Will a Divorce Break Me Financially? PLUS: BONUS! Update from Frank!

Dear Robin:

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 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, playing tennis, having lunch etc. 

We grew apart years 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?  

I know I’ll take a huge hit financially: is it worth it?


(Frank wrote me some time ago and followed up with me last night so be sure to read to the end!  Also, numbers have been updated to reflect Frank’s upward mobility.)

Dear Frank:


Let’s Talk Alimony, a.k.a. “All the Money.”

I hoped when I first read your letter you hailed from the great state of Washington: a community property state in which alimony is used more for transitional purposes than to reward people for marrying well and never getting a job.

Just yesterday a friend of mine was successful in defending her client against an alimony claim by a man who was gainfully employed but whose wife made more money.  The judge said this:

Maintenance in Washington is more transitional. Unlike our friends in neighboring states we don’t reward you just because you were married to someone who makes more money then you.

Instead I found out you live in Oregon: a state that hands out “indefinite” (permanent)* alimony like candy and where men and women are forced to support former partners indefinitely even when the former spouse makes no effort to earn a living and even when economic changes make such support impossible.  

Bummer for you.  Have you consider moving to Vantucky?**

By the way, to my gay friends celebrating last week’s SCOTUS ruling: please stop by your local Divorce Industrial Complex office and pick up a prenup before you get that marriage license.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

  • You told me your wife hasn’t worked since your first child was born and though this bothered you, you never spoke to her about re-starting her successful sales career. Smart move, Frank.
  • Your 2 children are both through college already and your NW home is paid for in full and worth approximately $700,000 $950,000.  Your Palm Desert home is also paid in full and worth approximately $500,000 $750,000.
  • 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 over $2.2 million in investment accounts.

Frank, before proceeding further please click here: Disclaimer disclaiming your right to try to get money from me I don’t have for giving you free NOT LEGAL advice that’s worth every penny.

Now let’s answer your questions.

Robin Answers Frank’s Questions While NOT Giving Him Legal Advice

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

My answer is very simple but requires your wife’s cooperation: you must do your absolute best to keep things amicable and to avoid the generation of massive legal fees.  But how?

If you choose to end the marriage do so with professional help from a therapist and in a transparent and open manner. Explain you don’t want to fight and give all the money to attorneys rather than to each other.

Have her give me a call so I can give her the rundown on just how much money she can squander over her hurt feelings and indignation – money that would be better left in her bank account.  Those tennis racquets aren’t going to buy themselves!

2.  Is divorce worth the cost?

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

We all have a “thing” collection: houses, investments, cars, clothes, jewelry, dogs, pots and pans, and even friends. These are some of the things we risk losing in a divorce, to say nothing of our self-respect 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. Many people are happy to be unhappy and remain in marriages that clearly stopped working years ago despite efforts to fix the problems.

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

Live Your Life; Don’t Let Your Life Live You

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 had sex) in years and as your 60th birthday approaches you are yearning for a more meaningful life and a true partner to share what time remains.

Compared to 99.9% of the world you are a very wealthy man, even once it is cut in half via property division and then cut in half again and again and again for alimony.

While all the alimony payers I know resent the hell out of paying adult child support, I don’t know one who would go back to the unhappy marriage and the comparatively healthy bank account that came with it.

Ask yourself this 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.

Figure out what value you place on happiness and if the value of your happiness exceeds how much you care about money and things, go seek it. It’s out there – trust me on this.


Readers, I love it when this happens.  Love, love, love!  Frank called me yesterday and told me the following:

  • He and his wife had a very serious talk the day after this blog was published.  She admitted she was as unhappy as he.
  • They went to a therapist and agreed the marriage was past saving but the friendship was probably still there, not to mention a deep love for their kids.
  • The wife sought counsel from a lawyer who did not agree with the couple’s goal to divorce with as little blood as possible.  She specifically stated, “Come back to me when you hate his guts.”  Remember kids: bloody divorces make lawyers very wealthy.  You?  You just get bloody.  And broke.
  • They hired a mediator and a collaborative lawyer and their divorce negotiations took only a few weeks.
  • Frank wisely paid more out of his share of the marital estate and avoided alimony.  His wifely wisely took more than her share and avoided alimony.
  • They still share the Palm Desert home!  Sometimes they even go together with their kids.  Guess who gets to use it for free now? 🙂
  • They are both in a relationship and happy.
  • Their oldest child is now married and expecting their first grandchild.

This is why I am writing the book, How to Get Divorced without Losing Your Mind, Your Money and Your Kids.  People, this CAN be done.  

And Frank?  Congratulations!  Not just to you, but your wife too.  Bravo!


*That “modification” process your lawyer promised was there for you when he or she talked you into settling for a huge alimony monthly payment?  It’s FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair) and worthless.

**Vantucky = Vancouver, Washington. Local joke.  Apologies to Mayor Tim Leavitt and my friends who live there.

READERS: Sharing is Caring!  Please share on your social media sites.  Thank you!


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. tamsen

    Yay! Good job all around.

  2. LuLu

    Really, Robin – you rock!!

  3. David Bergman

    Excellent advice, as usual. Spot on!

Comments are closed.