Are You Ready for Marriage?

Are you ready for marriage? A healthy relationship entering married life is very important. Otherwise, as married couples begin their future together, problems may begin to surface. But while a healthy marriage begins with a healthy relationship, there is more to it than that.

After the highs of a wedding and the promises of a "happily-ever-after," newlyweds enter the lull of everyday life. A happy marriage will depend on how well a married couple handles issues like financial assets, communication, conflict, parenting, in-laws, leisure time, sexuality, spirituality, and chores.

Many married couples don't talk about the practicalities of their future together before the wedding date. Because of that, married life can start off rocky, with more conflict than romance.

This article may help you say, "I'm ready," or determine if now is not the right time for marriage.

The First Fundamental Question

The first question to ask yourself is, "Why do I want to get married?" It may seem like a simple question, but it can save you from hard times down the road.

Before rushing into wedding planning mode, it's important to consider if you want to spend the rest of your life with your significant other. Consider your life goals and whether your partner shares them. It may surprise you how open communication about these subjects will improve your future together and lead to a successful marriage.

Finances and Money Management

Money is a common source of conflict in a marriage. It is important to establish financial goals in advance. A family law attorney can help address financial issues by preparing a premarital agreement (also known as a prenuptial agreement). To avoid conflict in the future, married couples should talk about financial goals before getting married.

Discuss your significant other's financial expectations before getting married. How will you manage money? Will you share finances and property equally? Remember, each state views marital and separate property differently.

Property inherited during the marriage is considered separate property. Your state may have rules about "commingled property" where separate property is combined with marital property. So, it is important to discuss this with a lawyer before combining inheritance funds with marital funds. Separate property means it's not owned by your significant other.

States differ on how to treat marital property — the property acquired or earned during the marriage. Community property states divide marital property 50/50. Other states use "equitable distribution," which means they divide the property "fairly" (sometimes 50/50 or some other proportion).

Determining how you will manage money before the ceremony can help to avoid marriage money problems down the line. You may want to ask each other the following questions:

  • Do you intend to live within a budget? Who will manage the budget?
  • Who will pay the bills? Which bills?
  • Will you have a joint checking account?
  • Will major assets (such as a home) be held jointly?
  • What are your long-term financial goals? How will you achieve them?

Children and Parenting

Before beginning your future together, it's important to discuss whether you want children. That decision can be a deal breaker for many couples.

Young people entering marriage may assume that their significant other wants children. Down the road, they become surprised that their spouse either doesn't want children or wants a different number of children. This is an important life decision that can cause stress in a marriage if the couple is not in agreement.

Even if you do agree on having children, what about if there are difficulties conceiving? That's why it's also a good idea to discuss adoption or thoughts on in-vitro fertilization or surrogacy.

If you and your significant other agree on children, it's important to discuss how they will be raised. For example, will someone stay home to raise the children? Or will you need childcare while both of you are at work?

Should the children attend public or private school? Parenting views may be a compatibility issue and can cause hard times in married life. Discussing children before starting a future together can prevent a great deal of future conflict.

Daily Life and Personal Philosophy

Talk about your daily life and personal philosophy with your fiancé. Your significant other may have a different expectation of what daily life will look like after getting married.

If you don't share your expectations with your significant other, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. For example, it's important to discuss the following:

  • How will you divide household chores?
  • Do you mind if your significant other spends a lot of time alone or pursuing leisure activities without you?
  • How will you make sure you have quality time together as a married couple?

You may have shared your personal philosophy with your significant other before married life. But an open discussion about your future together is a good idea. For instance, does religion play an important part in your life? Will it bother you if your significant other does not share your religious beliefs?

Get Professional Help With Your Legal Questions About Marriage

An open discussion and honest conversation will help you figure out if you're ready for marriage. It will also often reveal mismatched expectations and deal breakers. These discussions will help you and your significant other resolve issues before they become divisive.

If you have issues that require consultation with an attorney, such as financial goals, financial issues, property titles, adoption, or child support questions, be sure to consult with a family law attorney who is familiar with the relevant laws in your state.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Many people can get married without hiring legal help
  • Marriages involving prenups, significant debt, child custody issues, and property questions may need an attorney

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Marriage is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries (including your spouse!) to your will. Consider creating a power of attorney to ensure your spouse can access your financial accounts. Also, a health care directive lets your spouse make your medical decisions if you ever become incapacitated.

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