Financial strain in a marriage if often cited as a problem which leads married couples down the road to divorce. A common sentiment is, "If we only had more money, life would be easier." The decision to split can be out of anger, desperation or just pure frustration with circumstance. When most people marry, they believe that love will conquer all. But is love enough…in today’s economy?
There is a lot to contemplate when deciding whether or not to pull the plug on your marriage. Financial stress may be overwhelming, but a divorce proceeding can be a wearing process in and of itself. It is a good idea to prepare yourself for what may lie ahead. In a "perfect world", a husband and wife would amicably agree to all terms – division of property, support, custody, visitation, etc. And, when couples are able to enter into an agreement, it doesn’t end there. Certain paperwork must still be submitted to the court for approval to actually finalize your divorce. It is often a good idea to consult with an attorney of your choosing in order to protect your rights and to ensure an equitable division of assets.
When divorce proceedings take a turn down the road of contention, the process can become much more complicated. For example, how should you "divide" the family residence? There was a point in time where it was economically feasible to sell the family home and divide the proceeds accordingly. Values of homes were high and each party stood to profit from such a sale. Or, in the alternative, one spouse would perhaps choose to buy out the interest of the other in order to remain in the home. However, in today’s real estate market, with housing prices continuing to plummet, "dividing" the home is now more of a technicality and an issue that will have to be addressed, but one that will likely not produce an economic benefit for either spouse.
With regard to support, whether it is child support or spousal support, in today’s economy spouses may find it quite difficult to essentially maintain two separate households. While many people live paycheck-to-paycheck, there is generally no money left over for anything else.
When there are children of a marriage, a major point of contention in divorce proceedings is custody and visitation. How much time will each parent have with the children? What impact will the time share have on the payor of child support? In California, child support is calculated, unless pursuant to a mutual agreement between the parties, based on a formula adopted by the state legislature. This formula takes into consideration certain factors, including, but not limited to, the incomes of each party, certain itemized deductions (i.e. health care deductions or mandatory retirement contributions), tax filing status and the number of children the parties have. There are certain financial disclosure requirements you must fulfill in order to obtain a divorce in California. While you may opt for pursuing a divorce due to the financial strain in your marriage, it is imperative you prepare yourself for the financial impact a divorce can have.
Another matter to consider is whether or not to seek legal representation to assist you in your divorce. While the cost of legal representation is case specific, often depending on how contentious the divorce proceeding ends up being, most attorneys require that you put a "retainer" up front, which is essentially a down payment on your legal fees. The funds are held in an attorney trust account and your fees are deducted as they incur. And often, if and when your legal fees exceed this retainer, your attorney may require that you replenish the retainer in order to ensure payment for services rendered. You always have the option of proceeding on your own, without legal counsel; however, there are still costs involved such as filing fees.
This new economy is forcing everyone to take a closer look at their relationships and the state of their finances. Take the time to evaluate your options before deciding whether or not to divorce or reconcile.