Friday, April 2, 2010

What Divorce Law is Doing to Marriage Part 35

More from the words of Jed Abraham

Another reason to encourage your wife to enter the workforce early in the breakdown of your marriage is to be able to get her employer to pay for her continuing training. That’s how most employees get training. But if she is still at home when she files, she can ask her alimony petition that you be ordered to pay for the professional training that she put aside when she married you; law school, medical school, dental school, business school. Remember, because she married you, she never thought about becoming a lawyer, doctor, dentist, or entrepreneur. She could have thought about if she had wanted to.

It will be no defense that, before you married her, you had thought about becoming a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist, or entrepreneur, but you couldn’t afford to support her and go to school at the same time, so you stayed with your job and never went to school. She won’t have to repay you for the sacrifices you made to support her, but you will have to repay her for the sacrifices she never made by marrying you.

If, instead of staying with your job, you had gone back to school, and your wife, who was happy being a homemaker, took a job to support you while you worked toward your advanced degree, you might think a court would say that her career assets got a good workout and that could only have been good for her. In fact, it will have been great. The court will say that, by supporting you while you worked toward your sheepskin, she actually acquired an investment in it, and upon divorce, she has the right to cash in on her investment.

The court may not just figure out how much she earned to put you through school and then order you to reimburse her. In some states, it may treat your professional degree just like your other marital property. It will estimate the stream of future income the degree can produce and calculate its present value in current dollars. Then it will order you to a big percentage of that to your ex. Or it will make you pay out a yearly amount of its value as alimony.

The court may not adequately consider all the many non-marital endowments that went into the value of your degree: your native intelligence, your hard work and diligence, your parents’ concern that you make something of yourself, their payment of your tuition, the public funds that made or all of your schooling possible. The job your wife took to pay the bills while you studied will crowed out all those other factors from court’s mind. The fact that you could have gotten a student loan instead (and on much more reasonable terms than the court’s) won’t matter either. And, of course, you won’t be able to object that, had you foregone your degree to continue supporting your wife, she wouldn’t be ordered to repay you for financing her life as a homemaker.

The court will not consider only your earned income when it orders alimony. It will consider your total income, including your non-marital income. It will consider your total income, including your non-marital income. It will consider your interest and dividends from non-marital property. It will consider gifts to you from relative and friends. It will consider your passive income from trusts. It will even consider your non-marital property itself. No matter that it isn’t the product of your “economic partnership” with your wife. No matter that it did not come from her homemaker contribution to the family. Since it can raise your ex’s standard of living to the standard you established for her during the marriage, the court will take it from you and give it to her.

More on “Alimony” on next summary