What Women Need to Remember When Going Through a Divorce
A woman married to a high-income man must consider more factors in negotiating a divorce settlement. In general, the larger the size of the marital estate, the more complicated its division and distribution becomes. Many women make mistakes, however, that are easy to avoid.
A divorcing woman should remember a number of key points.
A settlement that appears equal but are not particularly liquid may make for hard times later. For example, a distribution where a wife receives the house, which is illiquid, and the husband receives investments, which are liquid, may leave her hard put to hold the house. Maintaining a house requires cash flow and many former wives find that the maintenance of the marital home overwhelms them.
Taxes can greatly change the value of a settlement. In general, a divorcing woman should consider capital gains, income tax and alimony.
The rules on retirement accounts are complicated. When a large portion of a settlement is in retirement assets, a divorcing woman must know the many potential tax ramifications and penalties. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) can be used to transfer money to a former spouse without penalty, but early distributions are subject to a 10 percent penalty plus taxes as ordinary income.
When couples divorce, they divide their debts as well as their assets. Debt in joint names remains the responsibility of both spouses because each has what is termed joint and several liability. Creditors do not care about the terms and conditions of a separation agreement; they want their money and do not hesitate to go after both spouses, if necessary.
A woman may be well advised to negotiate that her former husband maintains a life insurance policy to insure the payment of child support, alimony and other financial needs.
And most of all, a divorced woman must make a budget and stick to it. This can be very difficult, particularly since high living contributes to the breakup of many marriages.
When Elizabeth Cady Stanton told New York lawmakers that women wanted "no better laws than those you have made for yourselves," she could not have foreseen no-fault divorce, easy contraception and legions of woman achieving professional careers. Today many women achieve this measure of equality. However, in the realm of marriage and family law, many divorcing women face economic dislocations, and more than a few fear divorces is not the first step in a new life, but as Ms. Wilson put it, the first step toward life on the street as bag lady. Laws go so far, and a woman must look out for herself.
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