Marriage Advice from Divorce Attorneys

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Bride hugging a person in a tuxedo | New Direction Family Law

Ex-It Strategy
Podcast Episode 14


Elizabeth Stephenson, Sarah Hink, and Jen Bordeaux

Elizabeth: Hi everyone, I’m Elizabeth Stephenson. 

Sarah: And I’m Sarah Hink. Thank you for joining us today. We are going to talk about a topic that most people probably should have talked about before they got married. So I know we always recommend prenups for people, but in general, there’s a lot of good information that people should have before they get married.

Elizabeth: I agree. I came across what’s called premarital legal counseling. 

Sarah: And what is that? 

Elizabeth: Well I think it is really interesting because it ‘s not just talking about what you’re going to put in the prenup, but having open-ended conversations about really personal things, like finances. People don’t necessarily want to talk about that.

Sarah: Yeah. And that’s an issue. 

Elizabeth: It is. And so if you’re not able to talk about it before you get married or know the consequences of what happens, if you start putting stuff together or putting stuff separately, then it’s going to have an effect on your marriage. 

Sarah: And if you can’t have serious conversations before marriage, what makes you think you’re going to have them during the marriage?

Elizabeth: Correct. It’s not like we are doing marriage counseling, but we would just tell you what happens if you open a joint bank account or you keep your money separate, or you inherit a million dollars from your grandfather. 

Sarah: So marriage in of itself is legally recognized by the state. It is pretty much under the realm of law. So why not understand the laws that have to do with marriage? With marriage counseling, through a therapist, you’re learning more about each other’s communication styles and feelings and sexual desires, but when you’re getting married, those things don’t change. What changes is the law. 

Elizabeth: Correct. That’s right. And so I think it’s important for you, for people to understand what the law is regarding property. And so in North Carolina, it doesn’t matter whose name it’s in, it matters when you acquire it, because the state looks at you as a unit. Which I’m assuming you would too, if you were married. So if I’ve got, if I acquire a million dollars in my 401k, even though it’s in my name, it’s not all mine if I’m married. 

Sarah: Yeah. I’m so surprised with how many people come to me and say, “Okay, I have my own money. I have my own account, so I’m good.” I’m like, no, you’re not good. Your separate account with your name on it is not your separate money. 

Elizabeth: But it’s a logical thing you would think, especially if you’ve never been married before and you’ve been single and you’ve never had to share your stuff with anybody. It’s very eye opening. 

Sarah: Yeah. “That’s his credit card debt. That’s not my problem.” It is your problem.  

Elizabeth: And if it says it was his law degree and medical degree that put us $300,000 in the hole. That’s his degree. That’s not my problem. 

Sarah: That’s not always the case. 

Elizabeth: That’s right. So let’s talk about that, like a lot of times, that does come up about education loans. And so you start with the premise that he’s going to get the benefit or she’s going to get the benefit of it if we separate. So why do I have to take on half that debt? 

Sarah: Yeah, a lot of times, if that, if one of the parties went to school during the marriage, that is a decision you made during the marriage to take on this loan together with the future thought that you were both going to benefit from this degree. So the court says you do have to start and go to school during the marriage, and you also have to be together for a certain amount of time after you have to receive the benefit.

Elizabeth: Correct. 

Sarah: So if the husband goes to school to get his master’s, third masters, and you’re married, but he doesn’t graduate by the time you separate, you never really actually benefited from it. So that’s going to be his separate debt, this is why there’s lawyers, because people are going to argue one way or the other.

Elizabeth: Sometimes it seems unfair to me because especially if you’ve been a stay at home parent and the other party got the advanced degree, even if you were together 10 years, and you got some benefit of that, they still get to have the benefit for the next 30 years. I think there’s unfairness. I don’t know. 

Sarah: I think student loans should just be your own is what I think too. But that’s not the case.

Elizabeth: So let’s stay on property for a minute. So I buy a house and I don’t want to put your name on the deed, or let’s say I had my house before, which means it’s in my name. Is that mine? If we get married?

