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A list of common, but very good, Utah divorce questions (with answers)

ERIC,

MY HUSBAND AND I HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR 20+ YEARS. WE HAVE 4 CHILDREN TOGETHER 3 OF WHOM ARE STILL MINOR CHILDREN.

I WAS WONDERING IF YOU MIGHT BE WILLING TO ANSWER A FEW QUESTIONS FOR ME (IN ALL CAPS).

Thanks for your e-mail. I will respond to all of your questions. I am giving you my honest opinions and without pulling any punches. If faced with the choice, I’d rather you trust me than like me.

I HAVE A BANK ACCOUNT IN MY OWN NAME.

I ALSO HAVE A CAR IN MY OWN NAME.

WILL I BE REQUIRED TO SELL OR SPLIT THESE IF I GET A DIVORCE?

It depends upon many factors.

Did you own these items of property before marriage?

Did you purchase them during the marriage, but with separate funds (funds you did not earn by your own labor during the marriage)?

Did you purchase these items of property during the marriage?

Did you purchase them during the marriage with marital funds?

If the court determines the car is marital property, the court can either order the car sold and the proceeds of sale divided between you and your husband, or the court could award you the car and then compensate your husband for the value of the car by awarding him a larger share of other marital assets and thus balance the overall division of marital assets.

IF I TAKE THE MONEY FROM THE SEPARATE ACCOUNT THAT’S IN MY NAME AND I USE IT TO PAY OFF MY CAR BEFORE I GET DIVORCED WILL THAT CAUSE A PROBLEM WHEN I GET DIVORCED?

Where did the money in the account come from originally?

If the money used to purchase the car was marital funds, the property purchased with marital funds is marital property. Merely titling the car in your name is not the conclusive factor.

IF I MOVE OUT OF OUR HOME BEFORE FILING FOR DIVORCE WILL THAT NEGATIVELY IMPACT ME IF WE END UP GETTING DIVORCED? ESPECIALLY FINANCIALLY AS I DON’T WANT TO LOSE MY INTEREST IN OUR HOME AND OTHER ASSETS.

Yes. For a host of possible reasons.

I wouldn’t move out unless my safety, sanity, and/or life depends upon it.

TWO YEARS AGO MY HUSBAND OPENED AN ADDITIONAL EMAIL ACCOUNT AND STARTED POSTING SEVERAL PROFILES ON DATING SITES. THIS LED HIM TO SEVERAL ONLINE GIRLFRIENDS. WHEN I TOLD HIM HE EITHER HAD TO STOP OR DIVORCE, HE TOLD ME HE GAVE UP ALL THE GIRLFRIENDS, CLOSED THE EMAIL ACCOUNTS AND TOOK HIMSELF OFF THE DATING SITES. A FEW MONTHS LATER I FOUND OUT THAT HE HAS A PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION AND HAS IN FACT BEEN VIEWING IT THROUGHOUT OUR MARRIAGE. WOULD ANY OF THIS INFORMATION BE RELEVANT IN COURT OR WOULD IT MATTER IN TERMS OF WHAT I RECEIVE IN THE WAY OF PROPERTY ASSETS?

It’s likely relevant to grounds for divorce, but not relevant to alimony or division of marital assets.

And what do you mean by “pornography addiction”? It’s a term that gets thrown around carelessly in divorce, a lot.

While pornography addiction is a real thing, it is not nearly as common as what divorcing spouses (usually divorcing wives) claim. I have yet, in 21 years of practice, to come across a spouse who was so dependent on pornography as to cause him/her to miss work, endanger the health or safety of himself/herself or others, squander marital assets, commit crimes, etc.

If someone likes pornography, that’s perverted, but not proof of addiction. If your husband merely likes pornography (even if he likes it a lot and spends a lot of time on it), that doesn’t mean addiction. If, under such circumstances, you believe that accusing your husband of pornography addiction will give you some kind of advantage in divorce, it likely won’t. It will not do your credibility any favors either, unless, perhaps, your judge or commissioner has strong dislike of pornography, it’s nigh on to impossible to know that much about your commissioner or judge, or how your commissioner or judge will feel about pornography on a given day.

DOES DIVORCE AFFECT YOUR CREDIT SCORE?

That’s a good question. I wouldn’t think so. You should read this, from Equifax:

https://blog.equifax.com/credit/can-divorce-damage-my-credit-score/

I WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME WITH A SOMEWHAT FULL TIME JOB WHAT KIND OF BEARING WILL THAT HAVE ON ALIMONY OR CHILD SUPPORT?

Child support for a child ends upon the child turning 18 and the child’s expected year of high school graduation, whichever comes last.

[Now from this point on remember that 1) I mean no offense; and 2) I prefer clarity to acceptance, so if my comments offend you, then you’re offended by honesty]

At this point in responding to your e-mail, it is clear enough that:

A)you are worried about what divorce will do to the income and lifestyle of you and your kids; and

B)you are exploring what advantages you may have or may develop.

