As a family law practitioner one of the most common explanations, given by new clients, as to why they have remained in an unhealthy and often times oppressive marriage is the feeling of being financially trapped due to the unknown financial consequences if they leave the marriage . This is typically due to either one parties’ almost exclusive reliance upon the income of his or her spouse to provide for the family’s financial needs; or that the financial circumstances of the parties lead a client to believe that a divorce or legal separation will only cause more financial hardship. In those circumstances, client’s may elect to stay in the relationship in hopes that by doing so they can address their financial problems prior to addressing their marital problems.
In today’s blog we take a broad look at the potential financial impact of divorce and some specific tools which are available to address both the short- term and long- term needs of a client.
In the short term, it is a likely reality that the process involved in a divorce and the separation of living expenses will increase the financial burden of a client and the family as a whole. There is a common sense explanation for this as well as a logistical explanation. Logically, in the short-term, the same amount of money used to maintain one residence does not go as far when there are two residences to maintain. Further due to statutory time standards, including the responding spouse having thirty (30) days until he or she is required to respond to the court after being served with the original Petition, there can be an unwanted delay in acquiring temporary financial relief after the beginning of the divorce process.
A Missouri divorce attorney can seek financial assistance for his client, while the divorce process is pending, through the use of a Motion Pendente Lite (PDL) and in certain circumstances though the use of tools such as a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, when appropriate. A thorough PDL order will assign financial responsibility for the payment of specific debts, ongoing bills and will provide for financial support from one spouse to the other or for the benefit of any minor children. In those circumstances where one spouse’s income is largely or exclusively relied upon to support the family, the use of a PDL order and other tools available through your family court may help address the short-term financial fears of the reliant spouse and stabilize the financial picture.
However, while the short-term concerns are real and often at the forefront of a client’s mind when first considering a divorce or legal separation, the choice to file for divorce or a legal separation should largely be viewed in the context of what the long-term financial picture is and how to develop the best strategy to address a client’s long-term financial goals and hurdles.
In order to develop a strategy it is critical that all specific information regarding a family’s financial picture be detailed and available to each side so that knowledgeable decisions may be made. Included in this evaluation should be the long-term earning capacity of each spouse and potential for term or modifiable maintenance. Your Missouri family law attorney can help you acquire this information.
Once this information is available, clients should consider consulting with a financial advisor who may be willing to work in conjunction with your family law attorney in developing a financial strategy for the long-term. In cases where there is a significant amount of debt, tools available to refinance, consolidate or discharge the debt should be evaluated to potentially lessen the financial burden.
In circumstances where one spouse is attempting to address the family’s financial problems, while the ongoing conduct of the other spouse is directly contributing to an increase of those same problems, clients should consult with their attorney about what the long-term financial implications are of remaining in the same set of circumstances and what tools are available, through the family court, to attempt to minimize the impact of the other spouse’s conduct.
If you are considering filing for divorce or legal separation please contact our office today for a free consultation to discuss your specific situation.