Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Left at the Altar? Sue For $150,000!

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 48 - wedding vows

I think it was about eight or nine years ago—and it happened overnight, perhaps on a Tuesday—that marriage became all about money.

Consider the case of RoseMary Shell and Wayne Gibbs. You can read the article for the full story, but here’s a quick summary of what went down in short-attention-span format:

  1. Guy likes girl; girl likes guy. Guy and girl date.
  2. Relationship goes nowhere. Girl moves away for $81,000/year job.
  3. Guy proposes a year later. Girl accepts, leaves job and friends, moves back with guy.
  4. Guy wants to postpone wedding. Eventually guy and girl break up.
  5. Girl moves away, takes crappy $31,000/year job.
  6. Girl sues guy, wins $150,000 from him.

It really makes you wanna run out and get engaged now, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I wanted to highlight this story because it provides a lot of great examples of how money and marriage can interact.

  • The debt of one… The girl in the story brought a boat-load of debt with her going into the relationship, though she disputes just how much that debt was. When postponing the marriage, the guy indicated that undisclosed debt was one of the reasons. Lesson learned: Tell the poor schmuck you’re marrying if you have tens of thousands of dollars of debt.
  • Beware of leaving your life behind for love. Regardless of how debt-saddled the girl in the story was, she was doing something about it by making $81,000 a year at her previous job. All it took was a shiny five-figure engagement ring to make her give it all up. (Though you have to wonder why this woman went from making $81k to $31k a few years later.) Lesson learned: Keep your financial future secure before, during, and after any major relationship.
  • If you’re going to pay off someone else’s debt, know what you’re getting into. The guy in the story must be fairly wealthy if he can afford to pay off $30,000 of the girl’s debt and still have enough in the bank to give her an enormous engagement rock. (Or maybe he charged it all on credit cards.) Lesson learned: Marry her first, then give her lots of money.
  • I don’t believe in pre-nups, but… how about a pre-pre-nup? The couple in this story could have benefited from continuing to lead their lives separately until their wedding day. This way, girl would have had her $81,000 a year job to fall back on, and guy wouldn’t be out $150,000. Lesson learned: Have a plan for what happens if the engagement falls apart.
  • And about that $150,000 judgment… what the hell, jury? Engagements fall apart all of the time and you don’t see couples suing each other for six figures. (That doesn’t happen until the marriage falls apart!) In a way, I hope this ruling encourages couples to use their engagements more wisely to examine their relationships and finances; but in another way, what the hell??? Lesson learned: Stay out of Florida courtrooms. Heck, just stay out of Florida altogether.

Oh, and ladies, if you’re having problems getting your man to commit to the idea of marriage now, wait until he reads this article. If stories like this keep making headlines, I fully expect the divorce rate will plummet… because no one in their right mind would commit to getting married!

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