Recently a girlfriend rung me up with a dilemma—she’d been served a cohabitation agreement, wherein after being bestowed a bedside table in her new boyfriend’s house she was asked to sign documents dividing their assets. After we’d hashed out the recent events—which we decided were especially icky because of a particularly ill-timed delivery—I started thinking about the sense and sensibility of dividing property. Should a cohabitation agreement be regarded as identical to a prenup? I suppose if a couple has decided to eschew marriage and go it common-law then it ought to be viewed as one and the same. Which makes me think that the real issue with my friend is perhaps not the paperwork but the fact that no such decision has been made. So if you are undecided on marriage but living together, when is the time to make such asset decisions? Two months? A year? Two years? I have legal questions.
The truth is, nobody grows up dreaming of a little white house chopped in half. And like the ninety percent of Americans who don’t have prenups (according to Suze Orman) I’ve always had a negative connotation with dividing up the family meat and ziplocking it for a rainy day. Hence my hubby and I saying I do sans prenup. We discussed the issue before marriage and were on the same, no prenup page. Our rationale, in short—not necessary. I suppose it helps that neither of us have much to lose at this point in life, just student debt to gain—which Suze would argue is reason enough to prenup. After reading The Case for the Prenup I do see the sense in outlining things before the fact. The point that resonated with me the most was that couples need to be on the same page about finances. Common financial goals are a huge part of any union. And finances aren’t always easy to communicate about, so why not choose the best of times to hash it out? It’s sensible, so why does it still leave me with a: yours versus mine sensibility? Do many of us have our heads up our rears about the whole no-prenup thing? And should more of us be thinking about cohabitation agreements when we sign a lease with a live-in-lover?
It’s plenty to mull over. Perhaps my hubby and I will chat about postnups next week up at the family cottage. Oops, I mean–his family’s cottage. As per my friend, I think some serious communication with her man is in order. If they go forward, she needs to have a say in their agreement, say, demanding a cool Zeta-esk five mil if he cheats. Either way, she should probably take Suze’s sage advice and get herself a lawyer.