Right now, would seem to be a strange time for me to write a blog post on getting a divorce during a recession. A recession, as it is commonly defined, is when our national economy experienced two straight quarters of negative growth in gross domestic product. Moving aside from issues of whether or not there are better ways to determine if we are entering into a period of relative economic strength or weakness, we can see that GDP has always been a tried-and-true method of determining the strength of our economy as well as the prospects for us as individuals when it comes to finances. Strong growth in GDP generally translates to job growth, increases in wages, and a higher quality of living.
While we cannot say that we are currently in anything close to over session in terms of our economy we can make an argument that these economic times for all of us are not what they could have been but for the global pandemic which has been impacting us now for nearly two years. With that in mind, we can determine what are some relevant financial and economic factors for you to consider as you begin to think about getting a divorce.
What I do not mean to tell you is that you should not get a divorce if you are struggling financially or if you have money concerns. Some circumstances in life require you to move forward even if money is a top concern of yours. With that said money concerns are certainly valid during these or any other time. If we can approach the topic of divorce by examining finances in financial considerations, then we will be better equipped to help you reach a consensus about whether or not to move on from marriage and towards a divorce.
What about your income?
Having options is important in a divorce. When it comes to negotiating your way through a divorce there are a nearly unlimited number of ways that the divorce can go for you either good or bad. The key to this discussion is whether any of those options will be tolerable for you. Having options to choose from that favor you are a good place to be in a divorce. On the other hand, having only one option that is desirable for you to choose from in a divorce puts you in a precarious position. Unless you thread the needle just right and arrive at a divorce outcome that suits you perfectly nothing else will benefit you all that much. Again, this is an undesirable position to be in and not advantageous for you when it comes to making decisions that can greatly impact your future.
Both in my professional life and my personal life, I have found that having some spare income, or some wiggle room you could call it, is a great place to be in terms of giving you options. Contrary to what many people think money cannot and will not solve all your problems. It can sure feel that way when you are struggling financially but the reality is that your life depends on many factors other than simply those related to finances. Ask any wealthy person who is also going through a divorce if they would trade that wealth for some stability in their relationships and the happiness of their children. I can almost guarantee you that each person would state that they absolutely would make that trade any day of the week.
What that doesn’t mean is that having some wiggle room financially does not provide a huge benefit to people going through a divorce. The more wiggle room you can have from a financial perspective the better equipped you will be to negotiate. Having no financial wiggle room means it is easier for you to become desperate or two be forced into a corner from and ago she ate Ng perspective. For example, if you need to receive spousal maintenance after a divorce then you are much more likely to agree to undesirable outcomes elsewhere in your divorce to secure this money. After all: what good is extra time with your children or a retirement spent eating dog food when you are negotiating through a divorce. Having financial concerns and a divorce certainly is not unique to your case but the circumstances that you are negotiating through are. This leads me to the first point I would make when it comes to finances and divorce.
If you are not working currently then this is a heavy consideration that you will need to make in terms of being able to plan adequately for a divorce. Having an income of your means not having to rely as heavily on your spouse for the resources necessary to get by daily. That’s not to say that just getting a job will set you up financially after a divorce. However, having an income of some sort provides you with an assurance that you can have a place to live in food to eat. At that stage everything else is negotiable. You can always work with your spouse and try and negotiate a period of contractual alimony after the divorce comes to an end. This amount of money does not have to be your sole means of survival, but it can Be a leg up for you while you adjust to life as a single person.
One interesting observation that I will make at this time would be that if you are not working now is a great time to enter or re-enter the workforce. The reality is that many areas of the economy, such as the service sector, desperately need workers. These might not be the jobs that you wanted to work as a child, but they will pay your bills and put you in a position to grow within the company or organization that you are working in. I’ve heard from many people how these days if you begin working with the company and show that you can work hard and be diligent about your job then you will quickly rise for no other reason than the business has no other options. When other people choose not to work that allows you to take advantage of the job market. Do not be surprised if you’re job at the bottom end of the totem pole at your work begins to shift and you find yourself in a position where you are rising and being promoted rather quickly. However, the first step you must take is towards these opportunities and simply getting your foot in the door. A good attitude, a fresh resume, and a smile on your face is good place to start.
The other financial reality that you will run into is that a family court judge will expect you to begin looking for work during your divorce even if you are going to be awarded temporary spousal support or even contractual alimony. Some judges will even condition temporary spousal support on your beginning to look for work. This means filling out applications and going on interviews. It’s not as if a family court judge can guarantee you the ability to land a new job but, in this economy, if you put forth some effort to find work odds are good that you will be able to land something fairly quickly.
