You and your husband need to disclose everything to each other. As you’re creating this new partnership, you can’t hold anything back. That means your husband needs to show you the divorce agreement he signed with his ex.
When I first asked my husband-to-be if I could read the divorce agreement, he was reluctant to let me see it. Eventually he admitted that he was uncomfortable not because he didn’t want me to know what was in it but because it felt too much as if his past life and his current life were getting too close to each other.
He wanted to put as much distance between himself and his past as he could. Intellectually, he could understand why I would need to see the document. Emotionally, it was tough on him. That’s another reason the legal issues are so difficult—it’s not just “A owes B this amount to care for C.” All the legal arrangements are wrapped in thick bands of emotion.
So practice, practice, practice discussing legal and financial issues with your husband as calmly as possible. If you have to get up and leave the room fifteen times the first night you have this discussion in order to remain cool, then do it. Even if you need to table the discussion until another night, make sure you keep coming back.
The divorce decree includes custody or visitation arrangements and explains what he has agreed to pay in child support and, in some cases, alimony to support the ex. In some divorces, he has agreed to set aside money for his children, and sometimes the ex in the event of his death, such as his insurance policy or retirement account.
As someone now legally bound to the man who signed that agreement, you’re going to need to know the obligations he took on before you came along.