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Family Law and Divorce

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How New York married couples should approach finances

New York couples who will soon marry should learn the proper way to tackle finances and debt before tying the knot.

Soon-to-be-married couples in New York have a lot to consider with the next step in their relationship, including finances. While there is no guarantee a marriage will last forever, there are certain actions couples can take to improve the relationship and sidestep common marriage hurdles. Learning how to manage and approach finances and debt can bring a couple closer together and provide them with several learning opportunities at the same time.

Early honesty is the best policy

Not only should couples be honest with each other when it comes to their financial situation before getting married, they should be honest up front rather than waiting. While it can be embarrassing talking about debts and other financial matters, doing so as soon as possible before getting married gives the couple more time to decide what to do about those debts and lets them know just who they are marrying. Holding back can sow seeds of distrust, even if the debt is a minor one.

Ease into merging finances

Love can easily cloud a person’s judgment, which can lead to poor decisions that seem like good ideas at the time they are made. In terms of marriage and finances, couples should ease into combining their finances. This means maintaining separate bank accounts but opening a joint account that both parties to the marriage have access to. Following this strategy gives couples an idea of how the other handles finances and how they can approach budgeting and spending as the marriage continues. Any assets acquired before the marriage, remain separate property after the marriage, only if the asset is maintained separately. If a separate assets is put into the name of both spouses, it becomes marital property to be distributed in the event the marriage ends in divorce. There are some nuanced rules which should be reviewed before dedicating separate property to the marriage, but are too lengthly to explain in this forum.

Learn the law

A bit of due diligence can do wonders for a person’s peace of mind. For instance, a person is not responsible for any of her or his spouse’s debts if those debts were racked up before marriage. That being said, a person is responsible for debts that result from being a co-signer on a defaulted loan, no matter if marriage is involved.

Be supportive

While money and debt are most certainly huge issues in any relationship or marriage, they should not become the sole focus. Couples should be supportive of each other and work together to build their financial resources and reduce their debts, no matter if those debts are shared or individual. Couples have much more to contribute to the relationship and offer each other, and bearing that in mind can give couples the focus they need to remember what is most important as they move forward into marriage.

No matter how New York couples choose to handle finances and debt, it is still a good idea to at least consider a prenuptial agreement. Sit down with a family law attorney to explore options, receive answers to questions and address concerns.