Sarah: It is yours if you had to before marriage, however, there could be an argument for some kind of marital component of it. If your spouse puts money towards the home, they’re going to say I want part of that principal reduction back that I put into the house, right? There’s arguments on both sides and how it’s going to come out in court is going to be up to the judge to interpret the law and apply the law.

Elizabeth: I think it would be important to have that conversation before you got married. 

Sarah: It is important. 

Elizabeth: So what if you get married and he said, “You really need to put me on the deed or you need to do this.” And then the person goes, “No, I’m not going to do that.”

Sarah: They’re just conversations you should have. And also know if you decide to put a bunch of money into the upkeep of this home and you say, “I know that the house was just in your name, but I’ll give you $50,000 to put an addition on,” you’re going to miss out on some of that money.

Elizabeth: That’s right. 

Sarah: It’s not that easy just to recoup that either. 

Elizabeth: And so there’s not, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having those conversations, but I think you need to have it with an attorney who knows the laws. Not that we’re going to tell you do this or don’t do that, but at least know what your options are, right? 

Sarah: And if you still decide not to have a prenup, then you’ve made an educated decision, not correctly, but you at least listened to advice, which I think is the best. And just because you don’t get a prenup and get married, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go and make an agreement during the year.

Elizabeth: You can always change that, let’s say you go, “Okay, now we’ve been together 10 years and let’s go back and look at this and see if we need to update it or change things or get rid of it altogether. And some people will talk about it. You can put spousal support in there where you can wave it where you say you’re not going to get anything. And a lot of people will do things like if we’re together 10 years, you get X. If we’re together another year and you get X. 

Sarah: And so you hear about the Hollywood prenuptial agreements where, you know, if you don’t do a certain thing, then you don’t get anything. Or, if you stay together a year, you get no alimony. But if you stay together five years, then you’ll get X amount. Those are like the elevator clauses for length of marriage. 

Elizabeth: My personal opinion is like, why would you do that? Because I’m not going to stick in there for five years or so.

Sarah: I don’t know why people do it, not necessarily against it, if you want that money and you’re willing to just stay at that level or whatever marriage, then go for it.

Elizabeth: That’s your job at that point. Can you put provisions about child custody in a premarital? 

Sarah: Technically you can, but it’s not gonna be upheld at times because the custody is for what’s in the best interest of the child. So no matter what you really contract regarding custody, a judge can always say that’s not in the best interest of the child, so I’m just going to ignore all that.

Elizabeth: I don’t generally put that in there. 

Sarah: No, but that’s one thing you can talk to an attorney about before you have children. So you know what to expect if that were to happen. And also it can calm your fears about what would happen if I died, what would happen also if you wanted to go talk to an estate attorney about what to do as far as your assets and going to your children.

Elizabeth: Correct. I agree with that. And it’s also what we were talking about with debt and things. It’s like a lot of people are shocked when they find out that there’s debt out there and it’s in the other person’s name. They don’t know anything about it and they have to pay for it.

Sarah: Yeah. They had to pay half of that. We do our best to divide all the assets and debts equally, unless there’s something in your case that’s going to swing it one way or the other, but that’s not usually the case. So, if your spouse racks up a bunch of credit card debt, and you’re like, that’s not in my name, so I shouldn’t have to take it. You’re going to be in for a shock. 

Elizabeth: Correct.  

Sarah: And that’s why it’s important to feel comfortable discussing finances with each other and also just knowing about financial statements and finances in general, like you can’t just ignore what debt is. I think some people are just like, “Whatever, it’s fake money that I owe someone, it’s not a big deal.” And they do that and I work with them and they’re adults and I’m like, are you crazy? It’s not good to have this much debt. It’s not good if you don’t have a large salary to get a car with an 800 dollar monthly payment. 

Elizabeth: And so the other thing is, I always ask people to  run your credit reports and let everybody know what’s out there as a starting line, because when you do a prenup, I always like to attach like an exhibit that says here’s what this person’s assets are. Here’s what their debts are. So everybody knows if you have disclosed something. 

Sarah: It can be.

