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Category: Personal Finance and Divorce

Divorce = Personal Finance With Someone You Now Hate

In Podcast Episode 4 Attorney Carl Taylor and his Wife Kristen discuss the dos and don’ts of marriage and personal finance. Listen or read the transcript.

EPISODE 04

In Episode 4, January 2, 2019 Carl and his wife discuss personal finance in a marriage, communication, and how personal finances can impact a divorce, which Carl jokingly refers to as “personal finance with someone you now hate”. Below is the transcript or to listen click here: Embedded in Site Edition, Download Edition.

[INTERVIEW]

[0:00:08.4] Carl Taylor: Hello, welcome. Happy 2019 and welcome to the new and improved and rebranded Carl Taylor New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Podcast, now known as Happily Even After.

Today is a special day for our podcast because we will be doing our first interview with our “secret guest” who will be on momentarily and today’s topic is going to really focus around personal finances, how do personal finances impact a marriage, how can they lead to a divorce when not handled properly and what can we learn from those who are facing divorce or separation.

How can we learn from some of their miss-steps to make sure that we can keep track of our personal finances and not run into those types of issues. This is also important for people who have already been divorced or who are about to be divorced, if you are contemplating divorce. A lot of times personal finance issues are a big part of the problem. They’re one of the symptoms of an unhealthy marriage and you don’t have to be an economist to be good at personal finance.

You don’t have to be an expert in finance or anything else but you do have to have good communication in a marriage. You can’t have one spouse spending money and you don’t realize that they’re spending it.

You can’t have one spouse hiding assets, planning for divorce and you certainly don’t want to have one spouse taking on full responsibility for the finances in the household without any discussions because then at the time of the divorce or God forbid, if someone should pass away, the other spouse is going to have a hard time maintaining the finances of the home moving forward.

And they are going to have a difficult time knowing where the bank statements are held, knowing which assets they have, how much debt they have. So it’s really very important to have a good grasp on your finances and if you’re married to make sure that you both jointly have a firm grasp of your finances.

So without further ado, I’m going to introduce my secret guest, none other than my own wife, Kristen Taylor, who I have asked to come on as the first guest of our show. We have been married for 10 years. She’s obviously somebody who has a lot of tolerance if she’s been able to remain married to me for 10 years. But we are going to discuss some of our financial house rules some of which I have implemented just because I have always been curious about personal finance.

Some of which Kristen’s implemented because she has a good financial mind and some of which I have taken from this experience of going through more than a hundred divorces with other people, seeing how they do things and seeing some of these common threads of where people go wrong.

So without further ado, I am going to introduce my wife, Kristen Taylor, my better half. So Kristen, how are you?

[0:03:13.0] Kristen Taylor: I’m very good, thank you.

[0:03:14.7] CT: Thank you for being our ‘guinea pig’, I mean first guest on our program.

[0:03:18.4] KT: Of course, I am honored (sarcastic).

[0:03:20.3] CT: I’m sure you are, I was wondering or I was hoping that maybe you could go through sort of when we first got married 10 years ago where things stood and all the big assets I brought to the marriage.

[0:03:32.1] KT: Sure, well you certainly came into the marriage with a lot… of student loan debt. I had my own as well and even before we were married we had started to talk about planning and saving and what our view for the future was.

[0:03:47.7] CT: Yes, so I think we had about a combined $200,000 in student loan debt.

[0:03:53.6] KT: That sounds right.

[0:03:54.5] CT: Which when you are in school and you’re young doesn’t really mean anything because you just don’t know and then you get into the real world and it’s a couple of thousand dollars every month and I think very early on I started to freak out about it and you and I had to sit down and it’s like, “What are we going to do?”

And we were used to living like college students but we had to formulate a plan either just lay back and not do anything or to take drastic steps to try to get rid of it. So could you review with the audience which is probably only you and I anyway?

