How to Survive the Financial Turmoil of Divorce

Monday, 30 Apr 2012 09:03 AM

By Denis Kleinfeld

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The old joke — "The biggest cause of divorce is marriage" — is funny because it is true.

Divorce deserves its bad rap because it is one of the  major causes of emotional trauma and financial destruction.

Every day, our television news programs, newspapers and magazines are full of titillating reports and articles on the latest catastrophe created by divorce.

The divorce rate in the United States is leveling off due to the fact that its population is aging and long-term marriages are more likely to remain intact. (Perhaps "the comfortable shoe theory" at work?)

And, more importantly, young people are cohabiting rather than getting married. Without question, one standard way of dealing with risk — whether emotional or financial — is to avoid the risk altogether.

No marriage, no divorce.

While major financial battles are usually considered the province of high net-worth individuals, the fact is that more people are falling into this category or have the potential to be financially successful in the future.

With the United States in financial turmoil, jobs being hard to find, more and more people of all ages question the wisdom of being married. A good question to ask if you object to losing half or more of your hard-earned money to what is effectively the flip of a judicial coin.

What works as a solution to the problem of getting married without always worrying about being financially cleaned out?

The answer is a marital agreement.

A premarital or post-marital agreement may not sound very romantic, but marriage is also a financial relationship.

Marriage contracts have a long history based on the recognition that marriage traditionally was primarily an economic relationship and secondly a personal one.

This was severely diluted by the Victorian notion of love as being the foundation for making marital decisions.

These days the idea of romance doesn't make it to the courthouse steps.

The family courts today, in their zest to be politically correct, have gone overboard and created the chaos that now passes for divorce proceedings. The courts effectively resolve the economic problems — or balance the competing financial interests — created by people who still insist on being married.

If a prenuptial is good for people getting married, is there a way for people already married to sort out their financial and stay married?

The answer is simply a postnuptial agreement. While prenuptial agreements or postnuptial agreements are relatively simple in concept, they are far more complicated in execution.

The law is intricate and, in some respects, perplexing if you aren't a lawyer.

But if it is done correctly, a prenuptial or postnuptial might  just lead to a rare event in modern life — a happy marriage.

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