Elizabeth: Another thing is you have a fiduciary duty once you marry. And that means you have to be open and honest about things. And then there’s plenty of people who are not. 

Sarah: Shocking, right? 

Elizabeth: People don’t just get divorced just because someone cheated. I think a lot of people think that, but finances come into play a lot when it comes to divorcing. And that starts the wheels turning in your head: “Okay. If they’re not being honest about this, then what else are they not being honest about?” 

Sarah: And Jen, you brought up a good point before we started about everybody who was supposed to get married last year.

Jen: Yeah. And that was going to be continued to this year. There’s going to be a marriage boom, and possibly a divorce boom, and a baby boom. But you guys talking about finances, you brought it up, Sarah, that recently I was looking at research for the main causes of divorce and there are all kinds of different articles. And one will say this, one thing is more than the other. But the common thread for every single one of them was money and finances is the biggest thing. And that kind of trickles into huge stressors that then can lead to lack of communication that then lead to maybe stepping out and seeking refuge with others elsewhere, whether it’s substance use or an affair or whatever it may be. So talk about the money, show me the money. 

Elizabeth: And that’s why it’s an important question to ask before you get married: How much debt do they have? That’s really huge.

Sarah: A lot of debt is a turnoff. I wouldn’t marry you if you got a lot of debt. 

Elizabeth: I think it says a lot about their responsibility, and do you really want to have kids with this person? It can be difficult to think ahead at the moment. You got these, all the endorphins are going. You’ve got a beautiful ring. You’re planning your wedding. You’re looking at the short-term and not long-term. I don’t think a lot of people, they just want the party and all of that. And then reality hits after all that’s over with at times. 

Sarah: And you’ve got to know how to manage your own finances and see that your spouse can’t do that. It’s important to see if they will attempt to change and if that doesn’t happen, then you may want to reconsider marrying that person, him or her. 

Elizabeth: It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get married, but you need to address the question. And we have people that you can go see and talk about your finances that can help you.

Sarah: Yeah, we can put it in a prenup that if you have your debt in your own separate name throughout the marriage, in the event of divorce, then yeah that’s going to be separate. We can do that. So if you still really love that person, who’s really bad with money and racks up credit card bills, we’ll just make sure they keep that credit card in their name.

Elizabeth: Correct. 

Sarah: And if you divorce, then they can take that debt and you don’t have to mess with it. And so that seems a fair way to do it. 

Elizabeth: Okay, let’s be open and honest about that and talk about it. Can we represent both parties? Can you talk to both parties? 

Sarah: I feel like you, you can, this is something new that we haven’t done yet, this counseling without doing a prenup, you could, I would think you could talk to both of them, but we couldn’t turn around and then draft a prenup for one of them and represent them. 

Elizabeth: And I don’t think you couldn’t advocate for one or the other. It’s just what we’re doing here now, what’s important is what the law is, and then they make their own decisions about what they want to do.

Sarah: Yeah. Whenever I draft a prenup, I’m representing one person and a lot of times they’re not very confrontational. I’ve had a few that ended up falling apart. And then I don’t think the marriage ever happened either, but most of the time they’re already in agreement that this is going to happen before they come to the attorney. A lot of times they are professionals and do have assets to already protect or businesses that they want to protect. So they’re already on board and they, for the most part, keep it very equal. They don’t even address alimony right there, leave it open, or they’ll agree to waive it if they both have funds. Or they agree to put language in there about no alimony, unless there’s children and so on stops working for X amount of time. So there’s all these different ways that you can form it to the future just because you don’t think something’s going to happen. We can still plan for that to happen, which is good.

Elizabeth: And so what do you do about when people come and ask for a prenup because they are anticipating getting inheritance or something like that?

Sarah: Yeah. You slap it in there. There’s still the law that would support them in keeping their own inheritance. That’s still separate property, but it’s good to know that if you take that inheritance and you start paying marital debts with it, or when you buy a house with it that you both live in that you’re commingling it with your marital funds. And they may look at that as a gift to the marriage.

