After reading our previous article, Want a Date? Get a Dog! you may be wondering, “Which dog should I get?” This handy quiz will help you decide.
After reading our previous article, Want a Date? Get a Dog! you may be wondering, “Which dog should I get?” This handy quiz will help you decide.
Divorce can be a complicated process. From a financial standpoint, it is about one thing; the division of marital property and debts. While it may seem straight-forward, especially if both parties are amicable, property division in divorce is complex and can be one of the most difficult tasks for divorcing couples. There are more things to consider than simply who gets the house, the car, and the collection of classic rock on vinyl.
Property division laws vary by state but they all use one of two basic structures: community property or equitable distribution.
Some states follow the community property scheme which classifies all property of a married person as either community property or separate property. During divorce, community property is divided equally between the spouses, each keeping their separate property.
Equitable distribution, the process of division used by other states, says that all assets are divided equitably but not necessarily equally. In this case, a spouse could be ordered to use their own, separate property to even out the settlement. In some cases, spouses may be awarded a percentage and will then get property, assets and debts that add up to that percentage.
In equitable distribution states, there are factors taken into account when dividing assets. These factors include the financial situation of each spouse, length of marriage, income and earning potential of each party, age and health of each spouse, standard of living maintained during the marriage, role of a spouse in regard to education and earning power of the other, and the needs of the custodial parent.
This already sounds somewhat complicated. Now throw in emotions and hurt feelings and consider the fact that there is a long list of property that doesn’t usually come immediately to mind while you’re wondering why your wife suddenly has an attachment to your vinyl collection.
Generally, the first question that comes to mind when divorcing is “who gets the house?” The most common assets are real estate, cars and bank accounts. Couples might consider investment plans, life insurance policies, pensions, and stocks. Property that might not come immediately to mind includes:
Other assets to consider are keepsakes, pets, tax refunds, club memberships, travel reward points and the list goes on. The first advisable point of action when dividing up property should be to create a list of all tangible assets (dishes, pots and pans, tools, furniture, etc.) and be thorough. The best way to accomplish this is to create an inventory with your spouse.. For method regularly advised for couples is to have one spouse make an inventory and then divide that inventory into two fair and equitable lists, List A and List B. These lists as prepared by spouse #1 are then presented to the spouse #2, who then gets to choose which list he or she wants. This method helps to foster fairness, so no one party gets a lopsided asset list inasmuch as the second spouse could choose the lopsided list if they chose to. Following the choosing of asset lists, the couple may barter and swap items from their lists until both parties are satisfied with the outcome. Of course there is still the potential for disagreement, but one would think that the fine-tuning negotiations could be carried out without the need for legal counsel to get involved.. Realistically, you’ve been given an great opportunity to make the process as effortlessness and non-argumentative as possible.
There is no rule that says that divorcing couples need to hire lawyers to see them through divorce. It is possible to get a divorce with no attorneys involved in any part of the process. Couples can order forms and take care of everything on their own.
Some states are even encouraging this by setting up self-service centers in which couples can facilitate their own divorce. However, lawyers can be important to the process, especially if a couple has been married for several years and their assets have become intertwined. Assets that have increased in value may bring forth tax issues that need to be dealt with.
In other words, what may seem like an easy split might have hidden complications that, if ignored, will cause problems down the road. Your spouse appears reasonable. You both agree how to divvy up physical property, bank accounts and she even acquiesces on the vinyl record collection. You are proud of how adult you are both being as you fill out the do-it-yourself forms and finalize your divorce. It is a clean break. Then later you find out her uncle is paying back a large loan she made while you were married, and that you might be entitled to royalties she is earning on an endeavor she completed during the marriage. These are things that didn’t come up when you were agreeably dividing assets. Thinking things are done and finalized, when you ask her about this money, she says it is too late. She might be right. Unless the spouse agrees, modifying the divorce decree can be complicated and expensive. That is why it is wise to hire a third party to assist in negotiating an agreement. With the help of attorneys, couples can often try to negotiate a divorce settlement, avoiding trial. In the long run this proves to be the most efficient and inexpensive route to settling assets, especially if you are already in disagreement. An experienced attorney will work to negotiate a favorable settlement, hoping to avoid litigation, but will be prepared to litigate if it comes to that. The bottom line is, couples who try to negotiate their own divorce often run into trouble later and find they have surrendered their rights.
