When you and the one you love make the decision to get married, the last thing you want to think about is how you’ll handle the divorce. You’ve heard all the scary statistics and certainly seen your fair share of divorced couples, both in real life and in the media, but right now all that is shoved to the back of your mind. Of course, no one wants to plan for the worst-case scenario. Of course, no one ever plans to divorce.
But a marriage isn’t just the metaphoric joining of two hearts and families. It’s a financial merger as well, which means you both should know how you’d plan to separate if you need to. From juggling debt to budgeting, neglecting to prepare for the worst could be the very thing that makes it come true.
Handling finances sans debt
Despite the apparent ease of those who elope in Vegas, getting married is more in-depth and complicated than one may initially think. Your accounts, bills, and income don’t magically join together the second you sign your marriage license. You will both need to sit down and discuss exactly how you’ll financially join lives and actually put in the work to make it happen. It may sound daunting, but total and frank honesty is the best way to avoid marriage-damaging, expensive issues down the line, and it’s best to get everything done before any sort of emergency pops up.
When you have this conversation together, these are a few of the subjects to talk over:
- Shared assets. Find out what each of you are bringing to the marriage. Make sure to include any loans or credit cards that may factor in later on.
- If you’ll have joint or individual assets. Some couples elect to simply keep their finances separate from each other, even after marriage. Others choose a mix, with one joint account for savings or big purchases while you each keep your own separate accounts aside from it.
- Paperwork to update. There’s more than you’d think: banks, credit cards, loans, etc. Don’t be afraid to seek legal advice or counsel to help.
- Budgeting. How much will each of you save per month? How much will you spend? What expenses do you have together? You may want to work with a financial planner to get yourself in good shape from the start.
It is also worth discussing a prenuptial agreement. There’s a stigma against it, the idea that it’s asking for a divorce, but that simply is not true. A prenup protects both of you and your assets and allows for a strong, secure separation of your finances, while also making it easier to have these difficult talks with each other when certain divisions are out of your hands. Ironically, it can help you avoid a marriage-ending conflict by making those conversations easier.
Adding debt without subtracting security
Now, in most situations, at least one party will be bringing some amount of debt into the marriage. How you and your spouse handle that debt and discuss it can set the tone for the entire relationship, and the sooner it happens the better. Even with a prenup, once you marry someone you may find yourself responsible for at least a portion of whatever debt they bring in, which is why being honest and frank about what you owe is paramount. You don’t want to find out the hard way that you still need to pay for your ex’s car loan.
Debt is nothing to mess around with. An extreme amount can stunt all progress in your life, from your honeymoon to getting a mortgage to being able to start a family. With such a significant, heavy weight on your shoulders, you should find out as quickly as possible if your partner is able to carry that weight with you and vice versa. Yes, it’s stressful and psychologically difficult, but this is the person you plan to spend your life with. If you cannot bring yourself to be honest with them about the debt you owe, that just hints at a much deeper problem you’ll need to address.
The right person will work with you to plan how the two of you, together, will whittle down your debt. The wrong person won’t, and it may mean it’s time to re-download Tinder.
There’s no way around it: dealing with debt can be a bit overwhelming. The complicated avenues of finance allow for a lot of errors, miscommunications, and disagreements — none of which a newlywed couple wants to deal with. At LaFevor & Slaughter, our Knoxville family law attorneys can answer all your questions, help you set up your prenup, and allow you to start married life with as little stress as possible. For more information on how we can help, call us today at (865) 637-6258 or fill out our online contact form.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.