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Marriage and planning a financial future together

Prenuptial agreements aren’t just about who gets the spoons after a divorce

When planning a wedding, it’s easy to get caught up in the minor details of your big day, like figuring out what font style to use on your place cards or who’ll toast the bridal party. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you’re spending a small fortune to make your day truly special.

But therein lies the problem; it’s just one day. 

A wedding is not a marriage and all too often people forget about planning their life together after the honeymoon is over.

Given that the most common root cause for divorce is money, it makes sense then that couples headed to the altar consider their financial future.

Personal financial goals, pre-existing consumer debt, student loans or mortgages bring new challenges to a relationship, so navigating them early on is key to building a strong foundation for the marriage.

Al Antle, executive director of Credit Counselling Services of Newfoundland and Labrador (CCSNL), suggest that starts with divulging any and all financial secrets.

“What's really interesting is to go into pre-marriage courses and I often put it to couples in terms of, ‘before you play married I need you to play doctor; I'll show you mine, you show me yours in terms of your finances.’”

“’We're going to get married in six weeks, six months or six years, what is it in your past that might haunt us in the future and what can we do to minimize the haunting?’”

Over 35 years delivering financial counselling other services to over 26,000 families, Antle and the CCSNL team have seen it all when talking to couples about those secrets.

One might discover, for instance, that their spouse-to-be has several thousand dollars in student loan debt.

“You are not liable for her student loan, but I'm here to tell you that you're going to end up paying it because of the nature of relationships,” says Antle. 

“If the bank decides to apply pressure and say to her 'we're garnishing your bank account,' that's your bank account, too.”

“That kind of stuff is handled best by a little piece of work called a prenuptial agreement.”

If the entertainment industry has taught us anything, it’s that prenupts are meant to protect the wealthier party in the marriage from losing that wealth in the event of a divorce.

And that’s true, but Antle says it’s about more than who gets the spoons in the event of a divorce, it’s also a contract that indemnifies one party from another party’s previous financial decisions.

“If you are relationship oriented, that's where your head's going to go. Not about how do I protect me from them, but how do I protect them from me,” says Antle. 

“If you discover that your partner has a significant debt load that you don't want to take on, a prenuptial agreement that says my debt is my debt and your debt is your debt is perfectly reasonable.”

It all starts with communication, and as uncomfortable as those conversations may be, it’s better to deal with them head on at the outset as opposed to being surprised by it later in life and being forced into seeking out the services and support of a not-for-profit charitable organization like CCSNL.

Twitter: kennoliver79

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