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Does Signing a "No-Nuptial" Stifle Commitment?

Posted: 05/01/2013 12:20 pm

The other day over lunch, my boyfriend of 17 months asked me what I thought about "no-nupts." In case you're unfamiliar with this term, no-nupts -- short for "no-nuptial" agreements -- are written contracts for couples who live together, but aren't planning to marry.

Sometimes they get as detailed as who pays what bills and who does what household chores, but more commonly, they lay out what happens around property, joint outgoings, and inheritance, in the case of a split.

Now just for the record, my boyfriend and I are NOT planning to move into together. But in response to his question, I said I'd definitely be "open" to the idea. After all, having been through a divorce, I know that despite our best intentions, love isn't always forever. And when it comes to finances, I think it's smart for people to protect what's already theirs; it's nothing personal.

But then I talked to my divorced friend Hali, a certified financial planner, who also studied a year of law:
"I totally disagree! I don't believe in no-nupts whatsoever," she said. "The wealth that a man possesses before meeting you is already protected from you and vice versa. The law is only interested in what you have earned and accumulated during the time of your relationship."

I then spoke to my divorced friend Tara, who's also a financial planner, and who recently split from her "almost" common law boyfriend. I thought for sure she'd be more on my side, especially since more to lose financially than her boyfriend:

"I'm afraid I agree with Hali," she laughed. "And I've researched it a lot. The thing that concerned me more about us becoming common law was that I was going to lose thousands of dollars in tax breaks and Child Benefit Tax Credits and GST cheques. But a no-nupt wouldn't stop that from happening anyway; those are Canada Revenue Laws. "

On a more personal level, Tara added: "The biggest problem I see with no-nupts is that they draw an invisible emotional boundary between the two of you. And when it comes to creating a serious future with someone, you have to be ALL in, or redefine what you are."

To which Hali replied: "The boundary a no-nupt draws between you isn't 'invisible' -- it's right there, in a contract! And it says, "I need to protect myself from you." You, the person I love most in this world, I now need protecting from. That's insane. If my brother moved in with me for two years, I wouldn't feel I need to protect myself from him and make him sign a contract."

Final thoughts?

Tara: "Put your time and money into a good financial planner and relationship coach -- not a no-nupt and legal bills."

And Hali? "No-nupts aside, I think the craziest thing anyone can do is move in with someone without being on his land title. Hold onto your own property if you aren't.?

And me? I'm rethinking my stance on no-nups. Thanks goodness I told my boyfriend I'd be "open" to it, not, "I'd do it!"

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