Elizabeth: I’ve had cases where that’s happened and they’ve had a separate account, but then they moved some of the money into a joint account and paid marital debt with it or added onto the house or done something like that. And instead of spending $25,000 to weed through all that, if it’s in a prenup that says, even though the law says at a starting point, it’s yours, that’s not necessarily true. So that’s how a prenup can help you give you that confidence in that sense of relief, to know that if something does happen, everything is already taken care of for the most part.

Sarah: A lot of people think that say for example, “I had my own house and I got married and then I sell my house that I owned before marriage and take that money. And then I buy a house for the two of us, me and my husband. I can just go back and say that was my separate house. I can get that money.” And the law says, no, you can’t. It’s weird because you can still use trace funds in some areas. If I were to just sell my house, put that money into an investment account and you can trace it there. But the law says once you mingle it in a house, they look at it as a gift to the marriage. I’m gifting my separate funds to me and my husband.

Elizabeth: And that, and if you didn’t want to do that, then you need to have that conversation before you get married to it so that everybody doesn’t get all pissed off when that happens, because I know you already know the answer, this is my separate property, and it’s going to remain mine. 

Sarah: You put it in the prenup that any selling of a house or anything like that, the results and funds are still going to be separate. And if you put it into another house, then I’m going to recoup that separate funds. And I put it has to be in the contract, has to be in the prenup for that to be the case. 

Elizabeth: And I will say, I’m in the middle of a case right now, where they had a prenup, but now they want a separation agreement. So it doesn’t, it’s not a slam dunk that somebody is not going to say. “No, I want something else or this isn’t, or I’m going to challenge this…”

Sarah: You can challenge it. That’s what we do as attorneys. All we do is challenge. (laughing) If you don’t like it, I don’t really like that anymore. Let’s see what we can do to poke around and use some leverage somewhere else and get it done.

Elizabeth: That’s right. Yeah. Things can always be changed. Let’s put it that way. But I think the most important thing is that you open up the conversation about things. And if you can’t have those conversations about finances and children and  when you’re even when you’re gonna retire and what you’re gonna do and investments and all of that, then maybe you really do need to sit back and think. Take a little more time before you make that walk down the aisle. 

Sarah: And also you just get a warning. We let you know some red flags to look out for and when to jump ship is when things are going downhill financially and you don’t think about it. We help you determine if it’s worth sticking it out one or two more years for the kids. Maybe that’s not a good idea, right? If they’re wasting their money or if they lose their job and they decide they’re just going to be bummed for a while. And how that’s gonna affect you, if you’re the one making the money. And even if you’re the wife and making the money, you can still pay your husband alimony.

Elizabeth: Correct. It just depends on who’s been the stay-at-home parent or who makes more money. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. 

Sarah: Yeah. We’ve seen cases where it’s the woman and she’s making a good amount of money, a hundred or 200,000 a year. And the husband’s just sitting at home smoking pot and I don’t know how these two ever end up, but it happens a lot. And then they split up because she’s tired of it. And now he wants alimony.

Elizabeth: But you know what? He’s probably going to get a little bit.

Sarah: Watch out for that. And know what to look out for, know how alimony is decided in North Carolina, it’s a sloppy, messy process. But at least knowing the sloppy messy process will help. And then of course, for the emotional, like we talked about before, see a counselor in that realm. Cause you talk to me and I’m a little bit more, probably upfront harsh about it. Like I just said, don’t marry if he has debt. (laughing) 

Elizabeth: That’s cold. (laughing)  But yes, just talk about it. 

Sarah: And it’s important to have those conversations and if they get really hesitant about talking about it then that’s a red flag.

Elizabeth: But you know it’s not our job to tell you not to get married.

Jen: What advice would you guys give about the privacy situation, like passwords to accounts and things like that? Because I know we have situations with clients and they have somehow gotten into these accounts where they previously did not know about. And you have to advise them like okay, stop. But having that conversation ahead of time, do you think that from a best practice standpoint that everybody needs to lay everything out on the table.

