There’s an age old notion that some couples stay together for the “sake of the kids.” But, what about those unhappily wed who are worried that they can’t afford to be divorced? It is not just the fear that they cannot come up with money to go through the process. The concern is how they will financially survive after the fact.
Maintaining Two Households is Costly
Let us introduce you to Maria and Frank Fusco (not their real names), our exemplary couple. Maria and Frank have been married for twenty years. They have always lived paycheck to paycheck, but managed to pay their bills on time. Maria and Frank’s children are both away at college. As prospective empty nesters, the two realize that they no longer have much in common. After a heated argument, Frank moves into a spare bedroom.
Some would call this type of arrangement an “in-house separation”. New Jersey does not recognize legal separation, so there is no formality to their agreement. Maria and Frank decide to live separately in the same home. They plan to co-exist as roommates and continue with their current fiscal arrangements. They are initially confident that this is the solution to their problems. After all, how could they possibly afford setting up two separate households?
Preparing for the Inevitable Divorce
Maria and Frank are joined by many other couples who stay together because they are worried they cannot afford to be divorced. Some spouses move to attics or basements to create separate living spaces. Eventually, most come to the conclusion that divorce is inevitable. Are there things a couple in this situation should do? Consider these suggestions from a CNN Money Coach:
- Determine joint assets and how they will be split. Is there enough equity available in the home to sell it at a profit for both?
- Calculate retirement account holdings.
- Take a look at current expenses and how they could be adjusted if you split.
- Consider marital counseling. Is the marriage really over or can it be mended?
Securing the Services of a Family Law Attorney/Mediator
Our exemplary couple made a decision to stay together for financial reasons. They did this without consulting a lawyer. Delaying the legal process may adversely reflect on their future. An experienced family law attorney can review the issues and make appropriate suggestions.
Maria and Frank may be ideal candidates for family law mediation. New Jersey has a mediation program in place for the economic aspects of a divorce, including equitable distribution and support. Attorney Sam Stoia is certified as a mediator in this program and uses his experience to help parties come to a solution that works for them.