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But just covering monthly expenses is not enough to build a financial future together. Each should also be contributing to an IRA or retirement plan at work. And you might want to add a joint money market account to save for larger expenses such as a down payment on a home. Plus, if one is paying down student loans or still in school or staying home to raise children, you’ll need to figure out how that impacts your financial future together, while respecting the need of each to have some financial independence.

Whether you’re a young couple just starting out or further along your career path, it makes sense to discuss how you will handle money in your relationship. Otherwise, money can become the center of a battlefield that is more about power than about accounting. That also applies to an even greater degree in second marriages, which are complicated by the obligation to support children from a previous marriage.

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This kind of discussion would also benefit those just planning to move in together. Otherwise, one might be building equity in a condo, while the other only has receipts for paid electric and cell phone bills. Same-sex marriage has its own set of complications, as we explain in fast-changing laws that are different for states and federal issues. (We constantly update those legalities on our website,, where you can also post questions on our blog.)

The strategies for dealing with relationships in all the new forms are not so different. They do involve some planning, often using financial advisors and lawyers, to make sure that your deal creates financial fairness — which is not necessarily the same as financial equality.

Prenuptials and Cohabitation Agreements
Now, while you’re most in love and involved in building your future, is the time to put your shared agreement in writing. You hope it will never be used to divide your assets and your memories; but since nearly 50 percent of marriages (and cohabitations) end in a split, it is wise to be prepared.

You can use our checklists to guide you through the process, but you do need to follow the legalities for creating an agreement that will hold up in court if that ultimately becomes the case. You each must be separately represented by qualified attorneys. And you need to make full disclosure of all assets and your entire financial situation in order for your deal to be enforceable.

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While you can put many points in your agreement (some of the more outrageous demands are highlighted in the book), it is typically the financial arrangements that will be taken to court. And the court always holds jurisdiction over issues related to children.

Be aware that a prenuptial agreement becomes part of the dissolution of a marriage in your state’s family court. But a cohabitation deal is a civil contract if it comes to court should a conflict arise when you part.

Each is a serious legal procedure. As we explain clearly, the deal you make is the deal you take. There will be no special allowances for last-minute deals signed under pressure just before you walk down the aisle. The time to start working on your agreement is when you decide to get married or move in, so there is plenty of time to do it correctly. We even have advice on choosing the right kind of attorney (and possibly mediator) to make sure the process goes smoothly.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

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