[0:04:28.9] KT: Sure, I think one of the things that was a big driver for us was the pressure we felt, both of us with the student loans, kind of looming, over our head. So we decided that that was going to be something we were going to take one full force and we decided that we are going to target our student loans and then we had the goal set for ourselves to pay off our student loans as quickly as possible. We knew we wanted to start a family and buy a home someday so –

[0:04:55.0] CT: Can you talk about our little spreadsheet we created, whatever it was?

[0:04:58.9] KT: Sure, so one of the ways that we were able to I think survive and come out on the other side was to make it fun or somewhat fun for ourselves. So we created a chart that every box on the chart represented a thousand dollars of our student loan debt.

[0:05:16.3] CT: So there is like 200 boxes, right?

[0:05:19.0] KT: 200 boxes on a sheet that we kept and every time we were able to pay off a thousand dollars we would actually cross off a box on the chart and it was a game for us. It kept us going and we were able to see the progress and to stay strong I think throughout the process. So we had that chart for a few years and we were finally able to pay off our student loans two years ago.

[0:05:43.3] CT: So I think one of the things we did along with that silly chart that we now have framed somewhere I am sure in our house, is every month we kind of have a sit down and say, “Here is where things are.” And I’ll admit, I probably was tighter in terms of… I was kind of like, “We can’t spend any money ever,” and you’re like, “Carl, we still have to live,” but we’d have a sit down and you’d let me know. We’d communicate and say, “Carl we need some money for this, or you’re being penny wise pound foolish.” It was a once a month kind of thing and we still do that today.

[0:06:15.1] KT: And we did that because of the planning. We would look to see what birthdays we knew we had that month, which holidays we knew we were going to have that month and what expenses were going to come up that month so that we could plan ahead and then see how much we could put towards savings. I mean we were able to do that each month and have that communication but it takes a little planning to think of the things that are coming up.

Who needs a gift for administrative assistance day, who needs a birthday party gift and planning for those things they’re –

[0:06:42.3] CT: Car breaking down.

[0:06:43.5] KT: Yeah, car breaking down, we had multiple savings accounts too that we put money into for emergency plans and planning for things that could come up with incidentals and unexpected issues.

[0:06:56.3] CT: For the purposes of this podcast which is obviously aimed at people who are going through a divorce or know somebody who is going through a divorce, I don’t want to come across like we’re bragging. I think the main reason why I have you on here Krissy was because as much as we tend to have a good marriage, there was definitely some fights about personal finance early on and I think when we were first trying to form that important base at the beginning of our marriage if we hadn’t taken the time to communicate and if I hadn’t implemented some things based upon what I see from my own clients.

Which is we really need to talk about these things and not barrier had in the sand. I mean, even if you communicate pretty well with somebody else, personal finance can really be a quicksand kind of thing.

[0:07:36.6] KT: Certainly, I was confused a first certainly and I can say honestly, I don’t enjoy the budgeting process as much as you do.

[0:07:45.7] CT: I’m like Gollum with that stuff.

[0:07:47.8] KT: I had to jump on board but it was something that you were able to show me, we were able to meet with success but it was about the communication of that because you know, I wasn’t always sure where the money should be going or what we should be focusing on and what we should be spending on and you certainly had, you know, you had the proof,  you had the ability to show me that it was working over time for us.

I also think that very quickly we had to make sure we were on the same page about what our goal was and that can be extremely difficult if your goal is not the same as your spouse’s, we decided that we were going to live a certain lifestyle for later gains.

[0:08:23.2] CT: Yeah, we bought a smaller house and that kind of stuff, I don’t impress my clients when I drive up in my Hyundai Elantra but at the same time, I don’t have a car note on it so one of the things about a divorce and I know you’re not an attorney Kristen, just to be clear to the audience, but divorce law, I guess you could kind of colloquially call it personal finance with someone you hate.

