I know this might be hard to believe, but I once had a girlfriend. I was all like “I love you” and she was all like “me too,” and it was probably kind of annoying for anyone who happened to be watching. At one point it was even starting to get pretty serious, which kind of surprised me, mostly because I am not a very appealing person. I was even thinking about popping the question at one point, which these days I only think about asking to Taylor Swift and maybe one of my internet girlfriends. Anyway, as I was thinking about popping the question, I decided I should go talk to a lawyer about prenups.
As I sat and ate lunch with him, my lawyer took something that I thought was incredibly simple and turned it into something that was much more complex than I realized. It came with more strings attached than a hookup with your friend’s hot sister. The rules were seemingly endless and, at least to me, fascinating. Let me demonstrate the most important one through a story.
(Note: there will be specific examples that only pertain to Alberta, the awesome province that gets to have me. The rules will probably be slightly different in your home province or state. The main principles should still apply though.)
Meet Jenny. She is a bikini model, and is pretty much an excuse to put a picture like this in a blog post.
Jenny is a successful bikini model, she’s been to shoots in such exotic locations as Fiji, Australia, Greece, Los Angeles and her hometown, Taber, Alberta. She owns property in Las Vegas, New York and London, just because she can. Not only is she is a multi millionaire, but she was dating noted soccer superstud Lionel Messi, until he dumped her.
One night, on the rebound, Jenny met this guy.
Obviously this guy has no chance with Jenny, except for one magical night in Vegas after Messi dumped her sorry ass. Jenny assumed she was no longer beautiful, so she sunk to levels so low that she was actually attracted to this guy. That sound you hear is him getting a… you know what, never mind.
After a fun night of whatever the kids do in Vegas, (I’m assuming they play arcade games and maybe watch a movie after) the new happy couple takes a trip up The Strip and decide to get married. The next morning they wake up in Jenny’s bed, and after unsuccessfully trying to have sex with her again, our protagonist leaves the apartment forever. Their divorce is a mere formality, right?
In Alberta, there is something called matrimonial property. It states that, if someone is married and ONLY ONE SPOUSE stays in a house during the marriage, both parties have the right to any proceeds of that property. Even though only one person may own the asset, the other spouse now magically has ownership rights to it.
This was introduced to protect women from husbands who decided to put all assets in his name, which was pretty common back in the day, probably because the wife was too busy baking pie to have a real job. She’d at least get a share of the house if he divorced her ass for the hot new babysitter.
Okay, you’re probably thinking, that’s no problem. We’ll just write that in the prenup and everyone will be on their way. I don’t need no half of no stinking house, because I have my own assets! I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME
WHINE ABOUT ANOTHER GIRL’S OUTFIT ROAR.
WRONG AGAIN, BUCKO.
Here’s why. You cannot, even if both parties agree to it, write a contract that breaks the law. I mean, sure, you can write it, but no judge will ever enforce it. Now you can choose not to go after your half of the house, but only a moron would choose to leave any sort of significant equity on the table. And why would there be a prenup if there wasn’t a decent amount paid off on that house?
Here’s the other thing prenups don’t protect against, at least in Alberta – assets that are accumulated during the marriage.
If one spouse brings in $500k in assets to a marriage and uses only those assets to grow the couple’s net worth to $1.5M before a divorce, each spouse would be entitled to $500k in the transaction, no matter what the prenup says. There are a few examples (an upcoming inheritance being the most notable) where these rules don’t apply, but for the most part, assets accumulated during marriage are split 50/50, even if one spouse did all the work while the other sat around and did sweet bugger all.
Hey ladies, you gotta keep some cash just to yourself, just in case you get divorced, right? Knock yourself out, but hubs is entitled to half.
Hey ladies, you gotta contribute to your own RRSP and TFSA, just in case you end up like Tony Parker and Eva Longoria. Fine, but he gets half no matter who’s name is on the account.
The law is set up this way for a reason. Marriage is a partnership, where both members have to contribute somewhat evenly. If they don’t, bad things happen. As much as you’d like to believe it to be so, prenups don’t just magically erase everything financial that happened during a marriage.
If you get married, forget about this my assets and your assets crap. All a prenup does is protect someone who is bringing significant assets into a marriage. I could care less how people decide to handle their finances when they get married. But even if you don’t handle them like a team, the law protects each party fairly.
And to the ladies who read this piece who think I’m sexist, (read: all of you) just remember. For the most part, men are looking for a partner. They are not looking for a spineless automaton who just giggles and tries to look cute, nor are they looking for someone who cedes all control to them. If we think enough of you to marry you, then we want you in on our financial decisions. So please, unless you’ve bought significantly more assets into a marriage, stop with this “my” money crap.