Protecting Yourself & Your Partner by Developing Partnership, Premarital and/or Post-Marital & Parenting Agreements
by David Lee Moore, Esq. & Vivian Lee Arber May 4, 2023
A failure to plan is a plan to fail."
Define, Plan, and Legally Protect Your Relationship
Preparation Checklist for Relationship Agreements
Defining Your Relationship
- Who makes the financial decisions?
- Will one person be the primary financial manager/paying bills/managing the accounts/balancing the budget?
- Do you or your partner make or plan to make large expenditures without a discussion?
- Who pays the household bills and from what source/s?
- Whose responsibility is it or will it become to pay the monthly bills?
- Do you have joint bank accounts, separate bank accounts, or both?
- Do you have similar saving, spending, and planning goals?
- Do you have concerns about your debt or future saving that you wish to resolve by planning and action?
- Do you have a plan for savings?
- What are your long-term financial goals?
- Are you keeping your premarital property or debts separate?
- Define the source of payments for support, or child support that you pay for a previous relationship (joint property/income, or you or your partner's separate property/income)?
- In the event you break up in the future would you or your partner expect to have the right to demand reimbursement for their payments to any separate property obligation (debt, house or land payments, support or any other obligation that belongs solely to one partner) that were made during your relationship?
- Are you or your partner voluntarily paying for any form of education or educational expenses for the other partner or their child/ren?
- Are there certain family heirlooms or money, which you would like to go to your family, or any other person?
Taxes, Debts and Credit
- Have you shared credit reports?
- If no please order yours on line and print for your discussion with your partner
- Do you have any separate or joint credit issues, such as a business, home equity line of credit you or your partner use to fund a business
- Does either of you or both of you have low credit scores?
- Will you and your partner jointly sign and agree to all new credit obligations?
- Do you or your partner owe back taxes? If so, have you or your partner filed taxes for the years owed?
- Do you intend to intertwine your finances as a couple, for tax purposes or for any other reason?
- If legally permissible, will you file separate taxes, or joint taxes?
- Who will be responsible for any debt, or back taxed (consider that a refund if you may file joint taxes, maybe seized to pay your partner's taxes or judgments on a bad debt)?
- Will you or your partner seek indemnification by your agreements or other otherwise look for protection from the others separate debts or obligations?
Working & Earnings
- Define each of your non-monetary contributions, (cleaning, cooking, running errands, managing the household, helping your partner so they can focus on school or work, raising children)?
- What is your work?
- What is your income?
- Do you anticipate a career change?
- Do you plan to return to school?
- Do you anticipate a promotion?
- Do you travel for work?
- Do you support your partner's career?
- Does your partner support your career?
- When do you plan to retire?
Even if you do not address these possibilities in your agreement, you should discuss this possibility together and with your attorney as he drafts your agreements. Without an agreement, you may create a legal obligation to your partner that will then be defined and ordered by the court or a subsequent stipulation, circumstances can change, and while you may not think that you or your partner would want support, it is always a possibility even when it is hard to imagine.
- Do you want support or alimony that is different than allowed by your state's laws?
- Do you or your partner want any limitations on the amount, terms, and duration of support?
- Do you want to waive the right to future support?
- Do you and your part expect to work or continue working and contributing to your household?
- If the circumstances (like a serious health problem) are that your former partner cannot work, do you want your nonworking former partner have the right to support from you?
Defining Other Forms of Separate Property
Would the gift from your or your partner's family remain each of your separate property?
Loans from family, who would be responsible for repaying it, and when will the debt be paid?
How formal will you be with the documentation if it is a loan?
Being clear between yourselves as well as with your own family will help you avoid conflict in the future.
Sometimes a partner is attending, will want to attend, or need to return to school. It is important to communicate your expectations clearly, and within your agreement.
- Will or do you or your partner attend college, graduate school, or professional school?
- Will one of you support the other while he or she is in school?
- Is there an expectation for support or repayment once the partner's education completes?
- How do you plan to repay any student loans?
- Would your or your partner's expectations about income and earnings change if one of you decides to attend in the future?
