Same sex couples have a challenging time when it comes to tackling financial matters in the States, especially since the law is geared towards married couples being a man and a women. Same sex couples have to rely on the laws laid down by each individual state.
Couples with children need to be especially careful with their financial planning. This is to ensure that any child or children a couple have will be looked after financially, should one or both of the parents die or become disabled.
The laws are different throughout each state, so it is important to get professional help. The Wells Fargo banking group have some useful advice for same sex couples.
The main points to organise are:
Second Parent Adoption
The mother is always the legal parent, but when a child has co-parents the law varies. It is important to know whether or not your state allows second parent adoption. If it does, it means that your partner has the same rights and responsibilities to a child that biologically isn’t your own. If Second Parent Adoption isn’t recognised then a Co-Parent Agreement should be drawn up. This agreement shows that both partners agree that they hold responsibility for a child’s welfare, which include matters such as medical attention, education and financial support.
Domestic Partner Agreement
If you live in a state that does not accept same sex marriages then you can apply for a Domestic Partner Agreement. This will mean that you have some legal entitlements such as being named on a family health cover policy, visitation rights in hospital and right to leave from work if a partner is sick and you need to look after your child. However, the rights and entitlements vary from state to state.
As a same sex couple you may be entitled to benefit from your partner’s work pension, but again this depends where you live. Even if you presently live in a state that allows pensions to pass to partners in same sex marriages, look to the future. You may end moving state and in an area where the law is different.
According to the law your estate goes to a blood relative when you die. If you aren’t legally married or co-habiting you need to make a Will. It is especially important if you have children. Making a Will ensures that they will be financially secure in the event of your death, or your partners.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is another legal safeguard to ensure that your partner can make decisions in the event of you becoming incapacitated. Both partners should have a separate Power of Attorney, naming each other.
Although many states in America now enable same sex couples to claim for federal benefits, but as the law is still fairly new, many states have not put the laws into place to enable couples to benefit. If you have a child or children, a private pension plan is recommended.
If you want to read more about financial planning for same sex couples Prudential Financial Planning have a useful online brochure, which tells you all about the regulations with lots of advice about financial planning.
Being parents means making big financial decisions. Raising a child isn’t cheap and it gets more expensive every day. Any kind of parent, single, co-parent, married, gay or straight, needs to plan for the financial burden of a child. Same-sex parents have a particular challenge when it comes to the finances and legality of raising a child together. Even if you are married, your marriage may or may not be valid depending on what state you live in. If you are in a same-sex relationship and you are having a child, you need to talk about these big financial issues and get on the same page.
1. Talk about your current financial positions.
Before having a child together, talk about your finances. Too many couples make the mistake of not talking about money. Being open and making decisions together is the best way to avoid money fights and to be financially prepared for the future. Know where you are now with money and discuss steps you want to take to earn, save, and spend.
2. How to ensure legal and financial protection for your children.
For legal protection, consider both adopting each of your children. If you are both legal parents your marital status becomes irrelevant. For financial protection, talk about life insurance, college savings, and drawing up living wills for both of you.
3. Same-sex parents getting married.
Marriage for same-sex couples is not legal in all states, so if you are getting married, think about where you will do it and where you will be living. Also consider if it makes financial sense to get married. In terms of taxes there is a so-called “marriage penalty,” and as two single people you have more flexibility in how you report income.
4. Know your retirement options.
A lot of laws are unclear when it comes to same-sex parents, especially for unmarried couples or those living in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage. You may not qualify for survivor benefits or as beneficiaries for each other’s retirement plans. Know your state’s laws and talk to an expert on the subject if you’re not sure what you qualify for. It will help you plan for your retirement.
5. Plan for a split.
As we all know from the dour statistics, half of marriages fail. Be realistic and plan ahead for what you will do, with your finances, but especially with your children, if you split up in the future. Thinking about it now can spare you the devastating battles of divorce or separation. Planning will make it easier on the kids too.
Financial issues aren’t fun or exciting, but they are essential and can be the difference between a secure and happy life together and one that is fraught with money arguments and financial uncertainties. Talk about these issues with your partner now, and start making a plan.
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