Are You Ready for Marriage?
Despite myths of "happily-ever-after" or "love conquers all," problems in the marital relationship may surface within a short time after the wedding
The success or failure of a marriage relationship may hinge on how well the couple deals with issues such as financial assets, communication, conflict, parenting, in-laws, leisure time, sexuality, family of origin, spirituality, expectations, and chores. Most couples don't talk about these issues before they get married, and are surprised one or two years down the road when conflict seems more prevalent than romance.
While a family law attorney can help you create a premarital agreement to avoid conflict about financial issues, it is helpful for couples to ask themselves many other questions. Take some time to review this lengthy list with your future spouse. You may be surprised how open communication about these subjects will improve your relationship.
- Why are you getting married?
Many couples get married due to pregnancy, loneliness, or other reasons. If you are clear about your motivation, it is less likely you will have unrealistic expectations.
- What are your expectations regarding finances?
- Do you intend to share everything 50/50?
- Does one partner earn significantly more than the other or have substantially greater assets?
It's important to know each other's expectations about finances. Talking through and memorializing how you expect to divide your assets in the unfortunate event of divorce reduces the likelihood of conflict even if you don't end up separating. Remember, each state views marital and separate property differently. All states view property acquired before the marriage, property received as a gift, and property inherited during the marriage as separate property -- it is not shared by the marriage. States are divided about how to treat marital property -- the property that is acquired or earned during the marriage. Community property states divide marital property equally, while the other states use equitable distribution and divide the property "fairly," which could be 50/50 or some other proportion.
- Do you intend on living within a budget? Who will manage the budget?
- Who will pay bills? Which bills?
- Will you have a joint checking account?
- Will major assets be held jointly?
- What are your long-term financial goals? How will you achieve them?
- How will you divide the household chores?
- How will you make decisions if you disagree?
- What if one partner does not fulfill their end of an agreement?
- Are you willing to work through conflict? Have you been successful in the past?
Children & Parenting
- Do you want to have children? How many?
- If necessary, will you adopt? Will you adopt a foreign-born child?
- How will you raise your children? Will one parent stay home? Which parent?
- Will your children attend public or private school? If the marriage is not successful, who will pay child support and who will pay college expenses?
- Does religion play an important part in your life?
- Do you think faith and spirituality are important in a marriage?
- Are you comfortable discussing your sexual likes and dislikes?
- Do you mind if your spouse spends a lot of time alone or pursuing leisure activities without you?
- How will you make sure you have quality time together as a couple?
Pursuing this type of discussion will reveal mismatched expectations, and can help you resolve areas of discrepancy before they become divisive. If you encounter issues that require assistance from an attorney, such as financial issues, property titles, adoption or child support questions, be sure to consult with an attorney who is experienced with the relevant laws in your state.