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Claiming Economic Savvy

Posted Aug 24 2008 4:40pm

A friend called me yesterday to say she had just come out of a pre-trial hearing. She was in an emotional tailspin and felt completely at a loss to figure out what to do. This is the same friend who bought a house as a capable solo woman and fixed it up singlehandedly. She was totally self-reliant, and yet, faced with giving up 1/2 her assets to a man who no longer helps her raise their children and lives in another state, she felt out of control. I've been just where she is, as have most divorcing women. However, coming from this independent, confidant, capable woman, I was surprised. And, yet, no matter how well prepared we may be to roll with many life's decisions, when the court gets involved, and our interests are presented by attorneys, the rules are foreign and we're out of our element. Why is it that the lives of 2 adults (and their children) must be severed in a court of law?! I can't think of a more inappropriate forum. It raises my hackles on many levels, beginning with the labels: Plaintiff and Defendant, as if we're criminals. Then, the process is all about money and valued assets, tangibles that can be quantified and divided. Herein lies the rub. Divorce is about emotion; it is in effect about a failed relationship. However, the court has removed the individual responsibly quotient from the process, streamlining it to its most base level-money. However, money is used as a weapon. It changes even the best of us. We loose sight of our failing to live up to our oath "to honor each other in good and in bad... until death do us part." Rather, than be forced to make good for the children, each is spurred by an attorney to get what they want. And, it's never enough. So, I gave my friend advise I did not heed myself and regret. Take all of the income and assets documents and go to an accountant, one versed in divorce law. Get advise on options that split the money to your best tax advantage. You are required to pay income taxes on your alimoney, which means some 30-47% of your perceived income will be a nice write-off for your ex, but a lot less net support for you. Similarly, IRA and SEP accounts are devalued by 30% in any transfer. Your lawyer will not give one moments consideration to the tax ramifications you'll face with the settlement you'll have to live with the rest of your life. Talk to an accountant. Get some information so that you can best plan a more financially secure future for you and your children. Than you'll be in a much better place to address your emotional state...that will take a good 3 years to really come out of....And, in the meantime, maybe we'll find some emotionally sensitive legislators who will work to change the system, even a little, so that the emotional side of divorce gets recognized.

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