I mean, part of divorce is you have to literally go through and as an attorney I do this, we go through what’s called a case information statement, we fill out every form, we try to get an idea for what the monthly budget is for your family, what it will be after the divorce, what it is during the divorce, a lot of times, people sit there and say, I just really have no idea and you know, that’s true of a lot of people but when you’re going through a divorce.

You really have to have an idea of your finances. Whether you think you can salvage your marriage and maybe by communicating better about finances, you can or whether you’re going through a divorce, you really have to get a handle both of you and your attorneys on your finance or you’re not going to be able to divide the marital pie.

[0:09:27.2] KT: I know it’s going to sound cliché but you really need to know where the money is, you need to know every account that exist, you need to know the passwords for those accounts and you need to know how to access those accounts and if the way that today is with online bill pay and online banking, it’s even more important to know where all of your money is. If you’re not sure, those are the questions you really should be asking of your spouse.

[0:09:51.4] CT: Four or five months ago, Kristen comes to me and she says, hey, I feel like I’m sort of out of the loop with the – where we’re investing money and the passwords. You mind just making a list of everything we own and the passwords to it and being a divorce lawyer, I thought to myself, oh my God, this is divorce planning on Kristen’s part. Time will tell, I did give you a list of everything, so that goes back to the communications as well.

At the same time, you know, don’t be naïve like I am and you know, there are certain signs in the way someone’s acting that you know, you’ll be paranoid about it but they could be a sign of, if somebody starts taking more of an active interest in their finance, that’s not the case that Kristen is, because we’ve always been pretty much on the same page.

I think I was actually going to go out of town on business and she would have make sure if the plane crash, she knew how to get to my – or our savings account but you know, somebody starts taking more of an active interest, if you see somebody being shady or secretive with their money, those are all signs that they might be divorce planning and you know, I did an article Kristen, that really could put anyone to sleep on divorce in the age of bitcoin.

About how people can use some of these more high tech asset classes like bit coins in attempt to hide money. There’s really all kinds of interesting aspects to personal finance and divorce and I would also say, for anybody who is getting remarried, you want to make sure statistically, second marriages aren’t as successful as first marriages but if you’re going to get remarried, you really want to make sure you don’t fall into the same negative patterns.

Even if you’re somebody who is divorced or you’re about to be divorced and meeting somebody new is the last thing on your mind. It’s too late to salvage this marriage. Think about these concepts because I really think that communication, you know, in general is very important but in personal finance, it’s extremely important.

[0:11:39.7] KT: I also think that when it comes to being on a team together and communicating. I think it has to be a judgment free zone, we all have our own opinions about personal finance and how we want to spend our money and what our plans are, if there’s something that your spouse values as a hobby or an interest, if there’s a way that you can work that into your budget so that everyone feels that there’s something there for them in your lifestyle but at the same time, you can both be working towards your goals.

[0:12:10.2] CT: It doesn’t mean you’re going to agree on everything. I mean, I tend to invest in Vanguard type mutual funds which to Krissy I think she would probably – you’d probably like, bury the money in the back of your code, like an old lady kind of keep it in between books.

[0:12:28.7] KT: I’m a squirrel away kind of person, yes.

[0:12:31.5] CT: It’s a matter of communicating those fears and sometimes you know, they’re warranted because I’ve invested in emerging markets or something and then you see you’ve lost 40% of the asset class over the year and you go, well, maybe more of a balanced approach with some bonds or something, does make sense.

Kristen, I sort of, I think we balance each other out. It doesn’t mean that we’re always making the right decision with our finances, we definitely aren’t but we’re communicating and we kind of – there’s not that finger pointing if things go wrong. Just a couple other brief things before we go.

I wanted to talk about the importance of keeping good documents. Now, I’m very anal retentive. I actually have a program where I log every expense and every dollar that comes in and out, it’s called, youneedabudget.com I think. I’m not saying that as an affiliate or anything but that’s just what we use, it’s pretty helpful, you want nothing to do with that, right Kristen?

