Is Divorce Worth the Cost?

Dear Robin:

I found your blog after hearing you on the air in Palm Springs. I notice you have a passion for alimony reform and assume you pay alimony. I retired almost a year ago and my wife and I split our time between the Northwest and the desert.

I am miserable in my marriage. I will spare you the details but I haven’t been happy for a long time. I don’t think she is happy either but I also don’t think she cares.

She spends most of her time with her friends shopping and playing tennis and going on walks.  She barely even speaks to me and won’t go to counseling but then again, I don’t think it’s worth the time.

We grew apart before our last child left home but I don’t think I truly understood how unhappy I was until I retired and had no office to escape to every morning. My investments took a large loss over the past few years but have just started to come back in the past year. After everything I have read I am deeply concerned that divorce will ruin me financially.

What can I do to lessen the financial impact if I choose to end my marriage? You pay alimony: is it worth it?

Frank

Dear Frank:

Let me first clear up your impression that I pay alimony.

I do not.

My ex-husband and I both worked and earned roughly the same amount during the marriage so alimony wasn’t an issue for us.

Even if either of us had earned ten times more than the other (as I will when I take over the world!), alimony wouldn’t have been on the table because neither of us are whiny, dependent, lazy assholes seeking to live off the work of a former spouse.  

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I became involved in the reform movement after seeing how devastating this issue can be for the men and women who are forced to support former partners indefinitely even when the former spouse makes no effort to support themselves and even when economic changes make such support impossible.

Permanent alimony obligations (also known in almost every case as “indefinite” and if your lawyer tells you that’s not true fire them immediately) aren’t simply financially devastating to payers.  They also wreak havoc on post-divorce relationships.

I conducted a highly scientific poll* recently and discovered that 100% of people who describe their divorce as “amicable” (as my ex and I do) do not pay or receive long-term or permanent alimony.  If you have kids, regardless of age, maintaining a good or at least decent relationship post-divorce is a gift you owe your children.  

More on that in my book, Divorce by Design: How to Split without Losing Your Mind, Your Money, or Your Kids, coming soon to a bookstore near you!

I’m going to be frank with you Frank: you’ve got a permanent alimony game in front of you and you are partly to blame. 

Frank: You’re Fucked and Here’s Why:

  • Your wife hasn’t worked since your first child was born 27 years ago and though this angered you, you never really spoke to her about restarting her successful sales career. Dumb ass!  Men out there reading this in a similar situation: make yourself understood on this issue.  If you don’t, you will pay mightily should your marriage end.
  • Your 2 children are both through college already and your home is paid for in full and worth approximately $700,000.
  • You retired early at the age of 57 and in your last position you made over $250,000 per year.
  • You have almost $2,000,000 in investment accounts.

Ah, the joy of first world problems!

Please remember I AM NOT GIVING YOU LEGAL ADVICE!  Be sure to click here on my legal disclaimer in which I assure you I am not acting as your lawyer, paralegal, therapist or acupuncturist: I Ain’t Yer Lawyer.

Failure to click that link does not create an attorney-client relationship, but does indicate an unwillingness to do as I ask of you.  I don’t like that.

Frank’s Questions for Robin and Robin’s Answers

What can I do to lessen the financial impact if I choose to end my marriage?

My answer is very simple:

Frank, you must do your absolute best to keep things amicable and to avoid the generation of massive legal fees. How? If you choose to end the marriage do so with professional help from a marriage therapist and in a transparent and open manner.

Don’t start fucking around and don’t try to hide money – that’s just stupid and will piss off your wife when you get caught. A pissed-off wife spends a lot of time bitching to her lawyer and trying to find the best ways to put the screws to your financial nut sack.

Reason with your wife in the presence of a marriage counselor and tell her:

“Clearly this marriage is dead. I want us both to find happiness and I want us to retain as much of our money as possible. Please don’t fight with me and give all our money to the attorneys. Let’s hire a mediator and an accountant to see if we can settle this thing on our own.”

Is divorce worth the cost?

That depends on how much you value “happiness” versus the contents of your “thing” collection.

Happiness v. Things

We all have a “thing” collection: houses, investments, cars, clothes, jewelry, dogs, pots and pans, and even friends. These things we risk losing in a divorce, not to mention our dignity, pride, and sense of place in the world.

“Happiness” is a more vague concept, right?

We can’t put it in the bank or drive it, nor can we wear it around our neck or use it to pay for a vacation. I know many people who are happy to be unhappy and remain in marriages that so clearly stopped working years ago despite efforts to fix the problems.

Some stay for the children, whether grown or adult, but most stay because change is scary.  The fear of financial ruin and social isolation is too much to handle. These are the people who will sublimate their own happiness because they value their things over their soul.

I don’t know you, Frank, but you sounded like a really nice guy on the phone and I could hear the desperation in your voice. You haven’t felt loved (or been fucked, to put it bluntly) in years and as your 60th birthday approaches you are yearning for a better life and a true partner to share what time remains.

Compared to 99% of the world you have a shitload of money, even once it is cut in half via property division and then cut in half again and again and again for alimony. I don’t know one single person who pays alimony that doesn’t resent the hell out of it, but I also don’t know any payers who would go back to the unhappy marriage and the healthy bank account that came with it.

How to Decide on Divorce

Frank, ask yourself this simple question:

If you could see into the future and know you only had one year left to live, would you spend it with your wife?

If the answer is no, get on with the divorce and find yourself someone to love and who will love you back, not treat you like a roommate and ATM machine.

We get one chance, Frank: one spin around this crazy planet until a bus or disease or old age or lightening strikes us down and makes us garden mulch for Mother Earth.

I urge you to define what value happiness holds in your life.  If it exceeds how much you care about money and things, go seek it. It’s out there – trust me on this.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on mak
ing it complicated.”
Confucius

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*not really

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Keith Stone

    Yes… once again Robin is correct.

    This is your nutsack-> (_)(_) … this is your nutsack on alimony-> __

    Any questions?…sorry Frank.

    KS

  2. Kathy

    Frank, Please follow Robin’s excellent advice. I paid dearly in my divorce. Worth. Every. Penny. I wasn’t poor afterwards, and I am doing just fine now. You will not be financially ruined by the divorce. Get away from her and live, more happily.

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