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(The legal ramifications of common-law marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships vary by state.) Couples might also want to consider talking about any debts, past bankruptcy filings, and credit report problems, because even if you're not legally liable for your girlfriend's ,000 student loan, it could end up affecting your quality of life if 10 percent of the household income goes toward paying it off each month. It's normal to specialize in relationships--to delegate dinner planning to the best cook, and gardening to the one with a green thumb.But giving one person all of the money management responsibility can lead to an unbalanced relationship."I see it happening too often--a couple gets together, says 'I love you, let's set up house and make this official'. Couples also need to talk about who would get the first opportunity to purchase the house if they were to break up, at what price would they sell it, and how many days they would have to refinance the mortgage in their own name.Signing on to someone's car loan or credit card can create similar problems.
If you add your partner's name to the title of your home, then they own it, too--even if you paid for the down payment and mortgage. and then [one person] signs away half of their equity," says Sheryl Garrett, a certified financial planner based in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, and author of Money Without Matrimony.
Before moving in together, talk about how you plan to share household expenses, whether the person with the higher salary will contribute more, how much credit card debt you have, and how you plan to share big-ticket items like cars. Investments in shared assets, such as a home or car, can be lost during a messy breakup if only one person's name is on the title.