[0:13:24.8] KT: No, the daily input to me is exhaustive. But what I do like at the end of the month is showing where we’re spending our money. If this is something that eventually you’re facing with regards to divorce, it would be beneficial for you to see where your money is being spent, how much money is actually being spent on your children, how many Amazon boxes are arriving on your front door step.

[0:13:44.4] CT: Too many.

[0:13:45.5] KT: If you start to break it down each month, it can be a very clear picture of where your finances are being spent and where you might be able to cut back or where you may need to increase your focus.

[0:13:56.2] CT: I guess, another thing we’ll talk about is you know, when I started my business about a year ago Krissy, that adds another component to all this because now those Amazon boxes aren’t going to our house, they’re going to my office and you come to the office and you go, Carl, what are you doing, you spend a lot of money on furniture it looks like.

If you have a spouse who has a business, that’s actually an easy way to kind of lose that communication or to have your spouse perhaps deflating their income or hiding assets in the business. Has that been difficult for you that I’ve got an extra – obviously, I’m not doing these things Kristen, I promise. Is it difficult for you to, let’s say I buy furniture or how to communicate when there’s a business mixed in or even other things, you have children, should we pay for piano lessons or not. I mean, there’s a lot of balls in the air.

[0:14:46.6] KT: There are, I think that again it comes back to carving out time to speak about those things. I think you have to also be willing to ask the questions, I think some people like to blindly go along as long as the bills are being paid but I think that we both inquire as to where the things are coming from and how we’re paying for them. I think that’s another big piece is if something you feel like you’re seeing or you’re not sure where something’s coming from you need to ask.

And that’s true whether you are dual income family or a parent who works from home. It comes down to taking the responsibility of knowing where things stand. I think we do that.

[0:15:24.1] CT: The other thing I would recommend to anybody is do your best to be informed about personal finance, especially if you’re heading towards a divorce, go talk to a financial advisor, talk to an accountant, make sure that you know, if you’re cosigning taxes that – and your spouse is self-employed that it’s appropriate that they’re not hiding money from the IRS or something. I mean, really, like I said, it doesn’t take a degree in finance or anything to understand a lot of these concepts.

A lot of them are pretty basic and having that knowledge gives you confidence. I know on our website, mynjdivorcelawyer.com. I’ve written about personal finance and divorce. I’ve written about how your finances can be impacted by a divorce. I’ve got ebooks on the subject. Again, it’s something where I’m a little bit of a personal finance dork. But it’s really important for anybody, you know, whether you’re married or you’re considering a pre-nup, about to be married, understanding your finances or you’re in the thick of a divorce.

A lot of divorce, especially if you have children is really just a matter of math and a matter of calculating what alimony and what equitable distribution should be. As much as you can read about it, I think that’s a good thing to do.

Kristen, thank you so much for joining our podcast, this is our first ever guinea pig slash guest.

[0:16:41.4] KT: Thank you so much for having me.

[0:16:44.1] CT: I’ll see you at home for dinner. Hopefully you’re not stock piling those passwords.

If anyone wants to learn more, you could visit our website like I said, mynjdivorcelawyer.com or call our office, 908-237-3096. We hope that this podcast was helpful and we wish you and your family a healthy and prosperous 2019.

Thanks and have a great day.

[END]

How Can I Pay for my Divorce?

A Necessary Evil? How Can You Pay for Your Divorce…

During almost every initial consultation the biggest elephant in the room is cost.  Clients know that getting divorced can be expensive–sometimes prohibitively so.  They also know that divorce lawyers generally bill by the hour at the rate of hundreds of dollars per hour.  When people say they are concerned they cannot afford their divorce they are often referring to paying their divorce lawyer’s fees just as much as they are expressing concern about carrying two households, paying child support, or paying alimony. 

