Money "an emotionally-charged issue" for couples

Date: May 03, 2011

With money frequently highlighted as an issue for divorcing couples, a number of experts - including family law professionals, financial advisers and authors - have suggested that couples begin speaking about money as soon as possible.

Financial expert Bill Hardekopf, chief executive officer of LowCards.com, told the Sydney Morning Herald that both people in a new relationship should be upfront about their financial situation as soon as a new relationship gets serious or if marriage is on the cards.

He suggested that each person make a list of all their outstanding debts - including student loans, credit card debt, car loans and even personal payments owed to friends and family. One good strategy to consider is obtaining a copy of both partners' credit reports, which can verify all open accounts.

He explained: "If either partner has problems with credit, your rental or mortgage application may be denied, or you may have to pay more money on loans with higher rates."

This statement was echoed by Scott Palmer, who co-authored First Comes Love, Then Comes Money: A Couple's Guide to Financial Communication with his wife Bethany.

He asserted that money is the foundation behind every decision a couple makes - including the brand of cereal they eat and "the grade of petrol you put in your cars".

While money can be a sensitive issue for many people, being honest about finance is one of the best things a new couple can do.

You may even decide that you wish to make a binding financial agreement before you walk down the aisle - prenuptial agreements are a popular solution for many couples.

A trusted legal professional can also help you draw up cohabitation and separation agreements to meet your unique needs.

Linda Descano, president and chief executive officer of Women and Co, commented that money should "become part of the conversation" for every couple in a committed relationship.

She urges couples to discuss money issues as early on as possible. While this could be an emotional conversation, it is necessary in order to prevent financial issues from arising at a later date.

Ms Descano commented: "The emotions are not about money, but what it represents - security, independence and quality of life."

In the event of a relationship breakdown, a family lawyer is well-positioned to offer their expertise on a range of financial issues that affect couples, including superannuation, tax, spousal maintenance and property orders - which include the use and occupation of the marital home, as well as the division of any relevant business assets.