I am often asked by a potential client or in conversation with people who know that I am a family law attorney the same question in a variety of different forms that all boil down to "Should I Wait to File for Divorce?" There are several reasons that people may want to wait to file for divorce including how it may effect the children and many other reasons. It is really very much a personal decision and it is hard to say whether someone should wait to file for divorce. This blog provides three negative side effects of staying too long in a broken marriage that people should consider when thinking about divorce.
Three Negative Side Effects of Waiting to File for Divorce.
First, if you are contemplating divorce or your spouse is contemplating divorce, you are already in a troubled relationship that may or may not be repairable. Realistically speaking most people stick in a completely broken relationship far too long hoping that things will change or that therapy will help. The longer one stays in the broken marriage, very simply speaking, the more time passes and the older one gets. This is time spent in misery that you will not be able to get back and should be seriously considered when thinking about divorce. So many people who wait to file for divorce highly regret this wasted time. People will often say they stayed in the marriage because of the kids but unfortunately, staying in a bad relationship and the stress and strain associated with it, can have an even more profound negative impact on children as they are subject to the bickering, emotional stress and instability over a longer period of time.
Second, as long as you are married to someone, any debts that person accumulates will be at least half your responsibility and any money you save or property you accumulate will be half that person's as well. If you are married to someone that is irresponsible when it comes to spending or saving, then the longer you are married, the longer you are exposing yourself to financial liability. When you get divorced, the court will divide the property and debts in an "equitable" manner. This includes all debt regardless of who may have incurred the debt, whose name the debt is in, or even whether the other spouse was aware that this debt was created in many cases. The same is true of property, which means that it does not matter whether one spouse was more responsible for saving retirement funds while the other party did not save money for retirement and even if that spouse incurred the vast majority of the debt. This can often produce results that are perceived as extremely unfair by the allegedly financially more responsible spouse.
Finally, the longer one stays married, the greater the potential for alimony issues. Alimony is called spousal support in Michigan and it is still alive and well. If you earn more money than your spouse, than there is a significant chance that you might be ordered to pay alimony to your spouse. Alimony is based upon fourteen different factors that touch upon such things as age, income, length of the marriage, earning potential, fault, previous standard of living and more. Often the factors that the court looks at the most are the length of the marriage, the ages, the income differential, current employment status and actual earning power or potential. One rule of thumb that many divorce lawyers use in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties to estimate the amount and duration of alimony, is to take one-third of the length of the marriage for the term and one-third of the differential in income for the amount. However, the older the parties and the longer the marriage, the more likely one spouse will get hit with "permanent alimony" which means that spouse paying alimony will have to get the permission of the other spouse or the court to eventually retire and attempt to eliminate the alimony. Even then the court may order continued alimony post-retirement based upon a differential in social security or other post-retirement income.
Many people consider all of the reasons not to get divorced far more than the reasons not to stay in a broken marriage. Unfortunately many people truly regret waiting to file for divorce when faced with the reality of having to take on the other spouse's debt, lose half of the hard-earned savings and pay alimony because they stayed years too long in a broken marriage. The irony is that many times in the end, it is the other spouse that eventually files for divorce and reaps the benefits of the long-term marriage. If you have questions about divorce, separation or child custody issues, please do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation.