Q: My wife and I have been engaged in the divorce process for about eight months. Both sides have hired forensic accountants, and both of us have top notch, expensive legal representation. We’ve been married for 20 years.
The lawyers have explained all the ins and outs to both of us. I have a really good paycheck, as a commission salesman of medical equipment, but do not have a great deal of savings. My wife has not worked in five years, but used to be a working attorney herself, a tax attorney with a Masters in Tax from NYU.
We have a mediation coming up in a couple of weeks. She seems to be focused on keeping our house which, financially, has turned into a white elephant. She will do about anything to stay in the house which is in a break even position. I could care less about the house and think we should walk away from the no-equity nightmare.
On the other hand I want to keep all the money that we have in a brokerage account in my name only and preserve it for sending the girls to college. She wants to divide it, and I know that in three years when the two are going to go to a college in the Ivy League or some other pricey place, her half will be a vague thought and I won’t have enough to help.
My lawyer told me that there was no way for me to preserve the money for college, that it would be split. Her lawyer has told her that there is no way for her to hold onto the house, as it was too big, and too costly. Both of the lawyers said that the judge could not do what each of us wants the most.
A: A judge is not the only one who can decide your case, you can. One major benefit of mediation and settlement is that you and your wife are not as limited as to the solution to your problems as the judge is.
Any solution that the two of you come up with will be all right with the judge as long as you and your wife are not conspiring to do something illegal. In this case there seems to be a reasonable conclusion that gets each of you what you want in the long run. It will take a little sacrifice and hard work for both of you.
She wants to keep the house for herself and the children. Let her. Pay a bit too much a month up front to her so that she can keep the house while she’s re-starting her law career. Within a two or three year time a member of The Bar with a Master in Tax can find a job, even in this economy.
She may come to her senses when the time for her to take over the mortgage payments is approaching, but she may not be able to handle the load by herself.
On the other hand she can, by settlement agreement, give you control over the only marital asset, the brokerage account, with the limited use of that account designated for the twins’ college educations. Hopefully when the undergraduate education has been completed there will be some left over for each of you.