As a community we fight so hard for the right to marry that once that right is granted gays are full speed ahead to the altar. Whether your right to marry is freshly minted (hey New York!) or you’re cruising along the engaygment trail, allow me to suggest a brief detour to protect yourself.
As an aspiring talk show host who also happens to be a lawyer and a formerly engaged Gay American, I know a lot about the ins and outs of marriage, legally and emotionally.
When I got engaged in 2006 I really thought we were going to be together forever, so much so that we each exchanged one another as beneficiaries on our retirement accounts at our jobs. Talking about money was hard, but we did it and were planning on a partnership agreement (at the time he hadn’t changed his legal gender marker so we couldn’t get legally married).
I had no idea that my partner was cheating on me for several months and would leave me six months prior to our wedding, owing me personal debt of around $2,000. I thanked my lucky stars that at least we hadn’t gotten married, it was easy to change my retirement account beneficiary to my BFF and didn’t get more financially involved than that. It was a huge wake-up call that relationships are never quite as they seem and even when you think everyone is being honest and using their best intentions that it is easy to lose your financial footing. Marriage is an even bigger financial risk than just cohabitating.
Marriage is a public acknowledgement of a private relationship. It is really fun, tender and sweet to participate in it on all levels. But marriage is essentially a certain bundle of rights granted to a pair of people who the state will allow to create this partnership and a lot of those are financial rights.
Getting married is, financially, like entering into a business partnership with someone. Ideally, if you enter into a business relationship, you’d do some sort of due diligence on their money management skills, create a budget and are transparent with one another about the business assets. We don’t usually do that kind of due diligence on our future spouses, as conversations about money are sometimes uncomfortable and isn’t it more fun just to talk about decorating the living room or what type of pet to adopt?
However, in the case of divorce, all of your assets are at risk, though you may have kept your money somewhat separate. Here you’ve entered into a personal relationship but, because the divorce laws exist in part to protect the financial interests of aggrieved or less affluent spouses, you’ve exposed yourself to a potentially huge financial loss.
I heartily recommend prenuptial agreements to anyone considering getting married. Prenups are, essentially, pre-negotiated divorce settlements. There are a lot of different types of agreements, ranging from “what’s yours is yours, what’s mine is mine” through really complicated agreements that expire after a certain length of marriage or amount of progeny produced. All agreements are customizable to your individual needs within the confines of the matrimonial law of your state.
Having a prenup can save you a lot of money (much less legal fees creating a divorce settlement) and hurtful fighting during the dissolution of your partnership. I think that a prenup is an even more fantastic idea emotionally. If you are considering getting married to someone, you should be able to have conversations about money with one another. And if you haven’t had a real conversation about your assets and whether and how you want to protect them there are likely a lot of values you don’t know about your partner.
If you anticipate supporting your future spouse through school, if you are in school to get a professional degree, or anticipate either one of you having an increase in your earnings or potential earnings during your marriage, you should consider a prenup. If you are thinking about having children with one another, either of you will quit a job during child rearing, you should consider a prenup. if you have assets like retirement accounts, savings accounts, expensive personal property or real estate, an inheritance or might get an inheritance, you should consider a prenup.
If you are going for a plain vanilla agreement your legal fees should be about $500-$1000 (cheaper than a good wedding photographer, and far less expensive than a divorce). You’ll want to find someone who specializes in matrimonial law. You can go to one attorney together or you can each have separate representation. Your local gay/lesbian law association (like LeGaL in NYC) will likely have a referral service you can use, and there are other ways to find good gay/gay-friendly lawyer referrals by googling around for gay yellow pages. If you call a matrimonial attorney they should be able to give you an outline of the process of obtaining one, and when you should sign it before your wedding date.
It is really hard to have conversations about money even in the best of emotional times. But having an honest conversation about your intentions, and setting up a plan for the future is a really important way to establish the foundation for a good future with great communication and hopefully no need to ever use the prenup.
Love this :)
This is sweet! BUT how do these things work if you can’t legally marry in the state in which you live? I guess same-sex marriage in these states would probably involve a pretty specific, catered-to-your-needs legal contract that you create yourselves? So maybe that would include prenuptial agreements? I don’t know how people do marriage in states that don’t let gay folks legally do marriage, to be honest.
Also, I recognize that photo! SoYoureEngayged.Com! How come no credit to that site and/or the people in the photo?
i don’t know who put the post into wordpress/found the photo so i assumed it was from getty images but i will add that credit to it now. thank you for noticing/knowing!
When you can’t get married in your state you can go to an attorney (search for an LGBT family attorney through your local LGBT Bar Association) to set up a partnership agreement, which can act like a pre-nup in the event you break-up. You’ll prepare lots of legal documents like reciprocal wills, durable powers of attorneys, etc… to set up a legal relationship that is similar to marriage but certainly not nearly as full of the bundle of rights marriage offers.
If you don’t have a local LGBT Bar Association, or you can’t/don’t want to use them, the National Center for Lesbian Rights has a legal information hotline that can help you with basic legal information and point you in the direction of attorneys that are supportive of the LGBT community.
Cool, thanks for the info! It sounds very complicated to do that, which seems like one more reason gay people should be allowed to get married -it’s just a lot simpler.
Thank you for this informative post! I like that AS includes silly/wacky/entertainment type posts as well as serious political/legal ones. I’m nowhere near marriage but have never had the whole prenup concept actually explained to me. I feel more informed now :)
It’s somethin’ that you need to have, ’cause when she leave yo ass, she goin’ leave with half.*
*…of all body-safe, earth-safe, recyclable sextoys; vegan cookbooks; chuck taylor sneakers; Jeannette Winterson novels.
**…aspirin, envelopes, printing paper, other various office supplies, huge Victoria’s Secret bill, and the irritation of seeing her name on your credit report for the rest of your life.
^Break-up equivalent of winning the Super Bowl and driving off in a Hyundai.
I’m sorry to hear about your ex. Cheating sucks :(
but this is nice and informative and that picture is really adorable. even though i’m probs a billion years from getting married, it’s good to know these things, just in case :)
Cause when shane leaves your ass, she gonna leave with half (of helena peabody’s money).
Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system.
Before even reading the article: Best Headline of the Year, yes? Yes.
I think, when that day does cpme for me, I would get a pre-nup. It’s silly to not plan for the unexpected; people rarely get married thinking they’re going to divorce, and yet it happens a lot. And as you pointed out, having a really honest conversation about money and that potential situation sounds like a really healthy thing to do before getting married.
Also, the couple in the last picture are my faaaavourite couple from SoYoureEngayged.com! I have a cyber couple-crush on them
This article is great, but I’m focusing on those two adorable women at the end…and surfing soyoureengayged.com again (I do this every so often and look at ALL THE CUTE).
I just looked at wedding photos on soyoureengayged.com for like that past 40 minutes. Sigh. I can’t wait to fall in love!
Oh, the article. Sorry. I think a pre-nup is a hard subject to broach because you’re admitting it might not work out and your basically admitting you don’t want the other person to take all your money. I’ve never been in a SERIOUS relationship, but I think I’d tried to keep my finances a bit separate anyway. I dunno…
Even if you keep your finances separate you need a pre-nup for the division of assets. The fact that you kept them separate is only a piece of evidence in the overall divorce proceedings. Much easier to have just had it all laid out in the agreement to begin with.
now i just want to do this with future girlfriends. like “should we break up, you better not steal all my friends, you asshole.” …i really need therapy.
Oooooh, I’m kind of a friend stealer, how hella awk is this.
WHAT IF WE’RE EXES BUT DON’T KNOW IT BECAUSE YOU LOOK LIKE DARIA AND I LOOK LIKE A STILL FROM AN OLD AUDREY HEPBURN MOVIE?!
if you are the devil, you’re probably my ex.
