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Where Is the Equitable in Equitable Distribution? Part 2

Rachel Alexander April 3, 2013

In Part 1, we looked at the legal treatment of marriage as an unemotional financial partnership. This is intrinsically problematic for those facing divorce, as divorce is inherently emotional. When clients are seeking to have emotional equity manifest in their financial settlement, they will likely be frustrated and disappointed.

In the marital partnership, each party typically contributed in various ways, with the idea that they were investing in a particular future together. When the prospect of that future is removed, previous investments, choices, and sacrifices may suddenly seem foolish.

  • Foregoing a career-building position in order to remain home, raise children and support a spouse’s career looks one way when you are planning to share the financial benefits you encouraged your spouse to obtain. Faced with supporting yourself after ten years out of the work place, with no prior intention of returning, and without the benefit of the security you thought you were building – is a different thing altogether.

  • Working two jobs so your wife can remain home and raise your children so you can collectively benefit from the increased income while creating a homelife you relish looks one way when you are planning to raise the children into young adulthood together, sharing the fruits of your collective labor. It looks quite different when you are faced with living apart from your family, being required to work and produce the same level of income you previously did, and being responsible for supporting a spouse who didn’t work because of the original bargain you struck when planning the future that is now being abandoned.

There are so many levels of unfairness intrinsic in dismantling a marriage. Essentially, the decision to divorce invites a reevaluation of earlier choices with a tendency towards regret.

  • “I certainly wouldn’t have supported you if I thought I’d end up being required to pay you alimony.”

  • “I never would have stopped working at the height of my career if I thought I’d be solely responsible for my financial needs again at age 48, after decades out of the work force.”

We depend on one another and make choices accordingly, and then find what we depended upon has changed. This is true in all areas of life, not only in divorce. We are dynamic beings in an inconsistent world and much is beyond our control. We make the best decisions we are equipped to make in the specific moment, with limited knowledge and foresight. The future is unknown and uncertain for us all. Moving forward, we may begin making choices that are both loving and self protective.

How would considering your well being and security affect your current decision making style?