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I have a girlfriend and am thinking about marrying her. I understand marriage has certain benefits, such as being able to relocate to some other country and make immigration easier, in case of different passports. In addition, she can visit me in the hospital when I'm seriously ill. Finally, when it comes to having children, marriage makes paperwork easier. Some governments also give subsidies to married couples, and penalize singles.

On the flip side, I understand marriage legally entails merging the personal finances of two people. This is akin to starting a business venture with someone with 50% shares. Although I really love my girlfriend, I do not regard her as a business partner. Her profession, skills and industry experience are quite different from mine.

Therefore, I would like to get married, but at the same time, I want to retain my rights to have my own personal finance and property. I'm willing to contribute to a shared pool of money for the both of us, but I want to do that strictly on a voluntary basis. I'm willing to put in more money in the pool than my girlfriend. In addition, in case it's needed, I want the money from the pool returned to me on a pro rata basis.

I understand that signing a prenup can solve some of these issues. However, it's necessary that all funds must be declared in advance of the prenup. In addition, everything that is accumulated after the marriage is started, becomes automatically shared property. I've also heard stories where even cohabiting couples may be regarded as married under some circumstances, making their personal property and finances shared by default.

How can I legally marry someone, so that the state recognizes them as my partner for immigration and for having children, while at the same time, I completely retain my autonomy and rights to have my own private property under all circumstances by default, and only optionally voluntarily I may contribute to a shared pool of funds on a pro rata basis.

This question becomes even more relevant with the huge divorce rates that keep increasing world wide. I read many stories where people automatically lost half of their wealth purely due to the fact that they married and then divorced, which can be initiated by anyone anytime. In addition, certain spouses have vastly different spending habits, being less frugal. There can even be ongoing future expenses, such alimony or child support.

How can I avoid these risks? I'm open to marrying in any jurisdiction worldwide. I'm mainly looking for legal solutions that protect my personal finance and property long term, while allowing us to relocate and have kids.

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    Where do you (or where will you) live? Marriage/property laws vary by country. I'll also interject my personal opinion that you should NOT get married just to make "immigration and having kids" easier. Marriage is a UNION of your total life. If you aren't willing to completely share everything - finances, property, everything - then don't get married. What does your girlfriend think about getting married but not sharing your property completely?
    – D Stanley
    Oct 19, 2023 at 4:10
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    The critical thing is that the two of you have to spell out EXACTLY what you mean by marriage. It doesn't have to be what anyone else means. Then again not being married doesn't have to be what anyone else thinks that means either. My partner and I have been together for decades and are finally considering marriage mostly because it may simplify some end-of-life matters.
    – keshlam
    Oct 19, 2023 at 4:29
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    (and yes, I know,, I'll edit this into an Answer)
    – keshlam
    Oct 19, 2023 at 4:29
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    Are you sure your idea of marriage is remotely similar to what your partner wants? It feels like she's expecting one thing but you're legally trying to do something else. This divorce is going to get real ugly and you're not even married yet.
    – Nelson
    Oct 19, 2023 at 5:03
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    I think you should send your girlfriend a link to this post
    – AakashM
    Oct 19, 2023 at 9:29

2 Answers 2

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I am ignoring any judgement of the specific parts of your plan, I am only looking at is it feasible.

I'm open to marrying in any jurisdiction worldwide.

It won't matter where you get married, it will matter where you pay your taxes and where you live and work. For example the United States, the concept of community property is only in a subset of the states. There also appears to be a difference on what happens when you move into a particular community property state. None of that is changed by where you had your marriage ceremony.

How can I legally marry someone, so that the state recognizes them as my partner for immigration and for having children, while at the same time, I completely retain my autonomy and rights to have my own private property under all circumstances by default, and only optionally voluntarily I may contribute to a shared pool of funds on a pro rata basis.

You will have to find a place that allows you to do this. It will take a written contract to preserve the conditions you want. The local/national laws may constrain your options.

I've also heard stories where even cohabiting couples may be regarded as married under some circumstances, making their personal property and finances shared by default.

That is a risk, if you decide not to get a legally recognized marriage certificate. You will have to factor that into the calculus you will need to evaluate your future living locations.

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This is a legal question, so you should probably talk to a family law attorney in your jurisdiction.

Just to clarify some concepts:

Marriage

Marriage is a property contract. In the ancient times it was quite literal - "you give me camels, I give you daughter to procreate with". Nowadays there's a lot of feelings involved, but the bottom line didn't change: each side gives something and receives something. There's also some government involvement in private lives of individuals and couples through taxes, visitation rights, privilege, immigration, and some other benefits only afforded to owners of this specific type of contract in many jurisdictions.

In most jurisdictions the marriage contract is set up through the marriage certificate, and absent any other agreements it follows the conditions outlined in the jurisdiction's laws.

In some jurisdictions, marriage may be set up through behaviors. This is called "common law marriage". You don't have a ceremony, you don't have a certificate, but if all the other behavioral evidence is present - you're considered married and each side is entitled to their part of the contract per the law.

Pre/Post Nuptial Agreements

Prenups and postnups are contracts designed to override the default conditions of the marriage outlined in the local law. These agreed upon pre (or post) the act of marriage, mutually, and are usually done through lawyers. In most jurisdictions you'd each be required to have own separate independent legal counsel for the agreement to be valid, and there would be additional conditions.

Not anything written in a prenup is binding necessarily. In some jurisdictions, prenups are seen as just another evidence of intent by the family court during the dissolution proceedings and are not binding the judge. Certain conditions may not be allowed (e.g.: in some/most the US States, sexual behavior as a condition to certain benefit would not be allowed).

Mutual Agreement

As with any contract, mutual informed and voluntary consent is required for marriage and pre/post nups to be valid. If your (then ex) claims that the prenup was signed under duress, or through misrepresentation (including concealing assets and such), or without proper independent legal counsel - it may be invalidated during the dissolution proceedings and you may even get sanctioned.

So talking to your partner and agreeing on everything mutually and voluntarily, and properly documenting that agreement - is vital.

Moving

Marriages, even if not reported or recognized, are still marriages. Being married in one jurisdiction, and then married again to someone else in a different jurisdiction would be bigamy and in most cases a crime.

Marriage conditions in the local law may be different from the conditions where you had your certificate issued. The local judge will follow local law during dissolution, and will ignore the original jurisdiction.

Similarly, prenups may set up conditions valid where they were signed, but not valid in the place where the dissolution is discussed and will be ignored.

Bottom Line

Talk to a family law attorney in your jurisdiction.

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