Sarah: I don’t know if I have advice for that because it depends where we are on representing one person. So it depends on who I’m representing. I’d probably tell my person to have their secret accounts, but have all of their accounts. 

Elizabeth: The passwords are different, I think. And I think it depends on your age too. If you’re older and getting married, you’re used to having your own stuff. You’re used to having your own privacy. And I’ve never been one of them who needs to be around somebody 24-7, but there are some couples that do that and are all entangled in a mash in everything. And then that’s how they work. But no, there are consequences to that too. 

Jen: Even if it’s not knowing passwords and things, but just being aware of what accounts there are, what their financial picture looks like. 

Elizabeth: Absolutely. I think you should be open and honest about that. I don’t think you should be hiding secret accounts if you’re married, there’s something wrong. That could be your money, but why are you hiding it? That’s like you say, what the hell else are you hiding from me? 

Sarah: I don’t know that the passwords are different. I don’t, I haven’t been married, so I don’t know, but none of my boyfriends have ever had my passwords.

Jen: That’s probably a good call.

Elizabeth: That’s a very good call. All I can tell you is if somebody, all of a sudden, puts a password lock on their phone, there’s a problem. I’ve had people say to me, no, everything was going great. Then all of a sudden they, I can’t get in their phone. And there’s a reason for that because he was talking to his girl.

Sarah: That’s why you don’t do it in the first place. 

Elizabeth: I agree with that. What would, I don’t know, what would we be doing for a living if people didn’t do that? 

Sarah: I don’t know. Jen, do you want to ask like Joe, over here, if he has passwords hidden?

Joe: My wife has all my passwords or if she doesn’t, I would give them to her right away, but my phone’s locked, but she knows what the lock is. Just mostly because I don’t like people messing with my phone, you leave it out and people mess with it. I worked at a place with not so mature people last time that were like setting 3:00 AM alarms. Post Stuff to my Facebook.

Sarah: Watch out for that. 

Elizabeth: And I don’t think there’s anything that’s nefarious if you have your own password on your phone. 

Joe: I think it would be nefarious if she asks for a password and I was like, why do you need it? 

Elizabeth: I think that would be, yeah, that’s true. 

Joe: Yeah. But I have a lot of online accounts. I’d be like, which one? Like I have to keep them documented in a separate thing. 

Jen: I think the bigger thing would be just having that conversation. Where do you sit with this as far as communication, do you think that with your partner, do you expect that we should know each other’s passwords and what all of our accounts are and yada, you know let’s assume the best and worst. 

Sarah: I think I like what Joe said, if I was asked then, sure. I don’t know why I would be asked. I think I’d probably just voluntarily give them what was needed.

Joe: Normally for me, it’s banking stuff and she’s about to pay a bill and I’m just like, yep, here it is. She already knows them all.

Elizabeth: I don’t know if you don’t want to give somebody your text messages, there must be something in there. You don’t want them to see. That’s just human nature. 

Sarah: And then it snowballs right. Snowballs into a lot of things. Like why won’t they show me? And then your brain goes like this. And then they’re definitely having an affair. So just show them the text. I know. 

Elizabeth: Just get it over with, I don’t know. 

Joe: The only thing that bugs me when my wife reads my texts is if she doesn’t tell me that she did, because then they’re not unread anymore. And so I never got that text because I only read the ones that come in, so if they’re not blurred out then I don’t see them. 

Sarah: Yeah. But with financial accounts, always share that information. If you’re married and sharing accounts, then you both need to have that information. I don’t know how many times I’ve had people who are on joint accounts that I come across and they don’t have the login information. It’s your account and you definitely need it. 

Elizabeth: Or with a mortgage. “I don’t know how to sign it.” Well you’re on the deed of trust. Some people would go and sign something and not know they signed it.

Sarah: And even if you both are anti-online shopping that people are, I’m like, I didn’t get a copy of your mortgage statement. And they’re like “I think it came to the house the other month and I threw it away.” I’m like, can you log on? “They’re like, no, I don’t know how.” I’m like, okay, we got to grow up a little bit here.

Jen: It’s real easy. 

