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Financial tips for those soon to be married

A recent article in Forbes imparted a bit of advice to couples soon to be married: before you get married, get your finances in order and plan for potential pitfalls in the event of divorce.

While such advice is not the romantic thing to hear for couples who are planning their wedding, it can prevent a lot of headaches in the event of a divorce, which unfortunately befalls many marriages.

The article mentioned five discrete areas future married couples should deal with prior to their big day. The first area deals with communication about finances, and is the basis of all the other advice given. Essentially, future spouses want to have a thorough understanding of their partner’s financial situation, including spending habits, debt, and future plans.

The second suggestion is to consider a prenuptial agreement. What these types of agreements do is to specify the terms on which marital property will be divided in the event of a divorce. Both parties to such an agreement need to have separate attorneys, and other requirements must be met for the agreements to be valid.

A third piece of advice is to take steps to maintain at least some financial independence from your future spouse. The goal behind doing so is to ensure access to funds, to keep spending private, and to have more control over one’s credit score.

Another suggestion is to consider how you will file tax returns once you are married. Filing taxes jointly makes spouses jointly liable for any false reporting, and even though an innocent spouse may be exempt in some situations, it may not be worth taking the chance.

A final suggestion for those soon to be married is to ensure knowledge of and access to all combined finances. This includes making sure your name is listed on all combined accounts or businesses used to purchase marital property.

Source: Forbes, “June Brides, Are You Ready for Divorce?,” Jeff Landers, 7 June 2011.