"What am I entitled to in a divorce?" is a question that almost everyone going through a divorce asks.
And it’s not easy to answer.
That’s because each situation is as different as the marriage that’s dissolving.
Not only that, there’s usually a big difference between what's being proposed and what is fair – even when the numbers on paper look like a 50-50 split.
So how do you know if you’re getting what you're entitled to in a divorce? And how can you be sure you're not giving up something you should be getting in your divorce settlement?
This post is all about who gets what in a divorce.
Who Gets What in a Divorce?
In divorce, there are three financial topics the parties (you and your spouse) will need to discuss and resolve:
Alimony (also known in some states as Spousal Support, Maintenance or Spousal Maintenance);
The Division of Marital Assets and Liabilities (also known as community property or equitable distribution of marital property and debts depending on the state)
Because all three of these financial topics have very little in the way of formulas or guidelines by which to resolve them, answering the question, "What am I entitled to in a divorce settlement?" becomes very difficult to answer.
Let's explore each topic in more detail and shed some light on the best way to figure out who gets what in a divorce, how to get a good divorce settlement, and the best way to help you come to an agreement that gets you and your children what you want, need and deserve.
When it Comes to Child Support, Who Gets What in Divorce?
If you have kids, their well-being is no doubt your number one priority.
So making sure your children have enough child support to avoid becoming economic victims of divorce is critical.
But coming to agreement on child support can be very challenging for a number of reasons.
First, in most states, while child support does have a guideline, it typically represents only the minimum amount required by the courts.
So while you can easily find a free calculator online and attempt to determine child support on your own, how do you know your children aren't entitled to more?
Especially if that minimum calculated isn't enough to realistically care for them?
Second, the methodology used to determine child support varies from state-to-state.
There are 3 models currently in use here in the US:
The income shares model;
The percentage-of-obligor income guidelines model;
The Melson formula.
How can you be sure which model is used in your state?
How will you know what factors are used in calculating child support?
How will you know if you can use a model from another state which might result in a better child support award for your children?
All good questions...
Finally, it's important to understand there are additional extraordinary expenses related to raising children that are simply not included in the child support guidelines.
Some of these items include, but are not limited to:
Back-to-School Clothes Shopping.
So now that you’re seeking a dissolution of marriage, who will pay for these expenses?
Despite the availability of the free online child support calculators you can find on the Internet, you can now see that coming to an agreement on child support can be tricky business.
Working with an expert divorce mediator well-versed in the intricacies of how child support works in your state is the best way to get a good divorce settlement for your kids and make sure your children get what they're entitled to.
How Much is a Wife Entitled to in a Divorce When it Comes to Alimony? (or Husband)
Whether you call it alimony, spousal support, maintenance or spousal maintenance, this is where the question, "If I divorce, what am I entitled to?" gets very murky.
What happens if your husband or wife thinks you're entitled to nothing? Or much less than you're willing to settle for?
And neither of you is willing to budge?
Discussions around determining alimony create the largest number of disagreements between divorcing couples.
Because in nearly 90% of the states in the US, there is no formula to calculate alimony - no matter what you read on the Internet.
So how do you know what you're entitled to when your marriage ends?
Despite the lack of formulas to calculate it, there is one guiding philosophy most practitioners subscribe to when discussing this sensitive topic. And that is you and your husband or wife are entitled to live in a manner roughlyequivalent to each other after you are divorced for some period of time.
No alimony agreement should have one of you living in the lap of luxury while the other lives in a cardboard box.
The best way to get what you're entitled to when it comes to alimony is to work with a divorce mediator with a financial acumen.
An experienced mediator can help you figure out what you're spending now and what it takes to live post-divorce.
They will then work with you to create a proposal based on the realities of your unique financial situation which you will use as the basis of your alimony discussions with your husband or wife.
It's much easier to get a good divorce settlement and what you're entitled to in divorce when you can explain to your spouse what you want and back it up with proof that you need it.
And an experienced mediator can help you do just that.
Who Gets What in a Divorce Settlement When it Comes to Property Division?
As with alimony, in most states, there is very little in the way of guidance when it comes to dividing marital assets and liabilities in a divorce process.
And figuring out who gets what in a divorce case.
In fact, 41 states (including Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, among others) are guided by the principle of equitable distribution which empowers the parties to come to agreements they think are fair.
But not necessarily equal.
You may be asking, "How do I know if I'm getting what I'm entitled to especially if I get less than 50%?" and "How exactly do you define fair?"
And guess what?
Even if you live in one of the 9 community property states (including California and Washington, among others) you can still decide who gets what if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse want!
In addition to the actual share of your marital assets and liabilities, you need to know what things you should actually be talking about.
Things such as:
What impact will an asset have on your cash flow and/or tax liability?
Which of your assets are liquid and which ones are illiquid?
How do you properly value a pension and what is a coverture fraction?
What are QDRO’s and how can you transfer penalty and tax-free retirement assets if you're not yet 59 1/2?
What is a Quitclaim Deed and how does the transfer of real property work in a divorce?
Are stocks, bonds and options subject to division in a divorce? And how do cost basis and the concept of in-kind division come into play?
The division of assets and liabilities in a divorce is an extremely complex affair, especially if you don't know what you're doing.
In addition to explaining all of the issues listed above (and more) your mediator can help you understand what's in and what's out so that any assets you're entitled to a share of are on the table for discussion.
Mediating your divorce and working with a mediator experienced in the financial complexities of divorce is how you get a good divorce settlement and ensure you get what you're entitled to in your divorce decree.
The Best Way to Get What You're Entitled to in a Divorce is to Negotiate!
To figure out who gets what in a divorce and answer the question what am I entitled to in a divorce, it's critical to negotiate your uncontested divorce, preferably using mediation.
Mediation allows you and your spouse to divorce without lawyers and negotiate and come to agreement on the issues that are important to the two of you.
Discussing as adults what each of you want, need and deserve.
And getting what you're entitled to. Instead of taking your chances by involving attorneys and engaging in long, expensive, stressful divorce proceedings.
Or being at the mercy of a family law judge dictated settlement by court order where neither you nor your husband are happy with the result or finds to be fair.
Don't Let Your Divorce Become a Disaster!
Mediate with us instead.
If you and your spouse live in New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Washington State, or Michigan, learn more about the benefits of working with us.
Then, when you are ready to start the divorce process, take the next step and book an initial meeting for the two of you!
Joe Dillon, MBA is a professional divorce mediator and founder of Equitable Mediation Services. Joe is passionate about helping couples avoid the destruction of attorney-driven litigation and specializes in helping couples resolve the issues required for divorce -peacefully, fairly and cost-effectively. When he’s not mediating, you can find him exercising, cooking, and watching Cubs baseball.