Right now would seem to be a strange time for me to write a blog post on getting a divorce during a recession. As it is commonly defined, a recession is when our national economy experiences two straight quarters of negative growth in gross domestic product. Moving aside from issues of whether or not there are better ways to determine if we are entering into a period of relative economic strength or weakness, we can see that GDP has always been a tried-and-true method of determining the strength of our economy as well as the prospects for us as individuals when it comes to finances. Strong growth in GDP generally translates to job growth, increases in wages, and a higher quality of living.
While we cannot say that we are currently in anything close to over session in terms of our economy, we can make an argument that these economic times for all of us are not what they could have been but for the global pandemic which has been impacting us now for nearly two years. With that in mind, we can determine some relevant financial and economic factors for you to consider as you begin to think about getting a divorce.
I do not mean to tell you that you should not get a divorce if you are struggling financially or if you have money concerns. Some circumstances in life require you to move forward even if money is a top concern of yours. With that said, money concerns are undoubtedly valid during these or any other time. Suppose we can approach the topic of divorce by examining finances in financial considerations. In that case, we will be better equipped to help you reach a consensus about whether or not to move on from marriage and towards a divorce.
What about your income?
Having options is essential in a divorce. When it comes to negotiating your way through a divorce, there are a nearly unlimited number of ways that the divorce can go for you, either good or bad. The key to this discussion is whether any of those options will be tolerable for you. Having opportunities to choose from that favor you is an excellent place to divorce. On the other hand, having only one desirable option for you to choose from in a divorce puts you in a precarious position. Unless you thread the needle just right and arrive at a divorce outcome that suits you perfectly, nothing else will benefit you all that much. Again, this is an undesirable position and not advantageous for you when making decisions that can significantly impact your future.
In my professional and personal life, I have found that having some excess income, or some wiggle room you could call it, is a great place to be in terms of giving you options. Contrary to what many people think, money can not solve all your problems. It can sure feel that way when you are struggling financially, but the reality is that your life depends on many factors other than simply those related to finances. Ask any wealthy person who is also going through a divorce if they would trade that wealth for some stability in their relationships and the happiness of their children. I can almost guarantee that each person would state that they absolutely would make that trade any day of the week.
That doesn’t mean that having some wiggle room financially does not provide a massive benefit to people going through a divorce. The more wiggle room you can have from a financial perspective, the better equipped you can negotiate. Having no financial wiggle room means it is easier for you to become desperate or forced into a corner from and ago she ate Ng perspective. For example, suppose you need to receive spousal maintenance after a divorce. In that case, you are much more likely to agree to undesirable outcomes elsewhere in your divorce to secure this money. After all: what good is extra time with your children or a retirement spent eating dog food when you are negotiating through a divorce. Having financial concerns and a divorce certainly is not unique to your case, but the circumstances you are dealing with are. This leads me to the first point I would make regarding finances and divorce.
If you are not working currently, then this is a heavy consideration that you will need to make to plan adequately for a divorce—having an income of your means not having to rely as heavily on your spouse for the resources necessary to get by daily. That’s not to say that just getting a job will set you up financially after a divorce. However, having an income of some sort provides you with an assurance that you can have a place to live in food to eat. At that stage, everything else is negotiable. You can always work with your spouse and try and negotiate a period of contractual alimony after the divorce ends. This money does not have to be your sole means of survival, but it can Be a leg up for you while you adjust to life as a single person.
One interesting observation that I will make at this time would be that if you are not working, now is a great time to enter or re-enter the workforce. The reality is that many areas of the economy, such as the service sector, desperately need workers. These might not be the jobs that you wanted to work as a child, but they will pay your bills and put you in a position to grow within the company or organization that you are working in. I’ve heard from many people how these days if you begin working with the company and show that you can work hard and be diligent about your job, you will quickly rise for no other reason than the business has no other options. When other people choose not to work, you can take advantage of the job market. Do not be surprised if your job at the bottom end of the totem pole at your work begins to shift, and you find yourself in a position where you are rising and being promoted rather quickly. However, the first step you must take is towards these opportunities and simply getting your foot in the door. A good attitude, a fresh resume, and a smile on your face is excellent place to start.
The other financial reality that you will run into is that a family court judge will expect you to begin looking for work during your divorce, even if you will be awarded temporary spousal support or even contractual alimony. Some judges will even condition quick spousal support on your beginning to look for work. This means filling out applications and going on interviews. It’s not as if a family court judge can guarantee you the ability to land a new job, but, in this economy, if you put forth some effort to find work, the odds are good that you will be able to land something reasonably quickly.
