What you don't know CAN hurt you.
I've been a divorce lawyer for over 30 years practicing in Los Angeles. Based on my professional and personal experience, your decision to get married to a particular person is without a doubt one of the most important you make in life.
Some people are of the opinion that life is about adventure and risks — which includes falling in love and let the chips fall where they may. And marriage is a high risk undertaking as evidenced by recent statistics indicating that about 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Those aren’t great odds for such an important life event. I believe there are ways to reduce those risks.
Inevitably the process of dating, courtship and romance is two people getting to know one other. If a couple ultimately decides to stay together and staying together means marriage, then their exploration of fundamental issues and values before getting married will allow them to better handle the inevitable surprises and disappointments that arise in their relationship. Having seen in my decades of practice how painful divorce can be, I strongly believe that couples ought to ask each other some very basic questions before popping the big romantic question.
What you don’t know can indeed hurt you.
Money and values about money are one of the biggest issues couples face. For example, if you regularly save or invest and pay off your credit cards each month, but you think that your potential spouse is an impulsive spendthrift, to say nothing of lots of credit card debt on top of student loans, it’s easy to predict that such a situation could devolve into bitterness and dysfunction that eventually leads to the break up of your marriage.
And yet couples considering marriage to one another do not often share their earnings history, income, spending habits, and existing debts to name just a few of the important topics that they will encounter if they get married.
I cannot advise anyone how much “investigating” to do and certainly there is no guarantee that any couple’s marriage will “go the distance.” But there is an abundance of useful information that you can consult as a starting point to hopefully avoid painful misunderstandings or even divorce.
No one wants to take the fun, excitement and joy out of falling in love and getting married. However, the reality is marriage is a complicated and multi-faceted relationship that should be built on a solid foundation. Asking the right questions of your potential spouse can help build that enduring relationship.
Joanne Ratinoff is an experienced family law attorney in West Los Angeles. She offers traditional litigation services as well as collaborative law and mediation for divorce and post-judgment cases.