The other consideration that you need to make is that depending upon the length of your marriage you may not even be eligible for spousal maintenance. The general rule in Texas is that unless you were married for longer than 10 years you cannot be paid spousal maintenance after a divorce trial. The exception to this rule is if you have had family violence be present in the home shortly before or during your divorce. However, absent these kinds of circumstances there is little doubt that you will need to find work whether ordered by the judge or not. It is not a good plan to try and rely upon child support and spousal maintenance or contractual alimony for an extended period. I believe you will find that emergencies come up for all of us and it is very difficult to save money when you are relying upon these two sources of income.
This is probably the first place I would look to when determining whether you are in a good position to get divorced from a financial perspective. having a job means having some degree of Peace of Mind as well as the ability to have options for your life both now and in the future. Whether it means paying for an attorney, extra childcare to compensate for you working more hours, or hiring an attorney to represent you in the divorce you will have short-term money needs that need to be fulfilled. Rather than taking out loans or putting everything on credit cards, relying upon your job foreign income is a much wiser way to prepare for a divorce.
Are you planning on moving?
A subject that is very much related to the last topic in today’s blog post and this upcoming one is where do you plan on living over the next few years? One of the reasons why there are so many available jobs right now is that so many people have been quitting work to either switch careers, go back to school, or just generally leave the workforce. Not only has this resulted in many open jobs but it has also resulted in many people who do not know where they will be living over the next few years. The great resignation as it’s become known has also led to a crazy past 18 months as far as real estate is concerned. Any of you who have bought or sold a home during this time can attest to that.
What does this mean for you as you are planning on a divorce? The first consideration would be the need to think through where you are going to be living soon. If you have recently left a job and will be moving to a new city or state, then you should plan your divorce accordingly. You would not want to file for divorce in Harris County if you will be moving to a new area whether it be across the state or the country. Rather, you would need to establish residency in a new place to be able to file for divorce. Let’s walk through what it takes to become a resident of Harris County at least for a divorce.
Establishing residency in Harris County for divorce means that you must first be a resident of the state of Texas for the past six months before the filing of your divorce. Anyone reading this blog post to his recently moved to the Houston area to start fresh in Texas needs to know that you have to wait to file for divorce. Not only must you have been a resident of Texas for the past six months, but you also must have resided in Harris County or your preferred county of filing for the past 90 days before the divorce. Proof of residency can be done with a utility bill or something similar. The bottom line is that you cannot immediately move somewhere and then file for divorce. I believe that the residency requirements for divorce are the same not only in Texas but widely similar across the country. He will either need to wait till files for divorce or wait to move.
If you have recently moved to Texas, then one of the most important factors for you to consider is the laws in Texas and how they may differ from what you are used to in your home state. Probably the most significant difference between Texas and most other states in our country is the laws regarding marital property. Texas is a community property state. I do not want to turn this into a blog on Community property, but the reality is that how Texas treats marital property is likely significantly different from how your home state treats property. This has major consequences for you and your family both in the short and long term.
For example, if you believe that you would be able to keep most of the money in your checking or savings account because that money came from your work activity then you may be surprised to learn that Texas is a community property state, and that income could potentially be split directly down the middle. If you just moved to Texas, then it’s possible that a Texas divorce court would choose to utilize the marital property laws of the state from which you moved. However, if you have lived here for several years then it is likely that the laws of Texas would apply to your divorce. Having to divide community income this way could alter your mindset when it comes to planning for a divorce. Money that you thought would be kept by you may end up going to your spouse. This could change how you negotiate and whether you even want to get a divorce at this time.
Final thoughts on divorcing in uncertain economic times
As a young parent, I have had people ask me how my wife and I knew it was the right time to begin having kids. These folks will invariably point out factors like the pandemic, uncertain job circumstances and a list of other concerns that could lead you towards believing now is not the right time to have kids. When I hear things like this I will usually smile and counter that every generation has major concerns on any number of subjects. There are always uncertain economic times. Every person usually has some. Where they have concerns over their health and well-being. The stock market goes up and then it goes down.
If you are waiting for the perfect time to get divorced my response to you would be that there is no perfect time to do anything. If you are hesitant to get a divorce then everything was not wrong with that. However, I would recommend that you begin to consider and think about seriously the true reasons why you are hesitant to get divorced. You may find after closer examination that you are true justification for not getting a divorce has more to do with things outside of finances and the economy.
What I do not want you to believe after reading today’s blog post is that finances should not be considered at all when it comes to getting a divorce. You need to be clear on what your objectives are for the divorce and how you are going to accomplish those objectives. He usually means hiring an attorney and being prepared for what comes next. The advice, perspective, and support of an experienced family law attorney can make all the difference in this regard.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.