Nope! Not the devil. I’m even usually pretty nice to break up with!
That’s going on my girlfriend CV.
this is kinda funny, if you think about it from the daria standpoint. i think she would need a prenup with her friends stating not to date their bfs/brothers. that’s just rude :P
I’ve been on SoYoureEngayged for forty minutes now, and I’m not slowing down. Why am I tearing up? God this is embarrassing.
The people in the photo are my close friends! I went to the wedding and think it is great that they made it on soyourengayged. Luckily they are the example of people who are hopefully not going to get divorced! :)
My wife and I do not have a prenup. However, we have had a lot of really serious conversations about money, our assets, etc. We also trust each other that, should things end between us, we would continue to be adults. I think that’s the biggest thing, for me. Neither of us is the drama queen type, and as insanely painful as it would be, I can’t imagine either of us not being respectful and adult about the dissolution of our marriage.
However, it may take something like a prenup to get you to have that conversation. Our culture is really squicky around talking about money – we never discuss our salaries (or lack thereof), even with close friends. It seems amazing to me that you could date someone, be sexually active with them, and yet feel like their financial situation is “too private” to discuss. But that’s the idea. It hasn’t always been so. In Jane Austen novels, a man of a certain class’ annual income is basically part of his introduction.
But I digress…
Bevin, I did not that you were a lawyer, but as someone who has studied law too much but in Canada (masters of laws soon will be mine!), prenups are essential. Moving in with your partner should also be followed with a written document and a conversation, I wouldn’t go as far as a lawyer unless you’re buying a house/condo/farm, but written agreements are the only way to make sense of what happens after happiness isn’t there.
I’m gay divorced and wish like hell I had had a prenup.
No lesbians I know went into their marriages anticipating getting divorced. Nevertheless, stuff happens and relationships end. Even with the best of intentions, the process can get ugly. Sidenote: you’re just as screwed with a lack of same-sex federal divorce laws as you are with a lack of federal marriage laws because of all the financial implications.
I/we didn’t have a prenup. I saw having one as a tangible lack of faith in the durability of the relationship. I now think of a prenup as a way to guarantee that if the relationship does end, it does so in the same spirit that it began and with a clear understanding of what’s mine, what’s yours, and what’s ours. Because–depending on the circumstances–it can be damn hard to retain that spirit and goodwill while you’re going through a divorce.
This was really helpful. I never thought about getting a pre-nup before I got married and wonder if a post-nup would be just as effective.
May vary depending on jurisdiction, but it should have the same effect, speak to a lawyer if you and your wife are interested.
Pingback: Visible Homophobia | Queer Fat Femme
I work in family law. HOLLA.
I have to say though, prenups can leave you even more screwed than divorce if they ain’t done right. Like if one of you winds up paying say 70% of a mortgage, but your prenup splits everything 50/50. Or if one of you has primary care of a child, but your prenup doesn’t factor this in to a property split. A half-decent lawyer will talk you through all these things and the ways they can be addressed, though.
Personally I’d rather decide what happens with my assets than just accept whatever the law says, so when it’s time for me to threaten the institution of marriage by joining it, I’ll be high-tailing it to prenup town.
Too true. I sometimes feel that, in gay relationships, since you’re with someone of the same gender as you, it’s easy to occassionally slip into that mindset of “She’s just like me. She knows how it feels to be ___. She feels equally about ___ as I do. She would never ___, just as I would never ___.” This whole web of thoughts that you may not even be aware of. And then marriage comes and for those who have been all but married for 10, 20, 50 years, it’s not so much of an issue, but for the newly engaged gays (or the one’s who became engaged to be romantic and spontaneous as soon as gay marriage was legalized) it’s easy to get so excited and get married without really thinking about the financial half.
This article is ancient at this point but I have to say I remember when certain relatives of mine would allude to the fact that gay marriage was (“all”)about money. Even then, not knowing that from the dawn of said institution it ALWAYS has been about money –first and FORE-MOST, I was amazed at their idiocy.