Torree J. Breen, Spousal Support/Alimony, Property Division, Divorce and Family Law

Long Term Marriage and Finances: Separating Myth from Fact

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As a family law attorney, too often I receive phone calls from panicked “stay at home” parents. What is the reason for their panic?  The spouse who has supported them for years has just announced that they want a divorce.  The sense of loss has is a very typical first response, and it is a painful one. For spouses who have relied on their spouse for financial support, that loss quickly turns to panic.  Here’s what you need to know: the spouse who financially supported you cannot walk off with all of the assets and leave you homeless on the streets.


Separating Myth from Fact

A common misperception is that the spouse, who earns the money, keeps the money.  This is simply untrue.  Some people also mistakenly believe that ownership is determined by the name on the property, such as a title to a vehicle or a deed to real estate.  Again, this is untrue.  The name on the property does not automatically dictate ownership.  Once the vows are said and the license is filed, every dollar earned during that marriage is shared evenly—- 50 cents on the dollar per spouse. This includes any and all monies contributed to retirement accounts, such as 401ks, 403bs, or pension plans.  For further information specifically on property and divorce, visit here.

Divorce settlements usually provide for spousal support so that the dependent spouse is able to support his/herself as a result of the divorce.  Spousal support will be determined by the court in which the case is heard.  The judge will review the evidence and determine what would be a fair award.

If you know or think a divorce is a possibility, the best thing to do is to gather as much financial information as possible.  Some important questions to confirm:

  • Between the two of you, what do you own?  What is it worth?
  • How much does each of you earn?
  • How much debt do you owe and to whom?

Become fully informed about your finances.  If you cannot locate this information, the courts allow for discovery during the pendency of your divorce and your spouse will have to disclose that information to discovery requests that can be made by you.

Beyond Legal Resources

You may also want to consult a financial planner to determine how much money is truly necessary for you to live independent of your spouse.  The financial planner can also help you to roll over any monies from retirement accounts after your divorce to maximize their growth.  And, there are actually financial planners who have specialized training in divorce settings, so ask if your planner has expertise in that area.

Torree J. Breen is the chair of the Family Law Practice Group and is a member of the firm’s Litigation  and Hospitality and Alcohol Law Practice Groups.   Ms. Breen specializes in family law which includes divorce, child custody disputes, prenuptial agreements, and grandparent’s rights.

The information contained in this website is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.