Sarah: Yeah, it drives us to divorce attorneys crazy when we were asking for copies of financial statements and we get like pictures from your phone and it’s like a wrinkled up piece of paper on it on the floor. 

Jen: Some people will be so quick to share their login credentials with us. They’re like here’s my password and username. You just get the statements. 

Elizabeth: I’ve done that before because some people really do have a hard time doing that, and if they have a lot of money and a lot of accounts, we’ll do that too. 

Sarah: But I’m like if you’re wanting to pay me to go log through all that, I’m happy to do that. But your bill is going to be a lot higher. So know that when you have a divorce attorney, do as much work you can do on your end, the lower your bill is gonna be. 

Elizabeth: And so Joe was talking about somebody paying bills in the household, but at least know what your budget is. You need to have that conversation before you get married to see how you budget. 

Sarah: Do you budget? Can you imagine it? What are your hobbies? Are they expensive? And if you have $20,000 of credit card debt, why are you buying a $2,000 piece of equipment that you don’t need? 

Elizabeth: It’s something as simple as whose name is on the utility bill? Because if somebody moves out and the other person’s name is on there, they can cut it off. And you don’t have any control over it. 

Joe: So I get a lot of calls from my wife about can you tell this person I can talk to them about this thing, right? Yes. You may talk to her. Yeah. 

Sarah: Be involved and that’s just for your best interest and your own knowledge, because what happens if your spouse dies. That’s going to be a problem as well as information. You don’t know what accounts are out there. So know them cause anything can happen, right?

Elizabeth: Remember marriage is hard work. What is it? What is it like 50% of marriages end in divorce? 

Jen: I think we’re down in the forties now, but not by much, not much lower than 50%. We’ll see if that changes after 2020. 

Elizabeth: So the prenup, 40% of people are going to need that prenup, that will help them. But the other part is it’s not all fun and games. After the wedding, the euphoria is over. It’s the day to day dragging the slogging through which is hard. And so if you can’t have these conversations when you’re happy and so excited and ready, you’re not going to, I just don’t think you’re going to be able to have them later without a lot of the excitement.

Sarah: Yeah. And it’s also financially beneficial to do this on the front end, as opposed to on the backend end. People always say going through a divorce is expensive. Also, look at the wedding. Sometimes that can be just as expensive. And I know they say that the more money you spend on the wedding, the more likely you are to divorce. I don’t know how true that is, but I’ve read that a few times, but a prenup is a lot cheaper than arguing about it all in the back.

Elizabeth: Correct. Correct. And it gives you a peace of mind and then you’ve had those conversations and then you can be more confident about the future.  

Jen: And it’s not like a prenup means you’re going to divorce, people. Things like having, I don’t know, life insurance, supplemental or disability insurance doesn’t mean that you’re going to be disabled. 

Sarah: I was gonna say life insurance, but yeah, I agree. 

Elizabeth: It is like with disability insurance or homeowners. We’re not going to burn down the house, but damn, it’s nice. And when you work, it does. And you’ve got an insurance policy. 

Sarah: Shit happens.

Joe: But people do have a stigma against a prenup though. It seems unlike health insurance, like they’re not leaving your health insurance. It’s not shameful to admit that you’re going to die. But for some people it’s,  “Oh, a prenup like this might not work.” There’s a shame level that goes with it, that doesn’t go with the other things. I don’t know where that comes from. 

Elizabeth: But I think it’s just that people ask, did they really love me? And I think people have misconstrued conceptions about what other people think, that if you have one of these, that he must not really love you, which is ridiculous.

Joe: You guys have said it before, and I think it makes a ton of sense to have the conversation when you still like each other, as opposed to waiting until the point where everything they say is wrong.

Elizabeth: I have an old client who just recently contacted me. The husband’s still in the house. Five years later, he’s behind on the mortgage. Then she goes, can’t you just make him get out? I’m sorry. I cannot do that. And now she’s going to have to spend $25,000 to get him out of the house. When, if they’d done this prior to, they would not have spent that amount of money and then it all could be taken care of.

