As in many cultures, marriage is a sacred institution for South Asians. It is a “Till death do you part” proposition each person undertakes. Divorce was a much rarer occurrence a half century ago in South Asian culture; times have changed. There are many more couples of South Asian descent filing for divorce in the United States. A common theme in many South Asian divorces is that the parties have not been financially transparent with one another before entering the marriage or during the marriage. This creates a sense of mistrust between husband and wife.
In Texas, pursuant to the Family Code and the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure which covers the legal mechanism of discovery, parties are required to turn over financial information so that the marital estate can be divided. A lot of time and money is spent on attorneys trying to get each side to cooperate and turn over financial information.
In South Asian culture there are several ways by which parties decide to marry. First, is the arranged marriage where parties are introduced through a family member or match maker with the intent being from the inception that the parties are seeking a partner for the purpose of marriage. There are different levels of courtship with the strictest being a few meetings with chaperones and then a decision to marry versus a formal introduction followed by a dating period but with the intention of marriage. Second, is the use of online dating services where parties are matched based on data inputted in a software system; people find partners and successfully marry through the use of various online dating services. Third, is just meeting someone at work, through a place of worship, through a friend, or whatever random circumstance, dating for an extended period of time and then making a decision to enter into marriage. In all instances, the extended families are usually involved with the decision making process. Whichever scenario finds one at the alter, the parties need to exchange financial information with one another before and after marriage.
Each party should exchange bank statements, credit card statements, student loan information, retirement information and savings information with one another. There should be an understanding that this will continue throughout the marriage. Discussing a long term plan for spending and saving is important so that each party knows what the philosophy on saving and spending is in the relationship. It does not matter if each person keeps everything from bank accounts to safety deposit boxes separate. The second one marries in the State of Texas, everything accrued from the date of marriage until divorce is presumed to be community property. This means it can be equitably divided. Separating accounts does not stop the presumption of community interest.
Sharing financial information between parties fosters trust and builds the relationship. More and more households are dual income now so financial disclosure benefits both sides and strengthens the relationship. This is a critical foundation to a sound marriage and is often overlooked.
By: Yasmin Kutty/Kutty Law Firm PLLC
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