Last month we wrote about five things to know before tying the knot – income; taxes; debts; support obligations; and future support obligations.

There has been so much positive feedback from that article that I am adding five more things that everyone should know before making a serious commitment to another person:

  1. Education – What is this person’s education level? Where did they go to school and did they finish their schooling? Is there any outstanding debt from the schooling? Were any certifications or licenses obtained?
  2. Retirement Plan – Have either of you started any retirement savings? What are your respective goals? For example, are retirement savings sacrosanct, never to be borrowed against or withdrawn, or do either of you view this as a piggy bank? Who is the beneficiary of the retirement plans? While most non-government plans require a spouse to be listed as the beneficiary, many people in this area work in government, and government plans do not require a spouse to be a beneficiary. If you are unmarried has your partner made you the beneficiary of his?
  3. Health Issues – What is this person’s health history and that of their family? While certainly you would not want to reject someone because of their or their family’s health issues, you do want to be informed so that you make wise decisions and learn about any necessary preventative care or testing that should be performed. If there is a history of a family illness, whether physical or mental, how does the family deal with this and does your partner agree with his family’s choices?
  4. Insurance – Life; Medical; Disability, etc. – Does your partner have any? Who is covered? Who is the beneficiary? Are the payments current? Will these policies include you and your children, and if not, what is the reason for that? If there is life insurance, do you know the carrier, account number, and the death benefit? It does not help for your spouse to pass away and you “believe” there is some life insurance and then find out that is not true.
  5. Criminal History – While everyone is entitled to make mistakes (and hopefully learn from them), you should be aware if the other person has a criminal history, what it involves, and, if any limitations exist effecting terms of employment, ability to move, etc. More significantly, did this person learn from their criminal history or are they doomed to repeat the pattern? Sadly, this is often the case with issues regarding substance abuse such as driving while intoxicated, or thefts to feed a drug habit.

While these are topics that may come up early in a relationship, or at least prior to having children, more often than not, I see people who have little to no information on any these issues, and if they had, perhaps would have made different decisions. Ask the right questions so you are not “too little, too late” in finding out about your partner.

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