When I first started practicing law we were in the early stages of the “Great Recession.”  Clients could no longer rely upon equity in their home to take care of legal fees at the end of the divorce. Although unemployment is at near all-time lows and the stock and housing markets have rebounded, most Americans do not have $5,000.00 or more laying around for an initial retainer deposit.  Likewise, a divorce cannot be financed directly by a law firm and interest cannot be charged, so lawyers are loathe to play banker.  This may create tension in the relationship and concerns that a lawyer is:

  • “nickel and diming” their clients (only it’s a lot of nickles);
  • Is dragging out the case and/or “overlawyering”; 
  • Working through the retainer quickly and then withdrawing if the client cannot replenish in accordance with the retainer agreement. 
  • Is charging not just for every tiny expense but also every communication. 

These are all legitimate concerns and both attorney and client should discuss the particulars of what is expected and how the case will be handled. In my own practice I attempt to look to studies and surveys about what clients find most dissatisfying about their lawyers and then attempt to implement policies that address such concerns or take the opposite tact. Regardless, there is sometimes miscommunication on both sides… it cannot be assumed that clients read the retainer agreement or fully understand its terms.

Another potential problem is that the biggest issue in any divorce is often not a legal issue or a complicated financial analysis, but rather the raw emotion that may interfere with settlement.  That means that the cost for the divorce of a modest household may not be all that different than the divorce of those with substantially more assets. In most divorces there is at least one party that does not even want to be getting divorced, which may further complicate the emotions of the situation. 

Ways to Pay for a New Jersey Divorce with Carl Taylor Law, LLC 

Paying for a divorce and particularly the initial retainer is thus sometimes difficult (to say the least).  Although I cannot speak for any other firms, I have attempted to make it easy for clients to meet this obligation.  Accordingly, Carl Taylor Law, LLC accepts payments in the following manner:

  • Check;
  • Cash (with receipt given);
  • Credit Card (links for payment through LawPay are given and clients can also pay at the firm’s Flemington, New Jersey location;
  • Money Order

Like many firms, I expect the retainer amount to be replenished.  I encourage clients to call me if they question any portion of their bill to discuss as I would rather know if a client is dissatisfied.  I also attempt to minimize minor pass-through costs such as for telephone calls, faxes, or the like. Moreover, I attempt not to bill for attorney-client communications in divorce matters such as simple calls or emails as I want to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. 

In some cases I obtain counsel fees from the other party.  Nevertheless, I expect payment from my clients who must then seek reimbursement from their ex.  This too is standard in most New Jersey divorce retainer agreements. I do not like to extend payment plans as I am not a bank and believe there are more appropriate ways for clients to obtain credit.  Nevertheless, I do attempt to work within the confines of cost as cost-benefit analysis for every action contemplated is important for both attorney and client to understand.  I have some cases where clients appear sick of me telling them to wait or not take further action as the cost associated with the action outweighs the potential gains.   Communication between attorney and client is paramount in limiting counsel fees and ensuring a positive outcome in the case. 

A mentor of mine once said it’s difficult to make a living as a “necessary evil.” Even us divorce lawyers will admit that clients would have much more fun spending money on a cruise, piece of artwork, new car, or home improvements.  Few people want to get divorced and paying for the sometimes “necessary evil” of dueling lawyers can exacerbate an already difficult situation.  The added benefit of fully understanding the process and your risks, responsibilities and obligations is the divorce lawyer’s stock and trade. If you want to retain my firm but are uncertain if you can afford it, I hope this article will assist you in understanding the potential payment methods and some of the philosophy behind the divorce attorney-client relationship. 

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Collect Money in Family Court

Collecting Monies Due in New Jersey Family Courts

Marital debt is unlike other types of debt due.  For one thing, most debt is collected in the Civil Division of the Courts, particularly the law division (if it’s a large debt) or in the Special Civil Part or Small Claims (if less than $15,000).  Another interesting facet of collecting monies owed to someone in family court matters, is that child support may be considered an automatic lien.  Although docketing monies due may still apply in divorce law, there is an easier path to navigate to collect.  This is particularly true and in family court cases if a parent owes money and is held in contempt he  or she may be jailed until they pay a certain portion of money due and owing. 

