The length of a marriage has a lot to do with how a divorce plays out. Part of this is practical. In shorter marriages, there’s usually not as much shared property. On the other hand, the longer the marriage, the more intertwined two lives become. Thus it becomes more difficult to untangle them down the road.
There are also other concerns. After a number of years, additional factors come into play. You may be able to claim Social Security based on your ex’s work history. Your ex may be legally entitled to part of a pension or other retirement benefits. It even often impacts how custody arrangements play out.
Rick Jones, one of our founding partners, regularly appears on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show where he answers family law questions. One recent caller wants to know what he can do to protect himself financially, and in regards to custody of his children, as he ends his 19-year marriage.
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Listen to the Conversation Below:
Caller: “My wife and I, after 19 years of marriage, have decided to file for divorce. [W]e have four kids, three of which are still living at home. I just want to ask two questions. First off, what do I need to do to protect myself and put myself in the best possible situation going into this divorce?”
Rick: “Regarding custody or finances?”
Caller: “Both. And my second question is: when it comes to custody, visitation, and our shared property, how do we deal with that while the divorce is proceeding?”
Rick: “Well, unfortunately, we don’t have an hour, but you can certainly do an hour consultation with our office. You will find it very, very valuable. It doesn’t mean you’ve committed to anything other than upping your education value. But, let me quickly take a stab at this to help a little bit.”
“In terms of positioning yourself, there are two things. You look at the ‘yesterdays,’ meaning the history. The best thing you can do is to have a clear idea going forward of what the history was like. To be able to explain to your attorney, to make the best argument of, ‘What has life been up until now?’
“Then, going forward, what you want to do is to make sure and change. Especially if you’re thinking about divorce, but it’s not imminent or it’s not going to happen yet. If there’s something about the history that isn’t favorable to you, start changing history and start this day forward being super-dad.“
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How the Courts Determine Custody
Rick: “What the courts are looking at–especially when it comes to custody, so this is what I’m focused on right now. When they’re looking at custody, they’re looking at who between the two [parents] has already been a primary parenting function provider. With kids this age, that probably means the shuttle bus, getting them to and from what they need [to go], maybe helping with homework, coaching a team, etc. All these things like that.
“Think about it like a resume. In a resume, you’ve got your history. These are the jobs I’ve had already. But then you also have going forward, ‘These are the skills I have.’ So try and improve your resume I guess is what I’m saying.
“In terms of the finances, there’s going to be a paper trail on just about anything with finances. The only thing you want to do, especially if you think your spouse is going to have the potential to be vindictive, is just to be careful. Have some protections in place. Make sure, if you’ve got a larger savings account, both signatures are required to move money, things like that.”
Related Reading: Ways You Can Hurt Your Child Custody Case.