You receive the sparkler you have been waiting for all these years and say "yes" to the proposal. Now all you can think about is your special day. From the flowers to the cake to the guest list, wedding planning can take on a life of its own. And who has time to think of legal issues or how you will protect yourself in the future. No one considers divorce when they are not even married yet.
Divorce however is a reality for many couples. Some say that from an emotional perspective, it can have a greater impact than a death. Further, there is no doubt that divorce can cause financial devastation. As such, even more important than choosing a perfect wedding dress, is to plan now to put your marriage on solid ground. The following are some tips to help you achieve marital bliss and avoid legal blunders in the future:
1) Consider A Prenuptial Agreement - A prenuptial agreement is a legal document that will protect you in the event of a divorce. It gives couples the ability to predetermine how assets will be divided, and it further allows parties to contract about the payment of support/alimony. It is not only for the wealthy or those who already have children. In fact, since many couples are marrying later in life, after they have worked and established their careers and an asset base, it makes sense that they should protect all that they have worked for if things don't work out in the marriage;
2) Start a Dialogue - From the moment you are engaged and even prior to that time, you need to discuss the finances with your partner. Perhaps one of you is a saver and one a spender. Maybe you have significant debt that you have been hiding from your mate. If this is not acknowledged and accepted by the other party at the outset, it spells trouble down the line.
3) Decide Your Financial Future Together - Even if you have always managed your own finances, once you are married, it is easy to slip into traditional roles where one party(usually the husband) takes a more active role in managing the finances and the other party (usually the wife) is more involved with managing the household. While this may be the path of least resistance, it puts you at a huge disadvantage. Thus, it is crucial to take an active role in managing the money. At a minimum, know how much your spouse earns and where the money is invested. This little bit of knowledge can save you a lot of future agony.
4) Open the Lines of Communication - At the heart of most divorces is not the secret mistress but simply a lack of regular communication. This refusal to openly discuss what is on your mind builds resentment and discontentment over time causing a breakdown of the relationship. Couples must talk regularly and attempt to problem solve together. This will generate a sense of investment in the relationship which is difficult, if not impossible to shatter.
5) If You Realize You Made a Mistake, Move On - This is not to say that you should enter into marriage lightly or refrain from salvaging a broken relationship. However, if the relationship is not working or your partner engages in intolerable behaviors such as abuse or addictions without seeking help, you need to move on if married or cancel the wedding if not yet married. The alternative is to waste your life in a relationship that is not right. The more entrenched you become, both financially and emotionally, the harder it is to extricate yourself in the future.
Following the foregoing tips will in no way take away from the fun of the wedding planning. Moreover, they will ensure that after the big day has passed, you have and maintain a solid foundation on which to build a long and fulfilling future together