The demands on mothers following a divorce can be significant. Historically, fathers come out of a divorce more financially secure while mothers will take a serious financial hit. The average mother’s income—or in fact, any woman regardless of whether she is a mother—falls by an average of 26% following a divorce. A mother’s financial position will rarely reach the level it was prior to the split, with divorced mothers showing a poverty rate of 27%–three times that of their former husbands.
Spousal support has little effect on these numbers, as less than a third of divorced mothers receive any level of alimony from the father of their children, and a significant number have difficulty even collecting court-ordered child support. Further, an unfair financial settlement on the part of a mother who is trying to juggle motherhood and a job can lead to resentment and anger. The attorneys of The Law Place understand the special issues mothers face during a divorce. We are committed to protecting your rights and fighting aggressively for an equitable share of your marital assets.
Hiding Assets During the Divorce
Some 31% of spouses admit to hiding assets during the divorce and the vast majority of those are men (about 85%, according to the latest research). When assets are being hidden, you may not receive the equitable divorce settlement you are entitled to. Although hiding assets is not only unethical, it’s illegal, this does not prevent many husbands from squirreling away assets in order to prevent their wife from taking her fair share. Today’s couples may have more complex financial portfolios including the marital home, retirement funds, stock options, life insurance with a cash value, multiple bank accounts, a professional practice or business, and even rental and vacation properties.
While most of us believe we would know if our spouse was being deceitful about assets, the truth is, the person in the relationship with the lesser earning capacity is usually less involved in taking care of the money. This means the husband may be paying bills, taxes, mortgage payments and credit card bills as well as checking bank statements and stock reports, leaving the wife with less than a comprehensive picture of what the couple’s assets and liabilities truly are.
If you feel in your gut that your husband is hiding assets—he probably is. Your divorce attorney can recommend a good forensic accountant or financial investigator who can determine just where the assets are so they may be divided fairly. The cost of such a professional is well worth it in the end, and your attorney can ask the court to require your husband to reimburse you for the expense—if the judge finds out that your husband is, in fact, hiding assets, his or her annoyance over such duplicity may also work to your advantage. Some of the more common ways your husband may be hiding assets includes:
• Hiding cash in a safe deposit box or giving it to friends or family members to “hold” until after the divorce.
• Underreporting income on financial statements.
• Overpaying the IRS, then submitting a corrected return following the divorce in order to obtain a tax refund.
• The creation of a dummy corporation used to transfer assets into.
• The creation of “fake” debt by “borrowing” money from family members or friends and making payments on that debt prior to the divorce to dissipate assets.
• Undervaluing vacation homes, rentals, vehicles, etc. in order to have fewer assets to split.
• Putting a hold on a raise, commission or bonus in order to defer the money until after the divorce is finalized.
Particularly if you are the lesser-earning spouse, you must take steps to protect yourself and your children during your divorce. Ensure you have copies of every single financial record related to a marital asset. This includes credit card receipts, tax returns, bank statements, pension and retirement statements, real estate documents, titles to property or automobiles, business financial reports and any other financial documents available. If you can, do this well before the divorce is in full swing. If these documents are unavailable to you, the judge can require your husband to produce them. Keep a list of all antiques, jewelry, artwork and other expensive items owned by you and your husband jointly, and most of all, don’t simply assume that your husband will be fair and will voluntarily hand over your half of the assets.
Depending on the financial circumstances of you and your husband, the court may award you some type of spousal support, whether permanent, rehabilitative, bridge-the-gap, temporary, lump sum or durational. Marital fault may be considered in the award of spousal support, particularly if your husband was having an extramarital affair. Other factors considered by the court will include the standard of living established during the marriage, the length of the marriage, the age and health of you and your husband, the financial resources of each of you, the time it may take for you to acquire sufficient education or training to enable you to secure a better job, the contribution of both spouses during the marriage (including homemaking and child care), all sources of income available to both parties and any other factors the judge considers necessary to create an equitable award of spousal support.
Child Custody and Child Support
A mother’s rights are especially important during custody and child support actions. While Florida courts favor shared parental responsibilities—at least when both parents are responsible, caring adults and want to be involved in their children’s lives—conflict and emotions can still play a large part in child custody decisions. Particularly when your husband disregards court orders or goes out of his way to obstruct your legal rights as a mother, child custody issues can get heated. As much as possible, it’s important that you clearly relay to your attorney what type of custody you believe is in the best interests of your children and why.
If there has ever been any type of domestic abuse in the marriage, make sure your attorney is aware of this as it could have bearing on the custody arrangement. An unmarried mother in Florida is designated as the natural custodian of her minor child with sole legal rights over the child until paternity is established. You have the right to establish paternity and require that the father pay child support, and the father then has the right to seek shared parental responsibilities. Florida adheres to child support guidelines, however the calculations are based on both parents truthfully reporting all sources of income. If you know your husband has lied on his financial disclosure, the attorneys at The Law Place can take special care to remedy this. Our attorneys understand the importance of protecting and maintaining a strong mother-child relationship. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights as a mother while helping you resolve issues you are facing during your divorce.