I know the title of this post sounds cynical, but it is not meant to be. Relationships are a beautiful and necessary aspect of life. Men and women are meant to be together, procreate, and complement each other through their respective strengths and weaknesses. Relationships give us love, companionship, sex, and counterbalance our otherwise testosterone fueled lives. But these needs and values are separate from the question of whether marriage is necessary.
Marriage is an age old tradition. Whatever religion or creed you belong to, or even if you are agnostic or an atheist, one cannot deny that society and cultural norms have indoctrinated us with the Institution of Marriage as a necessary stepping stone to some greater and more harmonious life. It starts from our parents, our churches, synagogues, mosques, and is then further reinforced through media and popular culture. Marriage is just something that people do, right? Your girlfriend and fiancee will inevitably demand it and every Man wants to make his woman, his family and society happy. Off we go to marriage – church bells ringing, white dresses, bridesmaids, bachelor parties, wedding registries and honeymoons. Sounds wonderful, right? But wait.
Is marriage really worth it? I want you to consider the legal and economic implications for a second. After all, marriage is a legal contract between two people, sanctioned by the state that brings you into a host of different laws that you never were exposed to before. let’s start with some facts. There is over a 50% chance your first marriage will end in divorce. The chances are that you live in a Community Property state. What is that you ask? Well that means everything you and your wife accumulate in property, whether it is earnings houses, cars, stock, retirement plans, become 50% property of your other spouse. Think about that for a second. That means when you get legally married, you are agreeing that even if your wife makes $0 in income for the rest of her life, if you get married for X years and decide to get divorced, she gets 50% of all the accumulated savings, earnings and things that were purchased during your marriage.
But it doesn’t just stop there. What about Spousal Support? Again, in most states, including California, spouses are entitled to maintain their standard of living from their marriage. What does that mean? Well let’s use a simple example. Say you make $100K a year. That means, that your ex-wife will be entitled to roughly 50% of your earnings for some indeterminate period of time. In some states, at least for half the length of your marriage if you were married for under 10 years.
Let’s use another example to illustrate the concept. Say you were married for 10 years, in a no-fault state like California. No-fault means that either spouse can file for divorce for any reason they want and it does not matter whether one person is having an affair or not. Let’s say you find out that your wife, bored of not working, gets depressed, joins a yoga center and has an affair with the bearded yoga teacher. You find out about the affair and decide that you want to end the marriage. It is a bitter and hostile fight and you part ways in an acrimonious split. You move out of the house, simply because she does not earn and cannot afford to rent a place. Next thing you know, you hear from your wife’s lawyer. Oh, and by the way, you are going to be paying your wife’s legal fees as well. You have to hire your own lawyer as well. The next thing you are likely to face is a request for preliminary spousal support which will be roughly 50% of your income, and that is before taxes. Don’t worry, your lawyer says to you, the spousal support is tax deductible. Oh and you will be paying that for roughly 5 years after the divorce. The legal fees start to add up as well. Lawyers usually charge be the hour, so 1 year into the divorce proceedings you are out over $100K in legal fees and have to take a second mortgage out on the house now just to support your divorce.
It doesn’t end here. You haven’t even split your property yet. So now over half your income is going to spousal support to your cheating wife, her lawyer’s fees, and she is still living in your house. Which by the way, her lawyer is asking that she be allowed to keep while you live out the rest of your existence in some rat hole apartment barely making ends meet while you slave away at your job all day to come home to canned beans and Mexican takeout. Sound fun?
This is the reality for most Men going through divorce and is not an exaggeration by any means. Before you know it, your well meaning marriage is turned into a living hell. And the legal system is openly rewarding your cheating wife with all the benefits while you pay the price. Why? Because you are a Man the marriage laws are badly skewed in favor of women. Well the laws are gender neutral, right? I mean, this situation can be simply flipped around with a high earning wife and a stay at home dad or unemployed, man, right? Sure, but the reality is in practice, that is rarely the case. The fact is that Men still earn the majority of the income in married relationships. That is not sexist. it is simply the truth. And family courts are more willing to force Men to work after divorce to prevent them from collecting spousal for any extended period of time. If you have kids, you can bet your life will be made even more miserable by your ex-wife not to mention child support. (We will talk about this more in future posts).
So, marriage isn’t sounding so great any more is it? Having second thoughts? Well you should be. But I don’t want to make this sound like all gloom and doom. If you really must get married, there are solutions, preparations and planning that you can and should undertake as a Man who takes his career, life, and liberty seriously. You really should not have to lose everything in a divorce. Basic legal preparations, prenuptial agreements, post-nuptial agreements or even non-marriage alternatives may suit you perfectly well. If you are Man who has worked hard to get to where he is in life, who is considering marriage or are not completely sure yet, please do me a favor, and do not jump blindly into marriage without considering the very serious legal implications. I will be writing more about your rights and what you can do to prevent marriage and divorce from destroying your life.