Ask Paul: Our house is in my fiance's name but I want to help pay his mortgage


Q. My fiance and I have had many discussions on how to manage our money when married.

We live together and put the same amount into a joint account each week for food, etc, and we each have our own accounts for "fun purchases".

He is 38, earns $300,000 and is paying a mortgage on a property in Sydney worth about $1.7 million.

ask paul clitheroe fiance mortgage marriage divorce

I am 33, earn $100,000 (about to drop to $83,000), have no assets, am rent free and debt free.

Currently I pay him $200 a month for bills. I feel it is unfair that people in his position, who have worked hard and earnt valuable assets, risk losing 50% of the assets accumulated before marriage.

Once married, I want to contribute $70,000 of savings plus $1000 a month to help pay down the mortgage in his name - is this legally or financially wise?

Or would we be better off buying an investment property in both our names? - Jess

A. Interesting question! I really like your feisty attitude in wanting your fiance to benefit from his high income, but I think you need to be pragmatic.

Half of all marriages end in divorce and it is rarely a pleasant event.

I am relaxed about whether you buy an investment property together or you "merge" finances, but I really do think you need to document whichever way you go.

If you were to break up before children came along, it is likely that a split of assets would be based on what you both put in.

Once kids arrive, it is quite different. A prenuptial agreement may protect your assets, but I have seen these cast aside, in particular when kids are involved.

Putting $70,000 of savings and $1000 a month into an asset in another person's name without clear documentation would make me feel very uncomfortable.

I really hope that, like Vicki and I, you have many decades living happily together - but, whatever you do, get it documented.


Paul Clitheroe AM is a respected financial adviser and Money's founder and editorial adviser. He is chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board, and author of several personal finance books. Click here to email Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section.
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