The Boys vs. The Girls – Tips for Negotiating Your Property Settlement

Group of boys and girls confronting – gender interactions in childhood

Years ago, it was fashionable to believe that men and women are the same at birth and are merely conditioned to be different by each culture’s society.  Some people may still believe that to be true.  Regardless of what you believe, sex affects decisions made in divorce. Here are some tips for negotiating your property settlement.

Whether you are a man or a woman, be aware of your tendency to overvalue property because you, as a man or a woman, have a particular attachment to it.  A gun collection, sold at auction or on Ebay, may be worth 1,000 times the photographs of your children from birth through high school.  Think about whether you want to trade those albums for the rifles and shotguns before you agree that he can have them as long as you get the pictures.

The sterling silver flatware that your mother in law gave you when you married could be worth much more than those old baseball cards or comic books, but maybe not.  Just because you could not care less about setting the Thanksgiving table with the good silver does not mean you should not think about its value when you go to splitting things up.

Talk to your lawyer if you are not sure what is sensible and fair.  Often, your personal marital property is not worth an argument.  Nevertheless, get some professional advice before you decide that you are willing to give up the Limoges china for your mounted open mouth bass.

What Do You Do If You Think Your Spouse Is Hiding Money?

Businessman in black shirt crossing his fingers behind his back

It is easy not to pay attention when you are in love. Love is blind. Love is also deaf and dumb. Divorce gets your attention. Unfortunately, by the time you are alert, important information about your marital property may have disappeared into an electronic graveyard.  If the monetary stakes are high enough it may be necessary for you to hire a forensic accountant.

What Do You Do If You Think Your Spouse Is Hiding Money?

Forensic accountants are skilled in following the money trails back to their sources. They can use income tax returns and their schedules, bank accounts, and other financial information to reconstruct the economic history of a marriage.  If necessary, they can use reverse accounting to calculate what it took to maintain you and your spouse in the styles to which you had become accustomed.

Forensic accountants are very expensive, however.  It is much more economical to open your eyes and ears early.  Pay attention to where your money comes from and where it goes. Make copies of statements of your assets.  If those documents are online, ask for access to them.  If your spouse refuses to give it to you, consult with a lawyer.

If you are going through a divorce, download our free Ebook, the A to Z Guide to Divorce.

Plastics – Who Pays Your Credit Card Debt When You Divorce?

Set of color credit cards isolated on white background

In the movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character is advised to go into the field of plastics.  As unromantic as it seemed, it was good advice at the time. Plastic is everywhere – even in divorce.

Many divorcing couples use plastic as revenge. A wife who knows she is being left behind may charge up the family cards to buy things she knows she will need in her new residence.  A husband who is between paychecks may use plastic to pay his lawyer.

Who Pays Your Credit Card Debt When You Divorce?

Almost all of those plastic chickens will come home to roost, however, in one chicken coop or another. If the charges are community debts (e.g. an attorney’s fee in a divorce proceeding), both spouses are responsible for them. If the charges are the separate debt of the charging spouse (e.g. a trip to the Bahamas with the paramour), the one who had the fun must pay.

Be careful what you spend your credit on in the last days of your marriage. If you have any doubts about who will pay that bill, consult with a divorce lawyer.

For more answers to your questions about divorce, dowloand our free Ebook, Divorce from A to Z.

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Commedia e’ Finita -How A Pending Divorce Affects Your Estate Planning

Very sad woman suffers and struggles because of infidelity. Girl feeling sad, depressed, grief. Distraught woman is very upset and holding gold wedding ring.

Robin Williams’ tragic suicide on August 11, 2014 shocked the country. Unlike a long illness, a sudden death often finds the survivors unprepared. This can be particularly true if the deceased leaves behind a former spouse, a surviving spouse, and children of two or more marriages or relationships.

One of the most important things a Louisiana resident can do in planning for divorce is to discuss with his lawyer what would happen to his death benefits if he dies before his divorce and property settlement are finalized. Married couples often have life insurance on each other’s lives or on the life of the breadwinner. Most have designated each other as primary beneficiary and named children as alternate beneficiaries. Your divorce attorney can tell you how a pending divorce affects your estate planning under Louisiana law.

As part of your pre-divorce planning, you should review your life insurance policies and make sure that your designated beneficiaries are the ones you want to receive the proceeds. Likewise, as you think about how to divide your marital property, consider the impact on survivors if you and a former spouse continue to co-own real estate such as the former family home. Discuss with your lawyer what happens to your 401K if you die before you retire and before it has been partitioned in your property settlement. Divorce and death have things in common. Be prepared to face both of them.

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Happy Fathers Day! Child Support Laws in Louisiana

Child support

Halle Berry must pay her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry $16,000 per month for the support of their daughter, Nahla, according to the June 23, 2014 edition of People.  The order was rendered by a California judge in Los Angeles.

In Louisiana, such high awards of support are the exception, not the rule.  However, Louisiana parents who earn large amounts of money can expect to pay proportionately high child support.

Regardless of the relative wealth or poverty of divorcing or separating parents, the objective ofsupport awards is to ensure that children do not suffer unduly from their parents’ decision to dissolve their economic relationship.  Sometimes this means that very large sums of money are placed in the hands of parents who may not use it for their child’s benefit.

If you are the bread winner, you may want to speak with your lawyer about what means are available to ensure that the money you pay for your child’s support is spent only for that purpose.

The Devil Is In the Details – Mistakes In Dividing Marital Property

little funny baby with devil horns on blue background

Clients often come into my office saying that they have “worked everything out” with their ex- or soon to be ex-spouse. Naturally, since everything is “worked out”, they hope (even expect) that their legal fees will be less. Some leave my office offended that I require what they consider to be an inappropriately large retainer. These clients do not understand that the devil is in the details, and may make expensive mistakes in dividing marital property.

