10 Topics Couples Can't Avoid Before Marriage

Posted on February 03, 2008 04:23pm

Marriage is a big step for any couple. Before taking the big leap, make sure you’ve discussed these ten topics.

  1. Compatibility

    Make sure there is a sufficient courtship period so you are as certain as possible regarding compatibility. It’s much more fun and easy to get married than it is to get a divorce.

  2. Conflict Resolution

    Agree in advance of marriage how you will communicate and work toward resolution of conflict after marriage. Conflict is inevitable.

  3. Careers

    If one or both parties have careers that could involve relocation, how will that be handled?

  4. Managing Finances

    • Joint or separate accounts?
    • How will expenses be shared?
    • Expectations related to household budgets
  5. Managing Separate Property

    If separate property is co-mingled without traceability, it will lose separate property identity and be deemed community property. This would become important in the event of a divorce or separation.

  6. Prenuptial Agreements

    Are there issues that need to be resolved contractually before marriage? If so, a prenuptial agreement may be appropriate. Contact a family law attorney to draft a prenuptial agreement. There are a few things to keep in mind:

    • They are not favored by courts, but can be enforceable if reasonable and fair.
    • Won’t be enforced if a party is not represented by independent counsel, is signed too close to the wedding day, or is grossly inequitable.
  7. Tax Issues

    Check Tax withholding status – married filing jointly typically results in lower taxes and so you may want to adjust withholding, (but also know there might be circumstances under which you would file married filing separately).

    Consult with your CPA or tax attorney before selling real estate to determine capital gains issues, and ask about how your combined income might affect IRA deduction limits.

  8. Full Disclosure of Debts

    Each person should fully disclose the debts and financial responsibilities they are bringing into the marriage.

  9. Family Planning

    If the couple plans having children, they should make sure they are on same page relative to

    • timing
    • goals and expectations for development, education and associated expenses,
    • religion,
    • will one party stop working and who will it be, and
    • how to best manage blended families.
  10. Estate Planning

    • Create or change wills as necessary.
    • Consider durable power of attorney, living wills, etc.
    • If second marriage, how will children from previous relationships be treated in estate planning?
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