Divorce Articles Section

Divorce Information for Women

"Women in divorce often overlook valuable assets in the final divorce settlement."

Marriage creates economic inequality.

Consider these statistics:
In the first year after a divorce, the women's standard of living often drops by 25 percent, while the husband's increases.

Another fact: the higher the income of the family, the wider the gap between partners.

The reason?
Most couples still invest in the husband's career while the wife's job takes second place. Even though society is changing, this pattern still holds for most couples. And if the marriage lasted a long time, the wife has lost at least a decade of career growth.

The courts often ignore this crucial issue when dividing marital property. Typically, divorce settlements divide only the tangible marital assets - the house, the car, the furniture. For most divorcing couples, this marital estate is not very large, averaging less than $20,000.

Career Assets
On the other hand, many courts traditionally overlook one major asset of a marriage - the husband's career and career assets. These include his:

  • salary
  • pension or retirement plan
  • stock options
  • health, life and disability insurance
  • vacations
  • sick pay
  • education and training
  • seniority and networking
  • potential earning power

Unfortunately, many courts don't recognize career assets as property. So, even when a wife has worked to put a husband through law school or sacrificed her interests - invested in her spouse's assets - she gets nothing in return.

Some courts expect equal independence from both partners.
Sometimes the court will award rehabilitative maintenance to ease a spouse into the work force. But the courts base these settlements on the assumption - often false - that both spouses can be equally self-sufficient. Instead, women who have spent 20 or 30 years in traditional marriages find themselves out in the cold with no marketable skills and no real job prospects.

What is a traditional marriage?
A traditional marriage is where the husband has worked and the wife has stayed home to care for the children. The wife has concerns about having enough income to live on to continue her previous standard of living. Sometimes, this is just impossible. Many couples can’t afford their standard of living with one household, let alone two, and they end up with large credit-card debt. Asking an ex-husband to pay enough to allow his ex-wife to continue her previous life style may not be realistic.

Other concerns for the wife
Another concern for the wife is whether to go back to work or whether to train for a better job. Typically, in the traditional marriage, the wife is either not working outside the home, or she has a very low-paying job. A career counselor may be useful in testing the wife for skills and possibilities in the job market.

The wife often gets custody of the children.
This has several effects that often are not considered. First, as the children get older, they really do cost more to maintain! They have more expensive hobbies: skiing, biking, musical instruments, computers, etc. They eat more. Their clothes are more expensive. They might need orthodontia. Items needed for school cost much more than a few pencils and paper. As schools cut back, parents are required to supply all the essentials.

Second, having custody of the children will influence what kind of job the wife gets. It will be very difficult to develop a career where, to get ahead and earn the top salary, she will have to work nights or weekends or spend time traveling. So, her primary career will likely have to be flexible to allow her to care for the children.

A third effect of having custody of the children is the emotional and psychological difficulty of dealing with children’s issues and problems on a daily basis without a second parent to share in this. All parents can relate to this.

Many don’t understand the financial issues.
Many wives have not been involved with the financial issues during the marriage and just don’t know what it will take to live comfortably. They don’t know what all the assets are and which ones they should ask for. They don’t know if they should take one of the rental properties and become a landlord. They don’t know the effect of getting future benefits from the pension versus taking a cash payout today.

You can take action.
With detailed financial planning, you can solve these and other problems. When you're trying to work out a fair settlement, remember that the court divides property only once, but career assets continue to produce income for years.

While you take that into account, your strategy should also include such factors as earnings, inflation, division of property, the amount and the length of maintenance, and reduced standards of living. If it's clear that one person will have surplus dollars from earnings, make sure this is considered when the court is making property settlements and maintenance arrangements. There is a lot of educating that has to be done in some of these cases. Many attorneys bring in a financial expert to take part in this educating process.

Hiring a financial divorce consultant
You have help out there! Financial professionals (CPAs, attorneys, and financial planners) are being trained in the intricate financial aspects of divorce. They know the tax loopholes and show the long-term financial result of any given settlement proposal. This gives you more information that helps you come to a better solution for both parties involved. To find a Certified Financial Divorce Practitioner nearest you, call 888-332-3342.