Sarah: Yeah. And especially if there’s going to be businesses involved the two of you have relied on this business to be your retirement and possibly sell it when you’re older or live by rental property and live off the rental proceeds in your retirement, you never contributed to a 401k. I see that a lot. And I get people who are divorcing in their fifties, sixties, seventies, who had that lined up. And that’s a huge concern to them. Oh, yeah, it’s the business. And how are we going to manage this? If that was our plan to retire together and that’s how we were going to do it. 

Elizabeth: And so at the front end you’re thinking about, let’s say something does happen then more than likely you’re going to want to make it equitable and fair before the marriage. I would think then when you’re at the point where you want to get divorced and screw the other person really badly. And so then you don’t have to worry about that. 

Sarah: People are crappy. It’s like they divorce and then they’re appalled by their spouse, how they’re treating them all of a sudden. And I’m like, this is how they were for a while. You have to have seen that. 

Elizabeth: And I guess it is like you say, do it on the front end when you’re happy. It makes sure you know that they want to look out for each other. And to me, that’s what a prenup is all about. It’s not about getting divorced. It’s about having an insurance policy in case something does happen. 

Jen: Yeah. And I think to Joe’s point, because he goes into this negative connotation and what you were saying about what other people think. Absolutely. But I also think that it speaks to people’s idea of marriage and that day, the actual wedding day and that fairy tale and that, “Oh, if he, or she just loves me so much, then none of this matters.” Bullshit. Marriage is a partnership. And like you said, it’s a lot of hard work and I’m wondering, I know just in our office, we’ve seen an uptick in prenups and consultations at least about them. And so I’m wondering if now people are waiting until later on to get married. If we’re going to start to see a shift in this or not getting married at all. Hello, Oprah and Stedman. Marriage isn’t the goal. Isn’t what people strive for. Like straight out of high school, I went to a little small county high school and there were so many people who were like, “Oh, I just can’t wait to grow up and get married now.” Bruh, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Elizabeth: People are waiting until they’re 28, 29 still seems young to me to get married, but it was, 18, 19, 20, and now you’ve got all this debt to pay off because you got a hundred thousand dollars in college debt, and so a lot of people are waiting to get that under control. 

Sarah: I’m waiting for the government to get rid of that.

Elizabeth: But, there’s nothing wrong with living together, and then you don’t have to worry about any of this, right? Because we’re not like California, if you’re not married, none of this matters. 

Sarah: And have kids together and not be married. It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s fine. 

Jen: Cause common law marriage isn’t a thing in North Carolina, right? 

Elizabeth: No. That was on my law school exam. I think they have it in South Carolina. I can’t remember a lot of other states. So I will say, I have had clients that have been together for like 15 years, got married for three years and that’s all you can do for them. I’m really sorry, but your alimony is not going to be 15 years or seven years, it’s going to be a really short period of time and his retirement, even though y’all were together and you cleaned for him and cooked for him and raised your children together. You’re now getting three years of it.

Sarah: But if that’s going to be your role in the relationship, then to get married. That’s a good reason to talk to an attorney. 

Jen: For the record, we’re not bashing marriage but it needs to be thought of as more than just Prince charming and the princess walking down into forever, happily ever after.

Sarah: When I do my taxes, I wish I was married. The CPA asks me every year, did you just get married? No. Sure didn’t. 

Elizabeth: I just want people to be happy. World peace, that would be great. We can all strive to have that one day and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Sarah: I think marriage is a wonderful institution, but it’s not permanent for a lot of people. Just taking care of yourself is the best thing to do, and look out for yourself and by doing so you look out for the two of you. You’ll look out for your kids that way as well. Talk to an attorney before you get married, know your rights.

Elizabeth: A lot of people do premarital counseling. Not necessarily your minister, but somebody that can help you, like they can come see us and then they’ve got all this stuff going off in their head. Then we’re going to refer you to a really good therapist where you can sit down and have these conversations and then come back to us. 

Jen: Have the hard conversations now. And that’s your marriage advice from divorce attorneys. 

All: Ain’t that some shit.

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