Women: Protecting Your Finances Before Saying ‘I Do.’

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.

It may sound simplistic, but this is how many people view marriage: Boy meets girl, they get married, and they live happily ever after. That’s great, and we hope everyone lives the dream they want to live.

That said, you don’t want to be foolish about it — especially when it comes to your finances. Women hold equal responsibility with their husbands when it comes to maintaining a family’s financial well-being, and while no one wants to enter a marriage thinking about what might happen if it fails, you need to have some kind of back up just to be safe.

We turned to Nicole Noonan, Executive Director of BBL Churchill Group, a Divorce Finance company that provides essential funding to people involved in divorce proceedings, to get her tips one what women need to consider before saying, “I do.”

FTK: You talk about the importance of having a prenuptial agreement in place. Why would a person who makes an average yearly salary want to have one?
NICOLE NOONAN: It’s not so much about the parties’ average yearly salary; pre-nups are geared more towards “equitable distribution,” [which means] the division of assets.  Just because your partner makes $50,000 as a teacher doesn’t mean that s/he doesn’t have significant assets, especially through inheritances, etc..

Pre-nups seem to imply a lack of trust — or at least that’s how their viewed in TV and films. Are there other documents that don’t appear as threatening, which are a smart alternative?
Ensuring that joint marital purchases are put in both parties’ names, especially real property, is the best way of protecting against claims.  We also suggest that you look closely at “separate property” claims, which is where one spouse will claim that s/he brought certain assets (usually money) into the marriage and it was used to buy marital property.  While you will be entitled to any appreciation of those assets during the marriage, you may not be entitled to an equal split of the sale price [if it’s sold after a separation or divorce].

What are some financial concerns a person should think about prior to the wedding day? 

  1. What is each party bringing to the marriage; stay-at-home parent duties count, too!
  2. What debts / liabilities does the other party have, which may affect your joint assets.
  3. Does your ex have children that s / he continues to provide child support for?  The age of the kids will usually determine how long these payments will last.
  4. If your new partner is bringing assets into the marriage, how will these be considered in the event of a divorce?  S/he may be able to make a claim for “separate property” if the assets have not been co-mingled.

Is there a way to present this concept to a fiancé in a way that doesn’t sound threatening or like you don’t love him?
It’s always a very hard conversation to have, as it envisages the ultimate breakdown, or at a minimum the temporary nature of the relationship.  We have seen a number of people use the excuse that their parents have insisted on a pre-nup.  It may not be the best way to start a relationship with the in-laws, but it may help you avoid a difficult conversation.

What other documents should every couple have in place just to be safe?
A list of passwords, copies of passports, copies of their will, power of attorney documents, marriage certificates, and Stipulations of the Court (in the event that there was an earlier or marriages).

Say your fears lie with your family and not your potential spouse. Do you need legal documents protecting your finances so that if something happens to you, they can’t come in to take the assets away from your spouse?
It will depend largely on how the assets are held, such as joint names with your spouse, a family trust without your spouse, etc..  If all of your assets are held jointly, your family will only have a claim to “separate property,” being those assets that were brought in prior to the marriage, and the repayment of loans from the family if they can be prove [that money given to you] were loans and not gifts.

What are the top mistakes you see women make when they decide to get married.
One is not keeping track of the liabilities / debts of the marriage.  We all know what assets we own, but if the husband takes care of the mortgage, and the bills are sent to his office, how do you keep track of what is owed?  Second, and perhaps more importantly, is separate property.  If your husband sells his house before the marriage in order to [you both] buy a house together, he may be able to claim a credit for the proceeds he contributed if a divorce occurs.

Nicole Noonan is the Executive Director of BBL Churchill Group, a Divorce Finance company that provides essential funding to people involved in divorce proceedings, enabling them to pay legal fees, expert costs and living expenses when they are due. Noonan is dedicated to bettering the lives of her clients, utilizing her legal background and business education to provide solutions for those in need.  As a trailblazer standing up for women who are often taken advantage of by the legal system, Noonan offers a highly specialized set of services that include not only financial solutions but also personalized care and support. As a skilled and passionate matrimonial attorney, Noonan has practiced with numerous top rated divorce law firms, and held the prestigious role of General Counsel at one of New York’s largest real estate firms.