By not asking the right questions it could cost you hundreds thousands of dollars. Men and women are not treated equally during a divorce
National studies consistently show that women lose financially in a divorce. About one in five women fall into poverty after a divorce. Three out of four divorced mothers don't receive full payment of child support. About one in three women who own a home, and have children when they divorce, lose their homes.
For these reasons, women contemplating the initiation of a divorce should carefully consider whether the marriage can be (or should be) maintained. Many counselors will help couples walk through the difficulties often encountered by couples: lack of commitment, unending arguments, infidelity or unrealistic expectations.
However, if the marriage cannot be saved (for example in situations of spousal abuse or addictions), then women need to proceed through the divorce process with preparation and detachment—planning for the future for themselves and their children. Once the decision is made that divorce cannot be avoided, as much as possible the divorce process must be considered a matter of the pocketbook, not a matter of the heart. In this regard, divorce is very similar to the breakup of a closely held family business.
There are many self-help books and websites available to women who want to handle the divorce process with the savvy detachment of a business dissolution. Here are some things to consider:
- Division of marital property is not an exact science. In Colorado, the parties attend one or more sessions with a mediator to arrive at a consensual division, but if the matter has to go to the court for a resolution, the judge will take into account all kinds of factors in deciding who gets what.
- Agreeing to a 50% division of marital property may not be the right decision, especially when factors such as age and ability to earn income in the future are considered.
- Keeping the marital home when it is unaffordable to maintain on the wife's income is a big financial mistake. Consider all the costs of retaining the house such as getting a new mortgage, closing costs, costs to maintain the house (new paint, new roof, new furnace, etc.). Although women are often emotionally attached to the home where the children have been raised, this is one place to take a hard look at the financial realities and maybe consider moving to a different place that is affordable.
- Look carefully at the valuation of the marital property. Household furniture and appliances are now "used" goods and should not be valued as they were when newly purchased. By the same token, consider retaining the family car, if in good condition, as it is valued less now but would cost much more to replace it.
- Make sure that your husband takes out a life insurance policy with you as owner and beneficiary to guarantee the agreed payments of child support or spousal maintenance.
- Don't "give into" your husband because that is what you always have done. Business partners don't act that way.
- Don't enter into an informal agreement that both of you have signed, as it may not be legally enforceable under the law. In Colorado, agreements in dissolution proceedings must be approved, and signed, by the court to be enforceable.
Women who approach their divorce as a business dissolution will assemble a professional divorce team. Often the first step is to employ an experienced divorce and family law attorney, such as those at Clawson & Clawson LLP. If you do not already have a financial planner, the attorneys can help locate the best one for you so that your financial decisions about your future will be soundly based on accepted financial practices. Today, financial portfolios—and the regulations that govern them—are complex. In order to make sure they do not lose financially in a divorce, women should seek out multiple layers of professional help to help them navigate all the legal and financial details that arise during the divorce process—and afterwards.