Throughout my career as a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, I have seen the following scenario play out time and time again (I’m using the terms “boy” and “girl” for the simplicity’s sake):
- Girl meets boy and falls in love. He’s not perfect – he could be irresponsible at times – but he makes her laugh and makes her feel good. Besides, she’s confident that she can make him change his ways.
- Boy wants to buy a new home or car, but has pretty shoddy credit and/or low income. However, that doesn’t matter, his girl loves him so much that she’ll co-sign the loan for him.
- Eventually, and for one reason or another, the boy stops making his loan payments and takes off. He doesn’t return his girlfriend’s calls and she gets stuck with all his debt. There’s no way she can pay this debt herself so she files for personal bankruptcy.
Here are some interesting facts for you to ponder:
- A study published in the United States found that more than one-third of married couples in the U.S. began their relationships on the internet. According to the dating site eHarmony, 36 percent of Canadians use online dating. You can imagine how simple it can be for someone to create a completely convincing but fake online persona using social media, Photoshop, and other technological tools.
- One-third of adult Americans have a criminal history. In Canada, 23.2 percent of males over the age of 12 years old have criminal records. For females, it is 4.3 percent.
- Again, according to eHarmony, more than 40% of Canadian men who use online dating services said they lied about their jobs in an effort to sound more successful.
- According to latest Statistics Canada data, approximately 38 per cent of all marriages end in divorce. Although divorce rates are going down in the United States, this is due to the fact that less people are actually getting married due to economic stratification in the U.S. where marriage is increasingly considered to be a luxury among the upper classes.
So ladies and gentlemen, how do you avoid potential financial ruin when you hitch up with the wrong partner? Consider taking these steps:
- In the short term, keep your financial affairs separate from your boyfriend or girlfriend. Do not co-sign any loans, keep your bank accounts separate and keep your assets separate.
- If you are serious about establishing a long-term relationship with your partner (like marriage), ask if he or she is willing to consent to a background check. A comprehensive background check will screen the following:
- Address histories
- Civil and bankruptcy records
- Credit reports
- Criminal records
- Driving histories
- Education and employment histories
- Liens and judgment histories
- Media coverage
- In both the United States and Canada, there are a number of agencies that offer screening services, for example, ww.checkoutyourpartner.com (in the U.S) and Discreet Investigations & Security (in Canada). If your partner has nothing to hide and really loves you, he or she should have no problem consenting to this. If he or she is hesitant and cannot give you a REALLY good explanation, then you should have second thoughts about entering into a long term relationship with this person.
- If you have significant assets and income (or expect it in the future), discuss with your partner about entering into a prenuptial agreement. However, you should be aware that such agreements are not always binding; the outcome of any court challenge to a prenuptial agreement will depend on the whims of the court which rules on its enforceability.
Feelings of romantic love will inevitably subside and reality will set in. And if it turns out that your partner is a “real” deadbeat, you will at least have taken preventive measures to make sure that only your heart gets broken, and not your wallet.
This post should not be interpreted as legal advice or a legal opinion. Please consult your Fong and Partners Inc. advisor to review your own particular circumstances.