Divorce and Asset Protection

JLo & MarcBy Janine Cox

In Australia there is a growing trend among women to become financially independent. Financial planners, stock brokers and estate agents tell me that more and more women are looking at ways to build knowledge and create wealth through investing and in a lot of cases have assets behind them before they decide to tie the knot and marry ‘Mr Right’.

Unfortunately it is not until something happens that we look at what we should have done and this applies to any contract or agreement we enter into including marriage, buying a house, creating a share portfolio, establishing a business, and even buying insurance. Ideally, we want all the cards on the table so we know the hand we are being dealt, however this is not always possible, and in marriage any skeletons in the closet may not appear until well after the honeymoon.

Ladies, we need to be informed about the “what if” scenarios, meaning what if my soul mate turns out not to be so, or what if I lose my job and can’t pay the mortgage. The statistics for marriage are not good. Here in Australia we know that around 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce.

I have spoken to some divorced women who were smart enough to take action when it came to protecting their wealth and they received around 75 per cent of the family assets. In these situations the men were left wondering how they ended up with the short end of the stick.

On the flip side, there are many women who are left to struggle financially after a marriage breakdown because they were very naïve about the family finances. The men organised everything, including the legal documents, and assets were moved or tied up in trusts which allowed the men to walk away with most of the wealth. That said I believe any legal arrangement needs to be fair to both parties.

Think about how hard you work for what you have, the energy and time you put into your relationships and family life and how quickly someone could take it from you if you don’t protect yourself. So, be well informed and understand the importance of a contract that stipulates who gets what if a break up occurs, it’s called a pre-nuptial.

You may be thinking that because you don’t have a fortune that setting up a pre-nuptial agreement is not something you need to consider, however, think again about how long it would take to build your wealth if you were left with very little. Also, only sign something if you understand the legal ramifications.
You don’t have to be married to lose your shirt. Just by being involved in a relationship and living under the same roof for 12 months can mean you are gambling with your future security. Make sure when you buy assets like property and shares that you don’t buy them in your own name, you can hold them in a trust structure where you own nothing but control everything. The assets are held “in trust” for the beneficiaries (being you, your kids and family).
Remember, do your research thoroughly before you seek legal advice and you will have an advantage if you seek professional advice from an organisation recommended to you.

Whether you set up a trust or get a pre-nuptial, when it comes to marriage who said ‘a piece of paper doesn’t mean much’ doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Janine Cox Senior Analyst at Wealth Within is a highly regarded analyst, share trading educator, mentor, regular market commentator for the ASX, Sky Business and other national media.

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