The truth is divorce isn’t easy, no matter how amicable it may be. And what makes property division so tough for most couples is that their emotions are tied up in these “things”. It isn’t as if your wife really cares about the vinyl collection, but for her, it has become a symbolic way to win a battle.
This entanglement of emotions with “stuff” can cause both parties to lose perspective and this leads to the messiness that so often defines divorce.
When dividing up assets, each person involved needs to remember that much of what is being argued over is replaceable. You can spend months fighting over trivial assets and paying steep lawyer fees, or you can concede the couch and simply get a new one. Ask yourself if the emotional toll is worth the fight?
On the flip side, some people want nothing to do with the process and will refuse to negotiate anything, allowing the spouse to take whatever they want. When the dust settles, these people often realize their mistake and see the disservice they’ve done to themselves and their future.
Remember, going back later to change the decree is complicated and expensive, if even possible. Divorce is complicated, dividing years of accumulated property is complicated and trying to separate emotions from business is easier said than done.
When couples make an effort to understand the process, hire attorneys to help mediate the process and attempt to set aside hurt feelings, they find the process quicker, more manageable and hopefully experience less emotional impact.
As a nation we just finished our annual celebration of Independence Day. The grills worked their magic, we observed and lit some fireworks, and we attended our local parades. As you likely noticed at these parades it is becoming more obvious that we are a nation well into its second decade of war. Since September 11, 2001 we have relentlessly pursued those who seek to harm our country and keep the fight off our soil. As a result, over 2.5 million Americans have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The price to our nation through our service men and women has been significant. Over 6,800 have been killed, with over 52,000 wounded. Those wounded statistics reflect the obvious physical wounds, the ones you may see on veterans at the parade. It does not account for the estimated 320,000 veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury or 400,000 likely living through post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These scars run deep and are ingrained in today’s generation as the well-known price our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have paid on our behalf.
The impact of lengthy wars for these veterans however goes beyond just them as individuals. The families of these veterans have often been victims of collateral damage. The Department of Defense has recently reported that the divorce rate for the services is at their highest levels since 1999 and steadily rising. For those married prior to 9/11, statistics show they were 28% more likely to get a divorce after a deployment within the first three years of their marriage. For couples married after 9/11, their risk was lower, but still higher than their civilian counterparts in society. As war continues, our veterans are often performing multiple deployments in war zones. The risk of divorce for their families increases with each lengthy deployment.
There are many reasons why wartime service and deployment place an increased strain on a family and a marriage. Time away from family is a normal part of military life. During war, though, the deployments extend much longer, between six months to often over one year! During this time, the spouse left behind must assume all the roles of running a household. When the service member returns, a difficult transition occurs where roles are transferred and assumed. During the role transition, the spouses must also relearn each other. People grow and change over a year, especially the veteran that returns from the hell of war. Not only are both spouses faced with the task of trying to sort out their roles, but they must also understand who the other person has become while aligning it to the love they felt when they left. The transition is particularly difficult for the children who are used to all decisions and roles routing through the one parent that stayed home. As the roles juggle, tensions rise, and both parents sort through their relationship adjustment issues, the kids can be caught in the middle.
Compounding the normal problem of relearning your relationships after long periods apart is the significant change that comes from the invisible scars of war. The war our veterans have been fighting has been brutal, with attacks imminent at any time during normal day-to-day operations. The horrors they saw, the friends they lost, and the guilt they feel for being home weigh heavily on all returning veterans. While all will suffer their own demons when returning to normal life, the statistics are clear regarding how many have been even more severely affected by war through post-traumatic stress disorder. The simple task of driving to the mall can become a high stress event once in traffic, where veterans can’t help but search for threats along the road or within the crowd. The protective barriers they put up to help their internal healing actually harm their ability to transition back into their normal relationships within their family and especially with their spouse. Take all these factors and cycle the families through multiple deployments and transitions and you end up with completely different individuals at the other end, working to find each other and their love.
