Valentine's day – the day we celebrate our love for our partners and the most popular day for marriage proposals.
So much planning goes on for the proposal and the wedding. Many forget the more practical planning that can help ensure smooth sailing in a marriage or relationship. Here are my top tips from my experience as a divorce lawyer:
1. Discuss your finances before you move in together, no matter how far away that seems from romance. Will you have separate or joint bank accounts? Who will pay for food and other day-to-day expenses? Will you have joint credit cards? Money is one of the top things that couples disagree on, so make sure you start off on the right foot.
2. Do you need a prenuptial agreement? If you have a lot of assets, you may want to consider it and the subject is much easier to raise at the beginning of a relationship, before you become financially entwined. Prenups can take up to six months to prepare so start the conversation early, ideally before you move in together and well before you get married.
3. Young couples often have financial help from family members to get a foot on the property ladder. Is this money intended to be a gift or a loan? In all the excitement, often this is not documented, and disagreements can arise if the couple separates or the parents need the money back for their retirement. It is worth having this documented in a legally binding agreement. The small amount of time and money spent now may save a lot of money and stress in the future.
4. Consider pre-marital counselling. Most people assume that counselling is only for people in the middle of conflict, but this isn't the case. At pre-marital counselling, couples discuss their views on things like finances, children and division of responsibilities within the marriage, working through any differences in opinion. The counsellor can also coach you on communication so you can learn to discuss difficult aspects of your relationship before they become an issue.
5. Have some normal times with the person you love. I see lots of couples who have spent plenty of time on holidays in exotic locations, and not much time just hanging out around the house or doing mundane things together. You have to know you can be with this person in unexciting times. That's true compatibility.
When you fall in love, the practical aspects of your relationships are often the last thing on your mind. However, it is better to have early conversations about finances and expectations and address any differences of opinion up front before they become larger issues. In my experience, spending this time planning for your future is wise investment in a long and happy relationship.
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- Jeremy Sutton is a senior family lawyer, specialising in divorce cases where there are significant assets, including family trusts and complex business structures.