Tis the season for proposals. According to American Express–nearly 6,000,000 couples will get engaged on Valentine’s Day. Meaning 12,000,000 people just decided to spend the rest of their lives together.
What should they know?
Most couples marry for ongoing romance, long-term security, and deep connection with the person they love the most.
But, amid all the excitement and anticipation, few understand the legal ramifications of saying. Yes.
While there is so much more to marriage, couples should understand exactly what they legally agree to when tying the knot. For couples whose marriage didn’t work the most common quote is, I wish I had known!
Couples who understand the legalities frame decisions more thoughtfully and in ways that help their marriage succeed.
In Indiana, generally everything brought into the marriage and everything accumulated during the marriage becomes joint no matter who spent the money or whose name is on the title. Thus, houses purchased before marriage, retirement investments earned before marriage, student loans incurred before marriage all become part of the marital estate. While there are variations to this general rule (so consulting legal counsel is crucial), couples should understand the reality.
Often couples happily join finances early on. But, when overwhelming debt causes the marriage to break apart or the house inherited from Grandma is on the line spouses resent losing both their marriage and what they see as “their” money.
Create a financial plan–Building the habit of talking about money helps couples plan. The plan should include financial goals and how to achieve them. A few elements to consider include:
- What is our spending plan for the next year?
- How much can each of us spend without consulting the other?
- Do we have joint or separate accounts? If separate, how will we divide the bills? How will we communicate?
- What do we want to save for? How much will we set aside each payday?
- How do we adjust for crises?
Couples who create build a habit of talking about money set the stage for financial security and create a unity that protects against divorce.
Should divorce come–at least the finances are more stable for supporting both households.
If there is a family business–The most difficult financial challenge for divorcing couples (aside from crippling debt) can be family businesses. Dividing that asset proves daunting.
First, when one spouse works for their family’s business valuing their interest in the business can be both difficult and expensive. Then, there is the question of how to access the value without putting the business under.
When couples own a business together, they face the possibility of losing both their marriage and their livelihood. Because couples often put all they have into making the business thrive, there aren’t other assets to offset the value of the business. The divorce either means the end of the business or the financial ruin of one spouse.
Understanding these realities helps couples plan ahead together. They can purposely create a safety net to tap if the marriage falls apart.
You can’t get divorced as parents, Patrick Brown, mediator.
Divorce comes when spouses stop trusting each other. Without trust, spouses just don’t feel safe with the other anymore. So, ongoing contact proves painful.
Yet, when couples have children they must continue to talk, make decisions, and establish priorities together.
Legally unless one parent is incarcerated or totally absent both parents will have decision making power and extensive time with the children, even if one or both has been a really lousy parent prior to the divorce. The difficulty of working through that reality proves overwhelming to many.
To avoid ever having to live through this, parents must learn to work together from the beginning to establish priorities and merge styles rather than overriding each other. As they focus on parenting together they give their children the best of both parents. This makes for a happier family and a stronger marriage.
Even if divorce comes, parents still have a foundation for co-parenting.
Engagements usher a hopeful, exciting new life for couples. Understanding all the legal realities helps couples plan for their best future.
If you would like help navigating divorce, please call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com. We look forward to serving you.