Understanding Premarital Legal Counseling

understanding premarital legal counseling

The majority of the sentiments around marriage are focused on the romantic aspects of the partnership. Premarital legal counseling focuses on the legally-binding and financial aspects of what it means to get legally married.  

Scheduling a premarital counseling appointment to learn more about the most typical divorce triggers, the legal and tax ramifications for blending or separating current property, assets, and financial accounts help couples make more sound decisions before saying, “I do.” 

Premarital Legal Counseling: Educate & Empower Yourselves Before Tying the Knot 

Our legal strongly believes that while no one gets married with the expectation of getting divorced, everyone who gets married should know how their marriage will affect their legal rights and responsibilities. Couples who are informed, educated and empowered around how marriage affects their legal and financial future make better decisions. They enter the binding marital contracts with greater wisdom, and that paves the road for a successful marriage. 

At Your Legal Counseling Session, We’ll Focus On: 

Your current financial, property, and assets holdings  

Because California is a community property state, what’s yours is his/hers and what’s his/hers is yours – unless you’ve legally stated otherwise. In an era where individuals wait longer to get married, often as homeowners, business owners, with established savings accounts, etc., it makes sense to protect what is yours independently and merge what is created together as a couple.  

This is especially true if your partner has a challenging relationship with money, is in debt, or has bad credit (all worth discussing with a financial or legal professional before getting married!). 

This isn’t about who has more or who is not wanting to share; it’s more of a conversation of what’s best to keep legally out of the couplehood that can be shared as desired along the way. It also allows two loving, respectful, and forward-thinking adults to prepare for every situation the future may throw at them.  

If, in a worst-case scenario where divorce is potential – the way you want things shared, divided, or separated now is a much more logical, fair, and compassionate option than what might happen years or decades down the road when you are not able to hold such an unconditional perspective. 

Prenuptial agreements & other forms 

If one or both of you has a situation where prenuptial agreements make sense, your legal premarital counseling sessions are the space where you can draft those. I recommend prenuptial agreements for individuals or couples when: 

  • There’s a need to keep finances separate 
  • There are children from another partnership  
  • Funds need to be protected to care for aging or ill parents/relatives 
  • There are large income discrepancies (protects unreasonably high alimony payments down the road if you get divorced) 
  • One spouse has more debt or bad credit than another (always run complete credit checks before marrying someone) 
  • There are family properties, trust, or assets that should remain separate from community property laws 
  • You want to avoid drawn-out court proceedings if you get divorced 

If any of these apply to you, it’s worth having a conversation with your partner. Your premarital legal consultation gives you expert advice and recommendations to help you move forward in a way that feels clear and authentic for the two of you. 

Understand the common precursors or triggers for divorce 

It may sound crazy to talk about causes of divorce before you get married, but we have learned it makes good sound sense. As family law mediators and legal professionals, we have heard variations of the same stories over and over again. It’s heartbreaking to see individuals and couples who might have been able to remain in a healthy marriage if they’d known which red flags to look out for from the start. 

We recommend reading our post, The 9 Most Common Risk Factors for Divorce for a detailed description of the hows and whys. In the meantime, the following are the basic bullet points. Review them with your fiance and see if any of them resonate. The more work you can do with premarital counselors – therapeutic and/or legal – beforehand, the better equipped you’ll be to navigate them now or in the future. 

  • Affairs/infidelity 
  • Financial discrepancies/hardships 
  • Your parents were divorced 
  • Different drinking/recreational drug habits (if this is a red flag now, seek help before your marriage!) 
  • Getting married too young OR waiting too late 
  • Weddings that cost 20K or more 
  • Lower education levels or lower economic status 
  • You lived together before marriage 
  • Poor communication 
  • Having a child before or within the first year of marriage 

Don’t panic if any of these apply to you. These aren’t absolutes; they are simply some common roots of why people get divorced and are worth discussing and working through before you officially get married. 

The Law Offices of Gerard A Falzone has supported Alameda and Marin County couples through premarital legal counseling consultations for more than 30 years. Contact us to schedule yours. (415) 482-7800.