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Couples must take time to discuss finances, property division

When a Massachusetts couple decides to end their marriage, the manner in which they choose to divide their assets is often the central focus of the divorce process. However, even couples who are unmarried can find themselves in need of property division assistance. In the absence of marriage, couples who share expenses can find little guidance in the division of accumulated assets and debts, leaving many in a precarious financial position.

For couples who are not yet married but are sharing housing and other expenses, experts advise against pooling income and assets. A better approach is to simply divide the household expenses in a manner acceptable to all parties, then pay those bills from separate accounts. For example, a couple might agree that one party who earns significantly more will be responsible for the rent and utilities, while the other covers the cost of food and household supplies.

Another important factor within a serious relationship is to have a series of open and honest discussions about each partner's approach to money. This includes a full disclosure of existing debt, assets and income. It is also helpful to talk about future financial plans, such as savings and retirement goals. Having these talks can help both partners decide if the financial outlook of the other party is in line with their own.

For those who decide to marry, detailed financial discussions can also make it easier to broach the subject of a prenuptial agreement. The process of drafting such a contract is similar to the disclosure mentioned above, and allows both parties to be on the same page when it comes to understanding how much debt is being brought into the marriage. In many ways, Massachusetts couples who marry and divorce can have a far cleaner property division process than those who choose to simply cohabitate.

Source: US News and World Report, How to Share Money Before Exchanging Vows, Kimberly Palmer, Nov. 26, 2013

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