A marriage is “For better or worse,” as many wedding vows say, and when most people enter a marriage agreement, optimism reigns. But, it’s never too late to get prepared. Couples in committed relationships should think about ways to reduce the impact of when the “worse” happens, and the holidays can be a good time to be proactive. Taking certain legal measures can help mitigate legal and financial risks, and can also have the added benefit of increasing communication and even solidifying a relationship. Married couples, couples in domestic partnerships, and people with children need to plan ahead. This post is the second in our series, The Legal Side of the Holidays.
For married couples
In our last post we went over Prenuptial Agreements, and how they’re not a bad idea, as far as presents go. But what about if you’re already married and still need to work out how you’re going to split up finances? If you like the idea of a Prenup and the way it clarifies the division of property, consider working on a Postnuptial agreement with your spouse. It works the same way as a Prenup, elaborating how you and your spouse will deal with property and other assets in your marriage, as well as other important financial issues.
Whether you and your spouse or partner plan on renting an apartment, buying a house, running a business or managing finances, you’ll need to use legal documents throughout your marriage. Legal considerations about finances and credit become especially important over the holidays, since this is the time of year when couples spend a lot of money on presents and start preparing for tax season. A Rocket Lawyer membership allows you to create and share legal documents, while keeping them securely stored in your online account.
For domestic partners
Not all families are alike, but everyone should consider reducing their amount of legal risk, whether or not you are married. If you live with your significant other, and you’re in a long term committed relationship, consider giving your partner a Domestic Partnership Agreement as a way to show that you respect them and your relationship, and that you are planning for the long haul. A Domestic Partnership Agreement helps solidify your committed, long-term relationship by outlining the responsibilities of each partner, such as how to share income and pay bills, and whether property is meant to be jointly or individually owned.
Another issue that often confuses unmarried couples is whether or not common law marriage applies to their relationship. For more information about common law marriages, read our legal help article, Is a Common Law Marriage Legal?.
Protecting your kids
Children can make the holidays particularly joyful, but they count on their parents for a lot more than presents. Although most of us don’t like thinking about the worst case scenario of our children getting hurt, it’s important to have a plan, just in case. Around the holidays, parents may want to create a Child Care Authorization when they send their children to visit family, entrusting a friend or relative to supervise the children according to specified Child Care Instructions. This step can be essential if, for example, a grandparent needs such an authorization in order make health care decisions for your child in an emergency.