So you're tying the knot—congratulations! Marriage can be the start of a beautiful, life-long partnership.
It may go without saying; but getting married can set the tone for the rest of your life—in more ways than one. Many people are surprised by how much getting married affects them legally and in their day-to-day life. From taxes to prenuptial agreements, today we're exploring how marriage changes your life—and what you can do to prepare.
Make Sure You're Eligible to Get Married (& Get Your License)
Many states have different requirements for couples looking to get married. In Texas, you must be at least 18 years old to marry independently. Individuals as young as 16 can apply for a marriage license, but they must obtain consent from their legal guardian(s) before applying for a marriage license.
Additionally, Texans must wait at least 72 hours after receiving their marriage license before holding the ceremony and finalizing the marriage. Texans can only bypass the 72-hour waiting period if they:
- Are a member of the armed forces on active duty;
- Work for the Department of Defense as an employee or contractor;
- Obtain a written waiver from a judge of a court with jurisdiction in family law cases;
- Complete a state approved premarital education course within a year of receiving the license.
Texans can apply for a marriage license at any county clerk's office.
Additionally, only certain individuals can conduct a legally binding marriage ceremony in Texas. People authorized to conduct marriage ceremonies are:
- Licensed or ordained Christian ministers and priests;
- Jewish rabbis;
- Religious officers authorized by their organization to conduct a marriage ceremony; and
- State or Federal justices or judges whether current or retired;
Once you've ensured that you're eligible to marry, it's time to talk about other aspects of your upcoming marriage.
Talk About Finances
Americans aren't great at talking about money. In fact, we're downright bad at it. Surveys from financial and market-research firms found that in a whopping 34% of cohabiting couples (meaning they lived together or were married), one or both partners didn't know how much money their significant other made.
Think about it—how many times have you openly talked about your salary with your fiance/e? For many American couples, money is a taboo subject. There are various reasons Americans don't like to talk about money in relationships:
- They're worried it will make their spouse uncomfortable. Whether you think you make more or less money than your spouse, you may be worried bringing up the topic could make them feel insecure about their own finances.
- They're worried discussing money may change the relationship. You may be concerned that if your partner makes more than you, they may suddenly try to start paying for items on your behalf. Alternatively, higher-earning individuals may be concerned that their partner will want them to handle most of the marriage costs if they reveal their salary.
- They're worried their partner is only in it for the money. Some high-net-worth individuals may be concerned that their partner will try and obtain a divorce for their assets.
The reality is, no matter why you're concerned about discussing finances with your spouse, you'll need to do so if you want to have a smooth marriage. Some things you should talk about are:
- Whether you want to own a home (and if so, where). Houses can be expensive, especially in high cost-of-living locations like large cities. If you want to own a home together in the near future, you'll probably need to start budgeting.
- How you want to handle essential costs (groceries, insurance, etc.). Laying out a plan for how you want to itemize common costs (and how much money each spouse gets for "fun" expenses) can make life much easier once you're married.
- Whether you or your fiance/e have any debt. You'd be surprised by the number of people who enter a marriage only to find their partner has thousands in credit card debt. Once you get married, your debts will affect both of you financially—so don't try to sweep liabilities under the rug.
- Whether you want to have a kid. Like a house, kids can be incredibly expensive (although unlike houses, they don't appreciate over time—instead, they just get more expensive. College costs, anyone?). If you want to have a kid in the future, you should probably start saving now.
- Whether you want to have a joint bank account. You need to discuss whether you want to share a bank account post-marriage. Rule of thumb: if you don't trust your spouse's spending habits, it might be safer to keep things separate.
- How you're going to handle separate assets. You should formulate a plan for how you'll handle any valuable assets either of you already owns, such as a business, investment or retirement accounts, property, etc.
A financial professional like a certified public accountant (CPA) can help you make the best financial decisions moving forward into marriage.
The Big One: Consider Signing a Premarital Agreement
Premarital agreements, or prenups, get a bad rap, but they can be incredibly useful. Prenups enable you and your spouse to protect your assets in the event of a divorce, and also develop plans for the future (like if one of you becomes incapacitated or passes away unexpectedly).
Prenups can also help spouses protect one another from risky financial decisions. For example, you can specify that your debt remains separate property in a prenup, preventing your partner from shouldering any of your liabilities if you divorce or become incapacitated.
Millennials get prenups more than any other generation, and for good reason. They can be a great tool for spouses that want to ensure a long and happy marriage.
Learn About the Benefits You'll Receive as a Married Person
Couples reap several benefits from marriage. For example, you get to file taxes jointly, and married couples often receive various tax breaks and benefits. You also get to share benefits accounts, meaning you can both contribute to costs like healthcare insurance or a retirement account.
You should sit down with an experienced family lawyer and a financial professional to understand the benefits you'll receive as a married person. Taking advantage of all your marital benefits can help you and your partner have the best possible marriage experience.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we help soon-to-be-spouses have happier, healthier marriages using tools like prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.
To learn more or schedule a consultation with our firm, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.