Most people (especially women, if they make less money than their husbands) share this worry in divorce. And it makes perfect sense. It’s also the wrong way to approach divorce planning and litigating.

I can safely assume from your comments that your husband makes more money than you do, and that you worry divorce will reduce your income and cause your lifestyle to deteriorate. It almost certainly will.1 Stay married and your odds (notice I stated “the odds”) of financial security are higher than if you divorce, unless your husband decides to file for divorce himself.

But I can already see the signs (and please don’t be offended, this is what I frequently see in people contemplating divorce, both the men and the women) of the ideas forming or potentially forming in your mind:

1)     The prospect of being single and independent again after more than 20 years of marriage is intimidating and discouraging.

2)     I don’t deserve to suffer because of divorce. After all, it’s not my fault.

3)     I’ve heard that courts aren’t terribly attentive or rigorous in their analysis of divorce cases.1 I’ve heard of/personally known of good decent people who were treated miserably in divorce court. It’s not fair.

4)     So is divorce a situation in which the ends justify the means?

5)     How do I ensure that I get as much marital property and assets out of divorce as possible?

6)     What is the difference between sole custody of the children and joint custody in the amount of money I’ll get?

7)     What must I allege and prove to get maximum alimony?

Resist these temptations (“The man who has won millions at the cost of his conscience is a failure. – B.C. Forbes”). “What’s in it for me?” is a legitimate question, but not a good way to prosecute a divorce action.

Think like a judge, not like a spouse. Because when it comes right down to it, what you think does not matter. The law is the law, and in divorce your fate is in the hands of your judge.

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1 But that doesn’t mean that divorce may still be best for you and/or your children overall. All the money in the world isn’t worth staying in a miserable or dangerous marriage.

2 Generally, it’s true.

ALSO I’M A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, AND WHEN I STARTED THE BUSINESS 10 YEARS AGO I SET IT UP AS A CORPORATION IN BOTH OF OUR NAMES. I DO ALL THE WORK OF THIS BUSINESS AND WOULD WANT TO KEEP THE BUSINESS INTACT, IF I DIVORCE, AS IT PROVIDES SOME INCOME. WHAT WOULD MY HUSBAND’S INTEREST IN THE BUSINESS BE? I CAN PROVIDE PROOF THAT IT’S I WHO RUNS THE BUSINESS, NOT MY HUSBAND. IN THIS SITUATION WOULD I HAVE TO BUY OUT MY HUSBAND’S INTEREST IN THE BUSINESS, OR SELL IT?

I see your points.

And these are points that men have been making—largely without success—for decades when the shoe was on the husband’s foot.

You may have heard the arguments yourself:

“I included my wife as an owner/shareholder because my accountant suggested I do it. I didn’t really wonder why or know why, but it didn’t seem to be a problem. She can’t claim half the value of the business on that basis alone, can she?”

“I included my wife as an owner/shareholder because I didn’t want her to be offended, even though we both knew I was going to do all the work myself, but we were married and I wanted her to know that ‘what’s mine is yours, etc.’. She can’t claim half the value of the business on that basis alone, can she?”

“My wife answered the phones in the first couple of months/years the business was started, but after that, she did nothing, as I added employees as I grew the business. She’s hardly responsible for building this business to where it is 11+ years later. She can’t claim half the value of the business on that basis alone, can she?”

And I’m sure you know how the wives (and their lawyers) in these situations responded:

“I am an equal shareholder. I didn’t hold a gun to your head for that. It was your idea. You better believe I claim half the value of the business on that basis alone.”

“Ah, so ‘what’s mine is yours’ only applied as long as we were married, eh? That’s not how I saw it then or how I see it now.”

“I was the one willing to work for free while we (WE!) struggled to get that business afloat. And I did a lot more than ‘answer the phones’.  Sure, you had more education and skill, but the business still needed me, bad. Without me you couldn’t have planted the seed or nursed it to full bloom.”

“I bore your children. I stayed home with them and took care of our household while you went to work. You couldn’t have built the business without me holding down the fort at home.”

With all that stated, there is still merit to the argument that one spouse did the lion’s share of the work and should thus be rewarded commensurately. Indeed, some judges will divide a family business according to what the judge concludes each spouse contributed in money and labor. Some judges will just treat the business as any other marital asset and divide it in half.

In my opinion, the odds slightly favor you getting more than merely half of the value of the business. I doubt the court would award you the whole thing.

If you can buy your husband’s share out (whether in a lump sum or over a reasonable period of time), the court will probably allow it. If you can’t, then the business will be ordered sold and the proceeds divided.

THANKS FOR YOUR TIME HOPEFULLY THIS ISN’T TOO MANY QUESTIONS.

Thank you for asking. If you have any other questions, let’s meet for a consultation.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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