I’ve been in my current relationship for almost three years now. I’m a young woman, 41, with a great, stable career, earning about $100,000 a year. I am ambitious and my prospects make me increase my income by $10,000 every year. I have about $140,000 in savings and no debt. I am about to close a house that is fully financed by me.
My girlfriend, 38, has a few gig type jobs that she loves and makes $50,000 a year. She has very little savings and about $20,000 in student loans, and is in no position to buy or help with a down payment, closing costs, etc. She lives paycheck to paycheck, and because she loves what she does, she’s not motivated to do something different to earn more.
We don’t live together, but we started the marriage discussion and plan to move in together when I close. My family isn’t thrilled with the relationship for a few reasons. My girlfriend does not have a stable career. She has no ambition and earns significantly less than me.
“My girlfriend, 38, has some gig-type jobs that she loves and makes $50,000 a year. She has very little savings.’”
She understands and has said that she would like to sign a prenup. I’ll also add that my brother is going through a nasty divorce, so the whole family is on edge. We all live in Louisiana – a community law state – and his cheating and gambling wife takes him to the cleaners.
Given all this, I need help figuring out what’s fair for the prenuptial agreement and for our living situation. Before the prenuptial agreement, I thought we don’t include spousal support or alimony, don’t share retirement accounts or contributions paid during the marriage, and that everyone’s debt incurred during the marriage belongs to him.
The new house and mortgage are in my name only. Whatever she contributes to the mortgage will be paid back if I ever sell the house, but not if we get divorced. She will also be remunerated for contributions to capital improvements.
“‘We are going to create a household budget in which we take costs, mortgage, utilities, groceries and eating out together.’”
As for the living situation, we will create a household budget that includes the combined expenses such as mortgage, utilities, groceries, eating out together, etc. Until we get married, we’ll split things in the middle. After the wedding, we open joint savings and checking accounts.
We all contribute the same percentage in our checking account to cover the household budget, so I would pay more because I earn more. Then we deposit the same amount every month into a joint savings account in order to build up a joint emergency fund.
I can’t plan for every eventuality, and these are very un-sexy premarital conversations. Is there anything else I’m not thinking about? Does this seem fair to me and my partner?
Wedding and Marriage Planning
I can answer your penultimate question. The last question is for your partner.
Marriage is many things, but as you suggest, it’s a business contract in addition to a commitment to spend the rest of your life together — or at least a token of a willingness to do so.
Before I get into the gist of your prenuptial agreement, the overarching sentiment from your letter is of one person holding all the cards, and another person not getting much attention. Indeed, you mention that your family doesn’t support the relationship, and your fiancé is vague — and probably unfairly — compared to your miserable former sister-in-law.
I don’t get a clear picture from your letter that you respect and/or support your partner’s choices. If you have any doubts about her reluctance to move into a higher paying career – rather than the one that makes her happy – the differences in your respective prospects will only widen as time goes on, especially if the economic imbalance in your relationship grows .
Forensically dividing your finances only goes so far. Your letter was about finances, but I think I was hoping to read something nice about your fiancé. And I’m sure she has many good qualities.
““I don’t get a clear feeling from your letter that you respect and/or support your partner’s choices.””
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to prenuptial agreements. It really depends on what each side thinks is fair. Your fiancé is signed up, but if you pay her back her mortgage contributions when you sell the house, it would make sense (for her) if you applied this principle to a possible divorce. Otherwise, if you break up, she will be punished, but the outcome will be the same for you. I would suggest that any percentage your fiancé contributes to the mortgage is based on your salaries. If you pay $1,000, she pays $500.
There is no question of spousal alimony or the duration of any spousal alimony in the event that you split up. That reinforces the “what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine” theme of your prenuptial agreement, and doesn’t take into account the difference in your income. What happens if you lose your job or are ill for a long time? Is your partner picking up the slack on your mortgage? Do the rather harsh terms of your prenup come back to bite you? The art of a prenup is to balance compassionate and supportive issues with financial ones.
If you create a joint account, you must ensure that the money from that account is not used for major renovations to your home or that you use joint funds to pay the mortgage. That would probably mix up the real estate and change it from divorced to spousal/joint property.
Finally, “ambition” is a tricky word, and “no ambition” are trickier words. You equate salary with ambition, and your partner earns fairly close to the average salary in Louisiana. Ambition can also mean making a living doing something you love.
This marriage contract protects you. I’m not sure if it does exactly that for your fiancé.
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