Fidan Shevket has no qualms talking about money. Raised in a family of Turkish immigrants, finances and income were always acceptable fodder for dinner table chats.
So when she and her partner of more than two-and-a-half years started talking about moving in together, the Sydney woman had no issues broaching the idea of a prenup.
To her, it wasn’t awkward, it wasn’t unromantic – it was practical. A recognition of her superior financial position and a way to protect what she’d worked hard to earn over the last two decades.
“I was very upfront about [the agreement]. At first in sort of a joking way, but then as the relationship got more serious I said, ‘You need to tell me whether or not you’re prepared to sign one, because if you’re not then let’s not take it any further,'” the 39-year-old told Mamamia.
“He’s very aware that if he doesn’t sign it, we break up.”
Shevket is one of an increasing number of Australians seeking Binding Financial Agreements, as explored on Tuesday night’s episode of Insight on SBS.
Shevket’s stance comes from 15 years experience working as a family lawyer. She spends her days dealing out advice on asset protection and has seen closeup the messy potential for those who don’t have such protections in place.
It’s precisely why she’s being so rigorous.
“People say, ‘What about love and trust? Why are you being so cynical about the relationship and thinking about it ending before it’s even really started?’ The answer is, well, because I’m a family lawyer and I’m smarter than that,” she said. “There’s no way I’m going to let someone make a claim on my stuff when I know how to prevent it. It would be foolish.”
Even in the fledgling phase of her current relationship, she was wary of making herself vulnerable to a claim. So much so she didn’t let her partner, now 44, leave his toothbrush at her Neutral Bay apartment out of concern it may be used as evidence of a de facto relationship.
Under Australian law, the Family Court can make orders on assets if a couple has been living together for two years.
“I didn’t want him to think that because we were in a relationship and he was staying over all the time, that the two-year de facto clock had started ticking,” she said. “I’d be like, ‘Just so we’re clear, this is my house. You’re not getting a key, if you want to stay over you have to pack a bag like a guest would. You’re not leaving stuff here or assuming you have your own bedroom or bathroom – no.’ So he had to pack his bag and leave it in the boot of his car.
“In the early days I was very, very strict about it.”
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As things progressed, Shevket realised moving forward meant making a bigger change.
“I thought, ‘If he moves into my place and starts doing stuff to the flat – painting, renovating, doing things to the kitchen – then he would have a very good claim on it because he could say he’s made contributions to my property,'” she said.
“So we went to the extreme measure of buying [a home] together.”
The BFA she’s had drafted stipulates the logistics of this next chapter of their lives. From the 70-30 split on mortgage repayments, bills and rates (she’s the 70), to her willingness to cover the internet, cleaner and Netflix. Her own assets – from her collection of Superman memorabilia and designer shoes, to her linen and food storage containers – are all itemised.
And should they breakup, it’s clearly defined how much she, as the drafter of the agreement, will pay him out based on their relative financial/asset position.
While Shevket's partner is yet to sign her agreement (he's currently seeking his own legal advice - which she's encouraged), but she says he's perfectly open to the idea.
"It has to be an open negotiation. It's shouldn't be, 'this what I want - sign it, or else'. That's never going to work," she said.
"If we don't break up it doesn't matter. It's going to sit in a drawer somewhere and no one is ever going look at it. But if we do then let's have a discussion to make sure everything is transparent."
She appreciates why putting her wealth ahead of her relationship might sound callous. But it's about context: the relationship has bloomed over almost three years; the life she's built for herself has taken ten times that.
"If you've been together 10 years and accumulated stuff together, that's fine," she said. "But I've accumulated this stuff on my own, so why shouldn't I protect it?"
Insight: To Have and Withhold airs tonight at 8.30pm on SBS, or you can catch up anytime, anywhere on SBS On Demand.