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How to protect your money when you’re in love: Valentine’s special

Posted: 14/02/2020


It’s Valentine’s Day, you and your beloved are sitting by the fireplace gazing into each other’s eyes when he suddenly pops the question: “Will you… sign a pre-nuptial agreement with me?”

To help you think before you answer, here are three ways to protect your money when’re in love.

Prenups are romantic

Simply put, a pre-nuptial agreement (prenup) is a written agreement between a couple, signed prior to marriage, which sets out how they intend their finances to be arranged during the marriage, and in the unfortunate event their marriage comes to an end.

Mixing money and love sounds problematic, but, as they say, money is the last thing that people talk about before marriage but the first thing they fight about when they break up.

Having a prenup, decreases the odds of separating in the first place. You and your partner can establish at the outset a framework for problem solving that will lay a foundation for a mature and prosperous marriage.

Here are some reasons in favour of entering into a prenup:

  • a prenup can protect family heirlooms, reassure the older generations in your families by providing certainty;
  • avoiding a fight about money will save both spouses and the children from the unnecessary stress and expense of a court battle after a break-up;
  • a pre-nup is bespoke, and you can agree the best arrangements for both of you. It can cover which assets are ’ring fenced’, how you will own your home together, what happens to gifts and inheritances and even who keeps the family dog. Such decisions are harder (and more expensive) to make whilst going through a divorce; and
  • you and your partner will exchange details of your finances, promoting honesty and openness in your relationship. It will ground your partnership in reality, not illusion, and promote marrying for love, not money. Isn’t that romantic?

Remember that prenups are treated differently depending on the country you divorce in. In England, prenups are not binding, but they are likely to be upheld, provided they are entered into freely, with an understanding of the consequences, and in circumstances where it would not be unfair to hold the couple to the agreement at the time of divorce.

In Russia, on the other hand, prenups are contractually binding and the formalities of the process are minimal.

Do not allow your relationship to undermine your financial independence

In today’s world, family finances are no longer the man’s sole domain. Modern women can expect to be equal financial partners. Looking after your money will help your relationship. Here are some simple, proactive, steps you can take:

  • educate yourself about your family finances. Have a regular meeting to review your joint bills, family budget and savings plan;
  • having a joint bank account for shared bills is a good idea, but it could be important to keep your savings and investment separate (not least to have an independent credit rating);
  • retain your individual goals and save for them, whether it’s a holiday, an emergency fund, savings for your parents or for your own retirement; and
  • if you do end up leaving work to look after children, the household and your partner, discuss openly how your finances will be managed. Keep in touch with your professional contacts, as you may need them later on.

Having said all the above, if you do become dependent on your partner after dedicating time to raising your children, what happens on divorce? Again, the answer depends on where you are getting divorced.  In England, although ongoing income support is available, the court will be keen to ensure that financial ties are cut when circumstances allow. Payments will continue only for the period to allow the recipient to develop their financial independence, and wives are generally expected to take steps re-enter the workplace.

In Russia, maintenance is uncommon and very limited, generally restricted to a spouse who is either disabled, has reached pension age with no means of their own, pregnant or has care of a child under the age of three.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed

In other words, knowledge is power:

  • take advice before you get married, and consider a pre-nup;
  • understand your entitlements on divorce in the countries where you are from and where you will be living. These can vary widely: England is a generous jurisdiction, recognising the need to address housing and income needs. Russia is more restrictive;
  • if you do break up, learn about alternatives to court such as mediation or using collaborative law or arbitration; and
  • whatever happens, always put your children first.

 

Adapted from Violetta Onishchenko’s presentation at the Global NextGen event on 12 February 2020. A Russian version of this article can be read here.


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