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Planning ahead, how to handle property division

Valentine's Day has come and gone. Whether California residents celebrated the holiday with their significant, there is no question that for some, love was not in the air. While unfortunate, reality indicates that many relationships do not work and almost half of marriages fail. One expert recommends that before any California citizen ties the knot, she should first consider speaking to a lawyer.

It may be easy to fall in love and exciting to marry. Yet, when it comes to divorce, things have become increasingly complicated. With a vast system of laws that apply to divorce, the concept of property division, child custody and alimony make getting a divorce no easy matter. There are many items of which individuals are not aware when in love, but find out later during divorce. Perhaps obtaining the information upfront might ease separation proceedings.

One interesting question is who gets to keep the engagement ring if a couple separates before the marriage. In most states, an engagement ring is a gift given in consideration of marriage which means that the giving party should be returned the ring if a marriage never occurs. Yet, in California, if the ring receiver is the wronged party, he or she may keep the item.

Another major topic pertains to prenuptial agreements. While many believe a prenup is only useful to the extremely wealthy, middle income and even lower income dwellers might also be interested in obtaining one. If there is a valuable family heirloom owned by one for example, or a potential for future inheritance, a prenuptial agreement can help protect the rightful owner's interest. This concept extends to future children as well. If a spouse's grandfather later gifts his valuable watch to the couple's child, a prenuptial agreement could determine which parent maintains possession of such gift in the event of divorce.

Being informed about all the potential aspects of one's future is never a bad thing. Consulting a lawyer pre-marriage doesn't mean that one believes the union is destined to failure. The quest for information simply indicates an individual's commitment to protecting the interest of both parties for the known present and unknown future.

Source: WFMY News, "Before You Say "I Do", Chat With a Lawyer," Feb 14, 2013.

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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