Some of the methods of collection available in civil court cases, which may also be pursued as part of enforcement actions in family court matters include wage garnishment, bank levy’s, and chattel (property) levies.  If support is being collected by Probation/Family Support Services then action(s) may be taken to collect on your behalf even absent court intervention.  It is your right to ask that payments be made through Probation and this is generally chosen over “direct pay” in New Jersey divorces. 

Another type of relief that may be pursued is what’s known colloquially as a “Constructive Trust,” or seeking that certain funds (such as retirement funds) be “sequestered.” This may come in handy if a party owes monies for college or private education, for instance and is not paying.  The Courts may order that certain funds be liquidated to pay monies due. 

Constructive Trusts 

New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 provides, in relevant part, that:

If an obligor shall abandon an oblige or separate from the oblige and refuse or neglect to maintain and provide for the oblige, the court may order suitable support and maintenance to be paid and provided by the obligor for the oblige and their children. If the obligor fails to comply with the order of the court, entered in New Jersey or another jurisdiction, the court may impose a lien against the real and personal property of the obligor who lives in or owns property in New Jersey to secure payment of the overdue support and for such time as the nature of the case and circumstances of the parties render suitable and proper. (Emphasis Added).  Accordingly, certain real property may be subject to a lien if an obligor (the person who owes money) does not remit payment in a timely fashion to the obligee (the person owed the money).  

“Laches”

If you (or your minor children) are owed money, it may be important to act fast to protect your rights in Court. That is because Courts may impose the equitable doctrine of “laches” against you if you do not pursue your interests.  “Laches” essentially means that you “slept on your rights.” Under the New Jersey case of Rolnick v. Rolnick, 262 N.J. Super. 343 (App. Div. 1993) and its progeny, a party urging application of “laches” must demonstrate that the other party: 1) delayed in asserting a claim now stale without explanation or excuse; 2) that the delay was unreasonable given the circumstances; and 3) that the delay was prejudicial to the party urging the defense.   Laches are an affirmative equitable defense that may bar rights afforded to a party under a Marital/Property Settlement Agreement, a judgment, or an Order. 

Collecting monies due to you in a New Jersey divorce action can be tedious and feel like throwing “good money after bad.” Indeed, a large percentage of child support and alimony ordered or agreed to is never paid.  I have, however, been able to utilize creative methods throughout my career to assist clients in obtaining monies due them (or their children).  Such enforcement actions should be viewed with an eye on a careful cost-benefit analysis and are fact-sensitive. 

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Personal Finance Lessons from Divorce

What Can All of us Learn About Personal Finance from Divorced Couples?

It’s a little known fact about me–something even some of my close friends and family members do not know.  Up until about eight years ago, I used to blog anonymously about personal finance.  My website eventually received thousands of unique visitors per month. 

When I eventually ran out of things to write, I was able to  sell the blog. To this day I believe it remains on the internet with the buyer of the website continuing to blog about personal finance.  The primary impetus for me starting the blog was to hold myself accountable for paying off six-figure law school loans.

About a year ago my wife and I achieved one of our primary goals, paying off close to $200,000 in student loans.  Other than our mortgage, we are now completely debt free.  Personal finance has always been something that has interested me greatly.  The methods for debt repayment, savings vehicles, and creating tax-advantaged decisions (coupled with great willpower) is something I find highly fascinating. I enjoy tracking my spending each month, creating spreadsheets, and performing monthly and yearly budget projections.  In some ways this has been a great background for me, as a great deal of family law essentially involves family and personal finances. 

The Case Information Statement (“CIS”) that the court requires each divorcing spouse to fill out has a Schedule “C” that is essentially a monthly budget.  You’re asked to fill out your monthly expenditure while intact and individually down to the tiniest line items such as “toiletries.”  You’re also required to list all of your assets and liabilities to help determine a net worth. Statistics and math come into play in negotiating the division of retirement accounts, stock options, rolling over IRA’s and the like. 

