (dish.andrewsullivan.com)