How often do you pick up a trash tabloid and read the latest couple getting divorced and involved in a messy and public battle?
Well unfortunately you do not have to be Paul McCartney to realize if you get married and do not sign a marriage contract it could mean trouble if you end up getting involved in a divorce.
There are two kinds of marriage contracts. One you can create before you get married called a pre-nuptial agreement which contemplates what happens once you get married, the other is a marriage contract that only comes into force once you officially get married.
There is also another contract called a co-habitation contract and that is one that is signed between people who live common law.
Each state and province in North America has its own particular laws regarding marriage, divorce and living common law.
Generally speaking there is one big difference between living together and being married.
If A lives with B but is not married to her, if A dies, and does NOT leave a will, B has no rights and the next of kin of A can go to court and demand all A's estate property. When you die without a will its called dying inestate and it causes all kinds of problems particularly because of the above and disputes between common law spouses and next of kin or between more then one common law spouse.
If A marries B, then if he does not leave a will, the law will deem her to be a beneficiary and probably entitled to at least 50% of the estate.
As well depending on each state's particular laws, a married spouse even if not named as a beneficiary on an insurance policy or other contract may have certain rights to entitlement a common law spouse might not have-although you must check with that particular state or province's laws.
Now then why get such a contract? Well the major reason is so that in the event of a split, there is an orderly transfer of property.
Such contracts will delineate that in the event of a split, certain property remains with a particular party and is not considered part of the joint family or shared property.
This is crucial to understand if there is a situation where one party has lots of money and the other does not.
Say A is a nice middle aged man. He takes his jolly fat little self to a beach in Jamaica and like magic this lovely young lady meets him on the beach. Of course she looks like Halle Berry and tells him he looks like Brad Pitt. The fact he really looks like Woody Allen with kidney disease is of course lost on him. He's convinced its love at first sight.
So back he brings her to his home and of course he marries her and since its true love he trusts her. Never mind the fact he is a wealthy man and made a point of telling everyone when he was on the beach after his fifth rum punch that he's a successful toilet seat manufacturer and has been able to make millions off of his toilet seats. It was love that attracted her.
Well you can imagine four months later, this same jolly chubby man is now an angry fat man and is in my office telling me his wife is a tramp and ran off with the pool boy and is demanding all kinds of property and financial support and used him.
Sound improbable? Have you any idea how many people marry thinking the other party loves them and spends their money on them trying to buy affection only to find their spouse cheats on them or no longer loves them because they now have their citizenship?
Do you have to watch Judge Judy to understand that in too many relationships you have one of the party's spending while the other takes and takes and takes?
Marriage and cohabitation contracts protect what I call love dummies from making such mistakes. At least in the event of a split, the other party knows exactly what they are NOT entitled to in terms of property and finances.
Now keep in mind a Judge as the discretion to ignore certain clauses of or even the entire contract but in most cases they will be influenced by them, particularly in relatively brief relationships.
Now marriage contracts are not a panacea to prevent all disputes in a divorce. They can't solve all problems but they certainly can avoid some.
Here's the point. Say A is a multi-millionaire and his wife B has been his wife over 35 years and now A has left her for that lovely woman he met on the beach in Jamaica.
He might have a marriage contract that says she gets nothing and forced her to sign it, so a Judge can use his discretion and say to A, because his wife lived with him 35 years contract or no contract, there is an assumption her staying at home all those years and raising his four ungrateful children (who now all of course are unemployed and married to useless bumbs and want financial support) enabled him to earn the money that he did so she is entitled to 50% of everything he earned during each year they were married and 50% of their three homes.
There usually is such a presumption for all money both spouses earn while married. However if A inherited $5 million from his father (who also met and married a young woman on a beach who fortunately drowned in a tragic accident with her pool boy ina hot tub) he could have stipulated in his marriage contract that remains seperate from the joint family property and B would not be entitled to 50% of it.
So for that kind of reason marriage contracts can be important.
Marriage contracts can also be used as an extension of a will and to assure beneficiaries in the will are not prejudiced by any family divorce proceedings where possible.
So when someone asks you, do you have a marriage contract or a cohabitation agreement here is my advise-unless you have nothing of value and/or are completely brain dead-get one!
We can talk in another article about why people get divorced but for now-don't be stupid-if you intend to live with someone or get married of have a child with anyone-always have 4 things; a will, a marriage or co-habitation agreement,a power of attorney and a living will.
If you do not know what these are go look them up on the web-site. Just type into google or yahoo the above and find out what they are.
Remember the more property you have the more there are serious legal implications in the event of a split.
Why don't you write a Hub about this instead of posting on the forums?
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