A spouse must weigh the cost of divorce, the question arises, is it worth the price of paying attorneys and dividing up all the assets or should I just stick it out?
Very often a person may come into my office for a consultation to determine, is it “worth” it to get divorced. People may tell me they have been miserable in their marriage for a long time, but have children to consider, among other things. There may be a severe disparity between incomes, especially if one person remained home to care for children and run a household. A lifestyle has been developed, a successful career and healthy income, nice cars, a home in a nice neighborhood with good schools, vacations, the kids have the latest gadgets and the latest fashions.
One of the first issues people bring up is what will their support obligation be, should they go forward with a divorce. I explain the spousal and child support laws and how the math will apply to their case. Some people are very in tune with the “numbers” and pay particular attention to the analysis of spousal support and child support. I get out the support guidelines, and we go through the calculations together based on their financial circumstances.
If a spouse is in the category of making over $200,000 for several years, spousal support could be $36,000 a year for eight to eleven years (20 year marriage), plus child support, which would be a minimum of $45,000 a year, and possibly up to $65,000, until the youngest child turns twenty-one. This is usually when people start to sweat, fidget in their chair and gasp in disbelief.
The child support could change as the kids' age out, but other factors may keep that figure significant. For example, if the oldest child is sixteen, the amount paid could be between $78,000 to $98,000 a year in total support for at least the next five years (until 21). Another consideration is that every three years, the payor's income would be reviewed, and if it goes up by 15 percent or more, so will child support. On top of child support, there will be an obligation to pay for the children's health insurance and uncovered medical bills.
I hate to bring it up, but I have to, college costs for each child. The primary wage earner will bear primary responsibility for all of the children's college costs too. Again, doing the math, that's eighteen years of child support, plus unknown college costs….times the number of children. The annual cost could be $100,000 per year in spousal support, child support and college costs for a long time.
Having watched a person's twisting facial expressions, upon hearing this news many times, I can see the wheels turning, the anger building and expletives forming on their lips.
If we take a $235,000 income, minus payroll deductions, minus $78,000 to $98,000 in support, minus health insurance, etc., this may result in a calculation that the paying spouse finds themselves living on an income they haven't seen since early in their career. The luxury vehicle and expensive clothes start to fade into the distance. People facing these prospects wonder out loud where they will be able to afford to live, and what other comforts will they have to give up…Golf? County club? Favorite restaurants? Designer handbags or shoes?
All of a sudden marriage counseling seems like a really good idea. I think.…I've saved this marriage! Of course, I did nothing of the sort—I just laid it all out in dollars and cents!