Duration of Your Partnership Agreement
It is up to you and your partner to decide how long your agreement will remain in effect, and if anything (time separation, death, or other event) will cause it to terminate.
- Would the agreement ever terminate, expire, or be renegotiated?
Death or Disability
When one of you dies, do you intend that all of the applicable terms regarding support, property, and other matters continue in full force and effect?
If you separate, or ended this partnership when one of you dies do you intend that all of the applicable terms regarding support, property, and other matters continue in full force and effect?
Do you have people who may be entitled to or expect to inherit from you?
Important points on Life and Disability Insurance
Life insurance can protect your partner and/or your children's interests by covering costs to protect them from claims of right or debts from your estate.
- Do you have life insurance?
- Who is the beneficiary on your retirement plans, IRA's, and survivor annuity benefits on pension plans?
- Would your agreement with your partner end upon your death?
- In the event of you or your partner's death, will the surviving partner be able to support himself or herself, (and your children if you have any) in the same lifestyle?
- Do you plan or have you arranged for your partner to have immediate access to funds if you become incapacitated or if you pass away?
- Have you planned or do you intend to plan the means for either partner to maintain the residence if one of you becomes incapacitated or passes away?
- What would happen if you or your partner suffers incapacitation or disability?
- Would that change how your finances operate, and/or would you and/or your partner become financially insolvent?
- Would you use your own separate property to support the other person?
- Do you have or will you acquire disability insurance?
- Do you have Long-term care insurance?
Checklist of Documents & Points for Your Partnership and/or Parenting Agreement
Gather important documents that may relate to your agreement for your attorney to review. The list below contains some of the common documents as examples of what you may need if any or all these suggestions apply.
- Existing wills, trusts, living wills, living trusts, powers of attorney, or health care directives.
- Recent statements for bank, 401k, investment, stock, or retirement account.
- List of primary and contingent beneficiaries of each bank, investment, stock, retirement, 401k or any other accounts.
- Deeds for all real estate.
- Leases, rental agreements, and other contracts.
- Registration for any cars, boats, or other vehicles.
- Life insurance policies, with premium notices, and other documents.
- All partnership agreements and LLC operating agreements.
- By-laws, buy-sell agreements, and/or other contracts affecting your interests in investments, businesses, corporations and/or other entity.
- Financial statements for any businesses.
- Existing pre-marital, post-marital, and domestic partnership agreements with current spouse or partner and/or any other person.
- Property settlement agreement with former spouse or partner.
- All wills or trusts under which you have a power of appointment.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS/OTHER RELATIONSHIPS
Check Yes or No and fill in the other answers
- Do you have minor children (under age 18)?
❏ YES ❏ NO
- Are you pregnant, planning to adopt, engage a surrogate, or have a child with your partner in the future?
❏ YES ❏ NO
Who will become their guardian or adoptive parent? _________________________________________________
- Do you plan to omit (or are you considering omitting) from your estate by trust or will any person, such as a child, parent, sibling, former partner or former spouse that ordinarily might expect or have a legal right to benefit from your estate?
❏ YES ❏ NO
If yes, please explain the relationship and the reason you would expect they might make a claim:
- Do you want to specifically provide that certain items of personal property (i.e., jewelry, artwork, heirlooms) go to specific persons?
❏ YES ❏ NO
If yes, please describe each item and the name of each item's future recipient:
- In the event of your incapacity or death, does any person have access to your passwords and PINs (i.e., e-mail, online banking, credit cards, social networking, and any other important site.)?
❏ YES ❏ NO
If yes, please provide the name of that person and their contact information:
It is important that you have copied all this information into your Master Notebook, and that a copy of this information is held with another trusted person (trustee, attorney, or trusted family member) and this person should be someone other than your partner or yourself.
- Do you have any long-term care insurance?
❏ YES ❏ NO
If yes, please specify your insurance company, policy number and, in the event of your incapacity, the person listed as your appointee and their alternate: ___________________________________________________________________________________
- Do you make charitable gifts?