As an example, consider the husband who has agreed to give his wife his interest in the family home if she will agree to pay the mortgage.  In return, he will get to keep his 401K.  What this client does not realize is that the bank holding the note and mortgage does not care what his arrangement is with his wife. If she fails to pay the note, the bank will sue her AND him.  He can cross-claim against her for breach of their contract since she has failed to live up to her side of the bargain, but will he have the money to fund that cross-claim and will she have the money to pay if he gets a judgment against her?

There may be ways to avoid these types of unintended consequences of having everything “worked out”, but the chances are excellent that you will need a lawyer to help you.  Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. For more common sense advice about divorce in Baton Rouge, download our free Ebook.

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Vive La Difference? Interim Spousal Support in Louisiana

paper couple on broken dollar heart

The Advocate recently reported that Louisiana ranked second worst in the “gender pay gap”.  For this among other reasons, one of the most contentious issues in a Louisiana divorce is that of interim spousal support (temporary alimony).

As Thomas Sowell pointed out in his editorial on The Advocate’s Opinion page, the reasons for income disparity between men and women are many and varied.  Income disparity is often the result of personal choices rather than sex discrimination.  When children are young, wives and mothers may assume more of the child caring and raising duties. Employers may be reluctant to hire women whose family obligations could take them away from work at a moment’s notice.  Employers who are willing to hire them in spite of their need to put family first may use them to fill low paying positions where their occasional and unpredictable absences will not have an adverse impact on the business.  A man may have asked his wife not to work and her job skills may have degraded over time.  A man may have married a woman whose education and training did not lend themselves to a high paying job.

In these circumstances, interim spousal support is designed to transfer income from the husband to the wife so that  the wife’s standard of living pending divorce is not adversely affected by the disparity in their income or their earning potential.  Temporary alimony is temporary, however.  Once the husband and wife are legal strangers – that is – separate, single people once again – the law expects both of them to pull their own wagons.

There are exceptions including special consideration for spouses who are unable to work or whose education, training and experience do not permit them to immediately find work that will pay a living wage.  In such cases, permanent spousal support is available.  In any event, until American society transforms itself into a same sex culture where the roles of men and women are identical in every respect – a prospect not all may welcome – income disparity will continue to generate a need for interim spousal support.

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Ex-Crony Capitalism Beware: The Duty to Preserve the Family Business

Small businesses are the engine of the American economy. What if you are a Louisiana wife whose husband has run the family’s small business while you stayed home with the children or had the “day job” that provided financial stability? Can he close the doors, move the furniture and the inventory, raid the corporate account and start up a new company called “See Ya, Inc.”, as soon as he’s sued you for divorce?

The answer depends upon whether the business is community property. If the company was formed during your marriage (and you had noprenuptial agreement), there is a presumption that the business is community property. Spouses in possession of community property when a divorce petition is filed have an obligation to care for that property and preserve it. In this case, your ex will have a duty to preserve the family business.

Imagine that the business was your family home. The person left in the home could not vandalize it, set it on fire, or allow cattle to live in it. The same general principles apply to a community business. Although after filing for divorce your husband could begin a new business that would be his and his alone, he cannot act in a way that damages the success of the community business. You should do your best to monitor the family business if you separate and bring your concerns to your lawyer’s attention at the earliest opportunity.

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Stay Out of The Rough: Dividing the Country Club Membership in Divorce

Country club memberships in Louisiana can be expensive. What do you do if you and your soon to be ex-husband belong to a Louisiana country club but you never want to see him again? Can you force him to leave the club so that you can golf, swim, and play tennis with some peace of mind? Dividing the country club membership in divorce can be tricky, and here are some tips to help you figure this out.

The first place to look for the answer is in the terms and conditions of your club membership. When you and your husband became members, you undoubtedly agreed to abide by the club’s rules. Those rules may contain a way to break a tie between the two of you concerning who may continue as a member and who may not.

For example, a club’s rules might provide that the club will abide by a court’s order concerning who is to continue as a member. If the club’s rules are silent on the question, you will have to obtain the right to be the sole member either through negotiation with your spouse or by formal partition through the court.

One solution might be to demand that your spouse, if he wants to keep the membership, pay you for the cost of a membership at a comparable club. Before you agree to that you should find out whether there is a comparable club that will admit you as a member. Remember also that there are membership dues that must be paid. You should make sure you have enough not only to pay the initial investment but also to pay the future costs of participation.

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Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Avoid Poverty After Divorce

paper couple on broken dollar heart

Couples who separate, particularly those with children, almost uniformly experience a decrease in their living standards.  Costs of housing and utilities are no longer shared.  Each person must bear 100% of those expenses.  For women, who often make less money than men, this is a serious problem. 

Child support and temporary spousal support (assuming you are married) often fail to make up for the decline in resources that occurs upon separation.  Furthermore, those payments do not start automatically.  Unless your partner agrees to and does in fact help you support yourself and your children, you will need to pay a lawyer to obtain that support for you. 

In these difficult times, it is easy to take the short view:  Get all the support you can as cheaply as you can and learn to live with less.  Before giving up on a better economic future, you should consider retraining and reeducation. Financial independence is the key to avoiding the poverty that often accompanies divorce.  In its March 23, 2014 Business section The Advocate had excellent advice for women who want better jobs and higher pay:

  • “Dress for the job you want” not for the one you are in. 
  • If you want to move up in your current employment, look and act like management.
  • Volunteer to perform parts of their projects.  That shows initiative and will give you a chance to learn on the job what management does.

If you don’t have a job, look for resources for retraining and reeducation so you can avoid poverty after divorce.  A good place to start is www.louisianaworks.net.  Don’t give up.  Your children are counting on you.