“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness never paid for a divorce.” -anonymous
Happy New Year! There’s something about the beginning of a new year that means making big changes. Many divorce proceedings begin in January as people make their New Year’s resolution to be happy and realize that the cost of a divorce is ultimately worth their happiness. The ceremonious changing of the calendar, Times Square ball-drop countdown, and the who-you-kiss-at-midnight-is-who-you’ll-spend-the-next-year-with are traditions that get people motivated to make sure they don’t spend another year unhappy.
The cost of divorce can be off-putting enough to make you rethink your decision, but no one deserves to live unhappily for the rest of their lives. Sometimes, sitting down with a pen and a piece of paper and making a list of the pros and cons for each scenario can help you decide if you want to proceed with divorce or work on your marriage. Should you get -- or not get -- divorced because the numbers do or don’t make sense? Only you can answer that. What will help is to go into the process armed with knowledge and meeting with a mediator can help provide you with that information and give you some perspective.
When I have my initial consultations with couples I determine how much time their case will take as some are cut and dry and others will need much more time. Depending upon my assessment I offer flat rate packages (as well as hourly rates when additional time is needed later) and knowing that number will help you with your decision. I also recommend to err on the side of caution and assume the “worst” when it comes to how much money you will have to give to the other party whether it’s a settlement or a monthly payment or a combination of both. By maximizing that number in your head you will eliminate the shock value. And, accordingly, the spouse receiving the settlement and support should minimize the number they may receive in their heads so that they don’t have high expectations. Your lifestyle will change. Divorce rarely goes as planned so don’t plan your future based on numbers you don’t know.
There are lots of numbers to consider: income, assets, custody, support, and so many more, and while some of the answers are clear-cut, others will be more difficult to answer. For instance, if you have young children together then you may not yet know the custody schedule to determine child support. And custody should not be determined based on the attached support but rather what is in the best interest of your children and sometimes that can be hard for one or both parents to remember. Taxes and health insurance premiums will change as you transfer from a couple or family to an individual. Some assets like stocks and bonds or real estate might be best selling immediately while others may be better off holding on to, there is no one stock answer for any couple.
At the end of the day only you can decide if the cost of divorce is worth it. I advise my clients not to stay unhappy for the sake of money, but each situation is unique and sometimes you will find yourself welcoming another year -- or even many years -- before you file for divorce. And sometimes it's those years in between that can ultimately end up saving a marriage. Unfortunately I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you which one of those couples you will be or how
easy or hard your divorce will be, but I do know that you are in charge of your own happiness and that’s something I wish that everyone is able to own in 2021.