❏ YES ❏ NO
Do you plan a charitable gift?
❏ YES ❏ NO
Have you already promised a charitable gift at your death?
❏ YES ❏ NO
If yes, do you intend to maintain that promise within this new agreement?
❏ YES ❏ NO
The best agreements become tailored to you and your partner's needs, values, and plans, and consider all other commitments and relationships that may effect you or your partner in the future. Your mutual honesty and concern fosters respect between each other and demands respect, legal recognition as agreed or compliance with your wishes by others who may challenge you or your partners standing and rights in the future.
Now that you have discussed you and your partners respective plans, expectations, and hopes as partners you should be ready to cover these details on future support should you determine that you no longer wish to remain a couple. If you cannot agree on these things, you should seek the guidance of your therapist, attorney, or other mediator to resolve any impasse.
- The parties agree that there will be absolutely no support of any kind paid by either partner to the other under any circumstances, and permanently waive any right to claim support for any reason at any time in the future.
- The parties agree that there will be permanent periodic support, ______________ will pay the support in the amount of $____________ per (week, month), such payments will begin within _____days of the end of the relationship, and continue for _________.
- The parties agree that there will be rehabilitative support so that ______________ is able to be rehabilitated upon (completing college, training, or _________), however, the term of support shall terminate by no later______________, and will end within that time or before upon the completion date of education/rehabilitation plus sixty days or within the term stated regardless of completion of education/rehabilitation, which ever event happens first.
- The parties agree that support will be a full and final amount paid as a lump sum, and that ______________will pay a total of __________to______________ as support.
Planning to Have or Share Children with Your Partner?
The LBGT standards for child custody is an excellent guide to protecting families and relationships and acting based on the trust, and faith that comes from loving relationships. This work supports that equality within life commitments, and family law must be available and recognized legally by everyone. The information presented therein is mindful that in some cases relationships change by accident, injury, or choice and your right minded loving action and agreements now protect you and yours from unnecessary contention in the future.
Questions to Prepare Custody, Adoption & Related Agreements
The Essential Gay and Lesbian Directories On-Line, Mobile, and the EGLD's traditional yellow page book format offers current information on wedding planners, event locations, insurance agents attorneys, attorney supervised legal services, therapists, and others who can help guide you and your partner through this important planning process.
MINOR CHILDREN CUSTODY, VISITATION, AND SUPPORT
Fill in the blanks, X the sentences that apply, make discussion and other planning notes for your specific circumstances.
- The _____ minor child/ren
(Repeat the above for each additional minor child.)
❏ No additional children are expected.
❏ We expect/hope for _______ additional children
- Parental responsibility for the child/ren is/will be:
❏ Sole to _______________________________
- The child/ren shall live with _________________________________'s home as their Primary Residence in any event.
❏ Or in the event of a separation or end of the relationship shall share time equally with each parent.
❏ ________________________ will have custody and control as the custodial parent.
❏ Custody and control shall be shared equally and all health, educational, religious and other important decisions made jointly, except in the event of an emergency.
- The non-custodial parent shall have:
❏ Liberal and Reasonable, with no less than 48 hours notice to the other party, and by agreement.
❏ Tentatively Scheduled as: ____________________________________________________________________________________
Planning and making agreements involving children, parents, adoption, guardianship or any agreements defining your child's relationship with your partner is a very important undertaking. You and your partner should consider all the risks involved within the introduction of a new parent, or other relationship into your child's life, the law, and the bonds that form between children and the people in their lives. Bonds between children and their parents extend beyond any future breakup and must be protected for your children as long as there are no issues of abuse or inappropriate conduct (that does not include normal differences in parenting or life style).
Even without an agreement, any person with a substantial parent-like relationship with may establish rights that you do not intend, and in some cases they may become entitled to court ordered visitation, and support. It is crucial that you make your intentions clear by agreement, even if your partner is assuming no parenting role if you are to avoid such claims to parenting, support, or visitation rights in the future.
This document is not legal advice. Always consult an attorney when creating any agreements discussed in this series of articles.