Saturday, August 1, 2009

When is the Best Time to File?


Some people say, "It's all in the timing." (Others may say that it's all in the location -- but that's really a different topic!) Timing can make a huge difference in a lot of things in life. One of the most obvious is in financial matters. Investing or selling at the right time can put you in a solid financial position. For example, if I had bought American Airlines stock a few years ago when it was under a $1.00 a share because there was a very real possibility of filing for bankruptcy, and I kept it, even now there would be a nice profit. Likewise, getting out of the market at the right time can ensure a much better position compared to the person who held on to the stock just a day too long.

Apparently, some people have brought the timing issue into the divorce arena. According to the Miami Herald, some attorneys are advising their male clients to file for divorce now while their net worth is low. The idea is that they will have to give their wife less assets now than they would otherwise if the market were up. I understand the logic in that, but I still have some problems with that thinking.

1. The proportions are the same, even if the amounts are different. While it is true that the total amount paid to the spouse in settlement may be less than it would be if the economy were better, the property division should still be in a very similar proportion between the parties as it would be in better economic times. Is a $600,000 -- $400,000 split really a lot better than a $900,000 -- $600,000 since they are both 60-40 splits? Both parties would end up with less than they might in a better economy.

2. It is usually pretty easy to stall and delay in a divorce. The courts are often backed up, which means it will probably take a long time to get to court unless there's an agreement. Faced with a long wait to get to court, many of the wealthier spouses will sweeten the pot to get an earlier deal done. Or, the delay may be long enough for the economy to start to recover.

3. Other financial circumstances could also change that would affect the property division. If one or both parties lose their jobs, or if a company goes broke, that could completely change the situation. If one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent and now has to look for a job, but the economy is failing, that may create the need for lengthy spousal support (alimony).

4. Sometimes, it is the wife who has the more significant investments. She might make the same assumptions and conclusions, and then her husband could be the one losing out.

The bottom line: My suggestion is that if someone wants or needs to be divorced, they shouldn't wait around for the stock market to hit bottom or to reach the top, and they shouldn't rush into a divorce just to save on the pay out. The finances are always an issue, but other personal issues should be primary. Don't let the property division dominate your thinking to the point that you ignore or downplay the other personal issues in the marriage.

Thanks to Tim Evans of the Hattiesburg Divorce Lawyer blog who had a recent post about this topic which had the reference to the Miami Herald article (I don't normally keep up with Miami news). Tim's blog is well worth regular reading.

1 comment:

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