Again, many people may find it boring but it’s right up my ally. Even better, I have learned a great deal about personal finance from going through numerous divorces with my clients. There are many takeaways that can assist all of us–even those not currently contemplating a divorce.  Although I cannot offer any financial advice and this blog post is not meant to do so, here are some of the takeaways I have learned from client’s divorces:

  • Be aware of the Family’s Finances.  Although one person may take the lead in personal finances for a family, it’s important that both parties understand the financial picture of the family.  This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that financial issues are one of the biggest predictors of divorce. It shocks me how many clients come in to initial consultations with no firm grasp on their own families finances.  Their not sure if their spouse has a pension or some other type of retirement account, they do not know what the family’s monthly budget is, they are even unsure if the car they drive is owned or leased.  They cannot provide a breakdown of their monthly budget, nor can they accurately list the family’s assets and liabilities.  It is very difficult to know how to divide assets if you’re uncertain what the assets are.  Although discovery will help unearth such issues, it’s something all couples (whether contemplating divorce or happily married) should endeavor to understand. Not to mention, even in an intact household there could be great ramifications if something were to happen to your spouse and then you’d be unaware of assets and liabilities.  My wife and I have made it a practice in our household to have monthly discussions of budget and finance and to write down all accounts to banks, etc., so that we’re aware of the financial picture of our household.  When you go to an initial consultation for a divorce it is helpful to have copies of all records in advance.
  • Work Together as a Team.  Not to get pollyanna, but it’s simple game theory that working together (whether happily married or not) can lead to better results for all involved. If you have an uphill battle (like my wife and I did finishing law school and graduate school in 2009 with nearly $200,000 in student loans), then you can either bury your head in the sand or you can team up and fight together.  In our case we made a chart with each box representing $1,000.00.  Each time our loan balance went down another $1,000.00 we crossed off one of the boxes until our loans were eventually paid off (about 8 years later).  If we allowed the situation to stress us out and did not act as a team together, the debt may have negatively impacted our marriage.  Instead, by working as a team to find new ways to be frugal and making debt the enemy, the whole ordeal strengthened our marriage.  Likewise, even a divorcing couple should be smart about their situations.  Maybe you can both agree to remain in the marital house to cut down on the added expenses of having two separate homes.  Maybe you can agree to work together in the divorce to negotiate in good faith and to not waste thousands of dollars in counsel fees fighting over furniture that is barley worth $500.00.  The more you want to punish the other person in a divorce the more you’re really punishing yourself as well, because of the added costs. 
  • Don’t be Judgmental.  It’s only common that you’re going to have different opinions regarding personal finances.  For instance, my wife and I have different tolerances for risk.  I like to invest most of our funds in stocks whereas my Wife would prefer a larger emergency fund and to invest a higher ratio in bonds or other safer investments.  We work together to find common ground (not always achieved) and we attempt to be supportive even if investments or decisions are ultimately proven to be less advantageous than initially hoped. 
  • Learn.  Although I can’t expect everyone to be a “personal finance dork” like I am, our finances are increasingly important in this modern society.  Perhaps you can each take turns learning about new subjects and becoming “experts” on them.  Then you can report back to your spouse.  For instance, one of you can focus on frugality and budgeting and then the two of you can think of ways to implement the savings. 
  • Keep Good Notes/Document.  Finally (and with tax-season incoming this is more important than ever) it’s helpful to keep good notes and to properly maintain documents pertaining to the household’s finances. 

Although personal finance/money issues may not be the cause of divorce in all cases, I have noticed a lack of communication and money stress as being an important symptom leading to divorce for many of my clients. Whether you’re happily married or pursuing divorce, it’s important to keep some of the above ideas in mind to assist in achieving the best outcome for you and your family. 

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.