The other consideration you need to make is that you may not even be eligible for spousal maintenance depending upon the length of your marriage. The general rule in Texas is that unless you were married for longer than ten years, you could not be paid spousal maintenance after a divorce trial. The exception to this rule is if you have had family violence be present in the home shortly before or during your divorce. However, absent these kinds of circumstances, there is little doubt that you will need to find work whether ordered by the judge or not. It is not a good plan to rely on child support and spousal maintenance or contractual alimony for an extended period. I believe you will find that emergencies come up for all of us, and it is tough to save money when you are relying upon these two sources of income.
This is probably the first place I would look to when determining whether you are in an excellent position to get divorced from a financial perspective. Having a job means having some degree of Peace of Mind and the ability to have options for your life both now and in the future. Whether it means paying for an attorney, extra childcare to compensate for you working more hours, or hiring an attorney to represent you in the divorce, you will have short-term money needs that need to be fulfilled. Rather than taking out loans or putting everything on credit cards, relying upon your foreign job income is a much wiser way to prepare for a divorce.
Are you planning on moving?
A subject that is very much related to the last topic in today’s blog post and this upcoming one is where you plan to live over the next few years? One of the reasons why there are so many available jobs right now is because so many people have been quitting work to either switch careers, go back to school, or generally leave the workforce. This has resulted in many open jobs, but it has also resulted in many people who do not know where they will be living over the next few years. The great resignation as it’s become known has also led to a crazy past 18 months as far as real estate is concerned. Any of you who have bought or sold a home during this time can attest to that.
What does this mean for you as you are planning on a divorce? The first consideration would be the need to think through where you will be living soon. If you have recently left a job and will be moving to a new city or state, you should plan your divorce accordingly. You will not want to file for divorce in Harris County if you move to a new area, across the state or the country. Instead, you would need to establish residency in a new place to file for divorce. Let’s walk through what it takes to become a resident of Harris County, at least for a divorce.
Establishing residency in Harris County for divorce means that you must first be a resident of the state of Texas for the past six months before the filing of your divorce. Anyone reading this blog post to his recently moved to the Houston area to start fresh in Texas needs to know that you have to wait to file for divorce. Not only must you have been a resident of Texas for the past six months, but you also must have resided in Harris County or your preferred county of filing for the past 90 days before the divorce. Proof of residency can be done with a utility bill or something similar. The bottom line is that you cannot immediately move somewhere and then file for divorce. I believe that the residency requirements for divorce are the same in Texas and widely similar across the country. He will either need to wait till he files for divorce or wait to move.
If you have recently moved to Texas, then one of the most critical factors for you to consider is the laws in Texas and how they may differ from what you are used to in your home state. Probably the most significant difference between Texas and most other states in our country is the laws regarding marital property. Texas is a community property state. I do not want to turn this into a blog on Community property. Still, the reality is that how Texas treats marital property is likely significantly different from how your home state treats property. This has significant consequences for you and your family in the short and long term.
For example, suppose you believe that you would keep most of the money in your checking or savings account because that money came from your work activity. In that case, you may be surprised to learn that Texas is a community property state and that income could potentially be split directly down the middle. If you just moved to Texas, then it’s possible that a Texas divorce court would choose to utilize the marital property laws of the state from which you moved. However, if you have lived here for several years, then it is likely that the rules of Texas would apply to your divorce. Having to divide community income this way could alter your mindset when planning for a divorce. Money that you thought would be kept by you may end up going to your spouse. This could change how you negotiate and whether you even want to get a divorce at this time.
Final thoughts on divorcing in uncertain economic times
As a young parent, I have had people ask me how my wife and I knew it was the right time to begin having kids. These folks will invariably point out factors like the pandemic, uncertain job circumstances and a list of other concerns that could lead you towards believing now is not the right time to have kids. When I hear things like this, I will usually smile and counter that every generation has significant concerns on any number of subjects. There are always uncertain economic times. Every person usually has some. Where they have concerns over their health and well-being. The stock market goes up, and then it goes down.
If you are waiting for the perfect time to get divorced, my response would be that there is no ideal time to do anything. If you are hesitant to get a divorce, everything is not wrong. However, I would recommend that you consider the valid reasons you are reluctant to get divorced. You may find after closer examination that you are proper justification for not getting a divorce has more to do with things outside of finances and the economy.
AFTER READING TODAY’S blog post, I do not want you to believe that finances should not be considered at all when it comes to getting a divorce. It would be best if you were clear on your objectives for the divorce and how you are going to accomplish those objectives. He usually means hiring an attorney and being prepared for what comes next. The advice, perspective, and support of an experienced family law attorney can make all the difference in this regard.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.