Monday, March 17, 2008

Marital Relationship vs. Marital Assets

My first job out of college was in a small law firm. At that time I worked as a paralegal with attorneys who specialized in domestic relations and criminal law. Typically, after the attorney was retained, I was responsible for meeting with the client to prepare all documents necessary for filing the Complaint for Divorce or Dissolution with the Court of Domestic Relations. In addition, I filed all of the paperwork, obtained restraining orders, set court dates, etc. Throughout the case, I operated as the liaison between the attorney and the client, to answer questions regarding the status of the case. As you can tell, I spent a great deal of time hearing about the marital problems.

The one thing I found interesting was how ugly the proceedings became during the division of marital property. Couples would quibble ad nauseam over the division of pictures, bank accounts, debts, real property, 401K savings plans, automobiles etc. It was typically during this stage of the divorce when attorney fees skyrocketed due to numerous unproductive meetings and hearings attempting to divide the marital property to the satisfaction of both parties. What I found lacking was how rare it was to see someone argue about saving the relationship.

I understand that there are some instances where saving the relationship is virtually impossible - numerous occurrences of infidelity, abuse, and the like. But often that simply wasn't the case. In some instances external drama began to negatively affect the marital relationship. In other instances, as one person began the journey of personal improvement - for example obtaining degrees in higher education or losing weight, that individual developed a new sense of independence. While increased self esteem is wonderful, it was odd to see those individuals no longer found a need for their spouse. In many cases, couples who initially were inseparable could no longer get along and chose to terminate the relationship. Citing excessive bickering and ultimately incompatibility.

Oddly enough, these were the couples that quibbled the most over their material possessions. So I began to ask myself..."When did the value of marital assets become more important than the value of the marriage?"
  • $3000 - armour
  • $20,000 - vehicle
  • $15,000 - equity in real property
  • $1,000 - oil painting hanging over the living room sofa
  • $250 - stainless steel cookware

Our firm often obtained restraining orders not for individual protection or for the protection of the children, but for the protection of assets. Protection to ensure that one spouse did not vandalize the home or personal property. Protection to ensure that one spouse did not empty bank accounts leaving the other penniless. Protection to ensure that one spouse did not increase credit card debt to the detriment of the other.

I was simply amazed.


Mister-M said...

Sparing you the gory details, I'll give you a summary to support exactly what you've written above as it relates to my situation.

When PEW duped me into believing she was going to do "what is best for the kids" and agree to shared parenting and a reasonable division of assets, I had made an offer to keep the marital household (she had already moved out and was in a nice apartment). Agreeing to this would have kept us within 15 minutes of each other, the kids wouldn't have had to change from their (excellent) school which was walking distance to the home, I was 5-minutes drive from work... in fact, the school was located between our homes, keep their friends, keep their neighbors, keep the only home both of them really had ever known.

It was the perfect post-divorce w/children logistical setup one could ask for.

She didn't like the offer which was more than half of the equity in the home after appraisal.

Approximately $50,000.

Nope, instead, she paid an attorney somewhere in the neighborhood of $60,000 to get a final total settlement of approximately $65,000.

Net: $5,000.

Of course, financial responsibility and knowledge was never her strong suit. To this day, she considers it a victory.

She is an idiot.

njm said...

You are right...she is an idiot! Reminds me of my husbands PEW.

I couldn't help but laugh at the irony.

roji said...
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Anonymous said...

Funny isn't it, JQ75 claims his ex is out to get him but if his hate blog against other bloggers is any indication of where he is mentally Id say she has a good point..

Check it out for yourself