The unspoken victims of extended war are the homes and families of our veterans. Many military families – well beyond normal rates in society – do not find each other after the deployments and instead fall apart and divorce. The children and spouses of our heroes are now the unintended victims of lengthy wars. The impacts of divorce on military families have common aspects. Financially, most military divorces place a serious strain on an already tight budget. The average mid-grade non-commissioned officer in the military – the majority of our war veterans – makes around $30,000 per year. It’s no wonder that many of our junior military families use Government subsistence to make ends meet: such as Women, Infant, and Children’s program (WIC). Divorce forces this limited budget to spread across two homes, through alimony and child support. Legal advice is nearly non-existent for these families, as typical fees are well beyond their budgets. After the divorce, the families must survive in two homes on even tighter budgets.
Another unique aspect of divorce for our veterans comes from the high likelihood they will head towards long-distance custody situations and parenting. As war ravages on, the service members’ duties in the fight do not go away. The orders keep coming, as well as the deployments. While laws are in effect that forbid legal actions – like custody decisions – being taken while one is deployed, the military orders that take them out of the same geographic area as their children do not stop. Once divorced, the ex-spouse cannot be forced to move. The stability they are able to provide, through their job and steady home when compared to a deployable military parent, most often grants them primary custody of the children. Now our veterans and their children are split and must continue their relationship from a distance. Their tight budgets make the basic distance visitations – like winter holiday and summer breaks – difficult to afford.
The trend for our nation to step back from the heavy war and deployment demand on our military is not easing. In the Middle East, ISIS presents a serious threat and our leadership will likely continue with heavy engagement in their region to keep the fight off US soil. Shifting to the Pacific, the Chinese territorial expansion and island creation threaten our influence in this critical trade region. Two powerful nations are clashing to either gain or maintain their influence, and history clearly shows how situations such as these generally move towards military deployments and possible engagements. The decision makers, and society as a whole, are the ones that will determine the fate of our military members. Both groups are now comprised of the lowest percentage of veterans in fifty years. In the early 1970’s, 73% of the members of Congress were veterans. Today less than 18% have served in the military. In World War II, 9% of the population was in the military, while today less than 2% are serving during our current war. As a result, our society is less sensitive to all aspects of the strain of war, including our leadership, who decides whether to send our military into these areas.
While many of the scars of war are visible to us, far more are not, including the rarely discussed scars on the military family. As we celebrated our Independence Day, we took the time to express our gratitude for the service of these great men and women. It is important that we also recognize the sacrifice made by their families. Many have had their families permanently affected by the lengthy strain of service; many marriages have ended in divorce and children have watched their families torn in half. As you consider how you can help the veterans, take the time to determine what ways you might be able to help these families. They too have paid a price for our freedom and safety.
While no couple walks down the aisle intending to one day sign divorce papers, it is common for marriages to end in divorce. Maybe you went into it with unrealistic expectations, rushed into marriage without really getting to know your spouse, or experienced a catastrophic life event that changed you or your partner so you are longer compatible (e.g. severe illness, religious conversion, death of a child). Whatever happened along the path of your relationship, it’s hard to know if this detour is just a dark time (which all marriages go through) that will eventually pass or if it amounts to irreconcilable differences that are impossible to work through. The unavoidable truth is that this impasse requires you to make a decision. You are at a fork in the road and one direction leads you into deciding to get a divorce and the other leads you back to your spouse. The decision to divorce bears heavy consequences, especially when children are involved, so it’s essential that you put emotions aside to seek clarity about the situation. Once you have honestly evaluated where your marriage is, it’s critical to explore and exhaust all options thoroughly and thoughtfully.
Have You Gone Through These Steps?
1. Dig deep beyond the crushed expectations and bruised egos to get to the truth about the reality of your relationship.
Step back and give yourself some time to think. What do you really want? Have you told her? Do you know what she wants (not what you think she wants, but have you heard it from her)? Speaking sincerely from your most authentic self could be what is needed to blow past this roadblock. Communicating with one another is essential. It may be challenging and intimidating. You may have to come to terms with some truths you don’t want to admit, to yourself or to your spouse. You may face some serious anger toward your spouse for her behavior, but it’s now or never. You have nothing to lose, but you have a chance at a happy future to gain. If you are as logical and impartial as you can be and willing to take accountability for your own past actions, you will be able to assess the root of most of the problems plaguing your marriage through clear and open communications. This is a vital step if you are to have a shot at fixing what is broken in your marriage..
