Disagreements about spending and debt can disrupt any marriage, but they can be particularly divisive when one or both partners have been married before. People entering second marriages often come with additional financial baggage, like child support, alimony, and carryover debts. Nobody wants to be stuck with obligations from their partner’s former relationship, but such burdens may be an unavoidable feature of second-marriage territory.
The most effective way to address these issues is by confronting them head-on with your partner. Start by reducing the details to paper, with both of you writing down all of your assets, obligations, income, and expenses. You can use the resulting picture as the starting point for creating a plan to resolve whatever problems have arisen.
Both parties need to be painfully honest about their financial positions, buying patterns, and overall philosophies about saving and spending. Life will be easier if you and your spouse have similar financial outlooks, but it’s more likely that you’ll have some differences. Full disclosure, mutual respect, and frequent discussions will go a long way toward preserving your relationship (and sanity). Be ready to compromise, and honor any commitments you make.
What about a prenuptial agreement? An agreement may not be necessary if your financial lives are simple, your incomes are similar, and neither of you has dependent children. However, a prenup may be wise if you’re paying child support or want to ensure that your children from a prior marriage will inherit according to your wishes. It can also protect a pre-owned business or any other asset that you’d rather keep separate from your spouse.
If it all feels overwhelming, ask your accountant and attorney for help. Seemingly insurmountable problems can often be resolved by input from a third party who is experienced in resolving financial tangles.