My 29-year-old son is engaged to be married in June 2021. He is living with his fiancée in a small one-bedroom rental. About a month ago, I told them that I would like to help them purchase a house by giving them money to help with their down payment — perhaps $30,000 or more.
Their lease ends in January 2021, and winter is generally a good time to purchase a house. I encouraged them to start researching neighborhoods, various cities in the area, etc.
However, because they are not married, I said that money would at first go to my son. That caused a firestorm with his fiancée, who through my son said that she wanted a written agreement that if they were to break up and divorce in the future, she wanted 50% of the gift.
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She said her parents agreed with her that “she should protect herself.” Her parents have been divorced, and reportedly their primary residence down payment had been financed partially by her mother’s father. When they divorced, her mother retained that portion.
My son had already agreed that any house they buy would be split 50/50 in case they divorced, even though he would essentially supply the rest of the down payment, as she is still paying off student debt and has little savings.
I have no problem with what my son wants to do, but find it hard to believe she wants a written agreement that she is entitled to 50% of the gift if they divorce.
Not only that, but reportedly because of this they have completely stopped even looking at homes because they are so discouraged by this situation. My future daughter-in-law has also stated that because of this, she would feel that she would just be a “renter.”
They have enough to purchase a house, though maybe one not as expensive as one they could buy with our help, and they do not have enough to put 20% down.
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In addition, she is adamant about never having children. As a professional woman who will not have children to support or raise, she should be capable of supporting herself in case they do divorce.
Not wishing to lose my son, I told them that I would give them $30,000 for their use to do as they please, but I would not sign any agreement.
It just seems so strange that a woman who is contemplating marriage is so concerned about her finances in case their marriage ends, even though she is perfectly capable of supporting herself.
What are your thoughts?
Your son is marrying this woman. You are not. If she wants to sign a prenuptial agreement or any kind of contract, she should ask her future husband to do it.
For that reason, I agree with the major part of your letter, and I disagree with one minor part. It’s certainly an unorthodox request. (Insert a perplexed emoji here.) You only need to be comfortable with the knowledge that this $30,000 will enable your son to buy a home he wants.
What happens to that home after they buy it and that money after it lands in his bank account is his business. He can do what he wants. If they purchase a home during their marriage and/or use marital funds, it would considered community property in a divorce.
But being asked to sign a document to split that $30,000 50/50 when it’s to be used for their home is surprising. (Insert another emoji here.) Similarly, inheritances are generally not regarded as marital property, even if they have been received during the marriage.
This, however, is a gift. I don’t agree that your future daughter-in-law’s decision to have a baby or not should determine her income or her profession while they are married — and, if they divorce, she will be free to live her life as she sees fit with 50% of the home they purchased together.
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Fear makes good people do bad things. Your son’s fiancée appears simultaneously drawn to this money and threatened by it. She wants to ensure that her name is in the pot and that she is part of this family, yet she is creating discord in her relationship with you and your relationship with your son.
Multiple surveys show that the pandemic has made people feel uncertain about their future, in some cases more so than the Great Recession. She may also wonder when, if ever, she and her fiancé will be able to marry. It’s not an excuse. It’s merely one possible explanation.
If anyone should sign a document now, it should be your future daughter-in-law to say that she will return her half of the down payment should they divorce and sell the house. That would be the fairest, but not the nicest, way to approach this, although I do not recommend it.
So what now? Stick to your original plan. If they want the money, great. If not, great. Don’t allow this situation to change who you are. You tried to do a nice thing. But her response has absolutely nothing to do with you, and everything to do with how she feels about herself.
Of course, your daughter-in-law should ask your son, not you, to sign a document. And your son will sign a document very soon: his marriage certificate.
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You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.
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