2. Make every effort to save your marriage. As long as there is no danger in staying (to you or your children), give every effort to make it work. There’s separation, counseling, couple’s retreats, books and courses on getting your marriage back on track. There is an abundance of advice and resources available for couples who sincerely want to put back the broken pieces back together and be whole again. If you’ve tried everything and still nothing’s changed, than at least your consciences will be clear, knowing you both did everything you could to keep it together and make it work.
3. Make certain your decision is not coming from a place of spite or anger. Your intention should be what is best for your mental and emotional well being – and for that of your children. Emotions cloud judgment and bad decisions are made easily when you lead with your heart instead of your head.
Warning Signs your Marriage is Over
If you’ve painstakingly gone through the work of honestly evaluating your situation and put your best efforts into working every solution, but you still can’t save your relationship from drowning, it may be time to come to terms with the reality that your marriage is dead.
Here are 10 signs that your marriage is on life support and it’s time to pull the plug.
1. Sex is long gone. If you are only going through the motions and there is no attraction or enjoyment in your marriage, it can signal much deeper problems. Sure, a physical connection is only one piece of a marriage—but a satisfying sex life is vital to a sense of overall wellness and to feeling deeply connected to your partner. It can signal that you and/or your spouse no longer feel loved and respected. The good news is: if you work on building love and respect for one another again, the physical part will likely take care of itself.
2. You can’t work together. At its most basic, marriage is a partnership. If you can no longer compromise and find workable solutions to common relationship issues then there is little if any hope of a having a fulfilling marriage. You need to find your way back to being teammates instead of adversaries if you want to have a chance of survival.
3. Respect is dead. Name-calling, belittling, and personal attacks intended to embarrass, shame or hurt a spouse are a sure route to divorce. We have all said things we didn’t mean in the heat of the moment, but a relationship that is not build on a foundation of mutual respect is a house of cards on the verge of toppling over.
4. Anger is your default mood. If you and your spouse can’t get past your anger, or just don’t know how to handle anger, it will continue to build until it eventually explodes. A relationship can’t sustain constant anger and stress; it kills love.
5. There’s infidelity and betrayal. Most marriages can survive infidelity if both partners are committed to do the work it takes to forgive and restore the broken trust, but even a strong marriage can’t survive the pain of repeated affairs and continual betrayal.
6. It’s not about “us,” it’s about “me”. Marriage is a give and take relationship and if your partner’s needs are not a top priority then why are you trying to stay married? Get divorced and focus on you if that is what you are about, it’s much easier than fighting for something that you don’t even truly feel is worth it. If your wife is so self-centered you feel ignored, neglected and not valued then realize you deserve better—and you will be better off without her.
7. Being right is more important than being happy. When your partner refuses to see things from your perspective or engage in a real conversation because she is always right and you’re always wrong, you are not in a marriage—you are living in a dictatorship.
8. The affection disappeared. If you never kiss, hug, hold hands and say sweet things to one another there is serious discontent that needs to be tended to ASAP.
9. Communication is dead. If you can’t talk to one another without yelling, talking down to one another, or getting frustrated, there is likely no way to work through your problems. If you no longer even have the urge to talk, about anything, your marriage has already flat lined. Why stay married just to be lonely?
10. The issues are unsolvable because they originate from deeply ingrained behavioral or personality traits that you feel certain are too entrenched to change. This could mean addiction, serial cheating, compulsive lying, emotionally abusive behaviors and physically abusive behaviors. If you know they are not going to change, getting out sooner rather than later will minimize the damage and heartache.
Some people spend years, or decades, living in limbo, unable to make a decision and take their happiness into their own hands. Is that what you want? Surely everybody has an opinion—your family, friends, priest, counselor—but regardless of what anyone else advises, it’s your life, so you need to be the one to be ready to either recommit to your marriage or call it quits. The bottom line: it’s you and your who children will live with the consequences, not your friends, family, community or professionals. So don’t let anyone push you to stay in an unhappy marriage or to divorce. When living in misery is more unbearable than the fear of an unknown future, or the fear of what people will think, or the pain your children will suffer, then you will make a decision.