In shorter marriages without children or much shared property to divide, divorce can be relatively straightforward. However, it doesn’t take much to for things to become knotted and complex in a hurry. And the longer you’re married, the more complicated things tend to get.
Rick Jones, one of our founding partners, makes regular appearances on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show, where he answers family law questions from listeners. One recent caller is about to end a 40-year marriage and wants to know just how complicated his divorce might become and what to expect.
Listen to the answer below:
Caller: “I’ve been married for over 40 years, and have a pension and all that kind of stuff. What’s the best way to go about this? I don’t want to mistreat my wife, but I don’t want to get screwed either.“
Rick: “Well after 40 years, the process is probably going to be fairly simple, does she have an income?”
Rick: “Okay, that’s pretty good. Are the two of you close in monthly or annual income?”
Rick: “Okay, so there’s a disparity. I’m assuming you’re on the higher end?”
Rick: “There are two issues you’ve got. One is dividing up assets and liabilities.
Dividing up assets and liabilities
“The reality is, everything you have is likely to be community [property]. I’m going to say ‘likely’ because you always find exceptions in this world.
“But, it’s probably ‘share and share alike.’ Which means, the starting point is going to be dividing that in a 50/50 way, including your pension, which is sometimes frustrating because you feel like this was something you personally earned, right? So you start with that. When there is a significant disparity, it’s not uncommon to see that tilted, maybe a 55/45, or to a more extreme level a 60/40.”
“The other issue you potentially have is now called spousal maintenance, which is like the [official term for] alimony, which always makes Danny cringe. But that’s the other issue you may have. And that really depends on:
- how significant of a difference in income is between the two of you,
- what your social security is likely to be like,
- what sort of money is coming each of your ways when you divide the pension, things like that.
“The big key for you, and what I want everybody to hear, is you have enough moving parts in this that you need to be efficient. What you don’t want to do is make mistakes, or have your attorney make mistakes, in terms of how these things are divided.
“The two of you want to keep as much of this whole as possible, you don’t want to leave a lot with Uncle Sam, and you certainly don’t want to leave a lot with the attorneys.”
Danny: “Here’s a little advice from your old uncle Dan: I don’t want you to mistreat your wife, BUT you’re not man and wife when you’re going for a divorce. You’re contestants and you should try and win.”
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