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Alternative to Divorce?
Old 01-09-2008, 03:05 PM   #1
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Alternative to Divorce?

Hello board. I am a long time follower of these boards and a first time poster. I know that a number of ER’s on this board have gone through a divorce in their lives and from what I have read on here, it can be devastating to a portfolio and ER. So I wanted to present an idea I had to the group. The details are a little personal, but I think are necessary in order to get valid opinions from those who choose to respond.

I am a male, 39 years old who has worked full time since college. I have a wife several years younger. I married her relatively young after we were done with college and she worked for a few years after school until we had children. All seemed to be going well. Several years ago, the children started school full time. My wife wanted to be able to have some time to herself when they started school and took the first year they were gone for exercising, shopping and just being herself again instead of being full time Mommy. I fully supported her at that time.

It has been a couple of years since that time and we have talked at length about her returning to work but she simply refuses to get a job, stating that ‘she likes not working’. She is a credentialed professional, capable of making at least $80k annually if she went back to work now and more if she is able to excel (which she did when she was working right out of college). But instead she simply stays home most of the day and shuttles the kids around if they have a practice or something. I feel like she is kind of withering away, but she does seem very happy not working. I have worked many long hours in a rather grueling job trying to save as much as I can along the way. I am at least five years away from even thinking about retiring, even though we save about 70% of my income.

Here is the dilemma. I love my wife, but I cannot bear the thought of me continuing to bring home hundreds of dollars each day while she stays home choosing not to work. I believe that a marriage should have generally equal contributions. I feel it was equal when she had our young children there, but since they started school they are gone most of the day. I no longer feel that the burden of life’s responsibilities are equal and I am at my wits end. These feelings are made even stronger by divorce laws in my state, which I learned about from a close friend who recently was served divorce papers. The law says that anyone can file for a divorce without any cause whatsoever and typically half of the assets go to each spouse. Child support is even more damaging because they base it on percentages of income (mine being 100% and hers being 0%). No consideration is given to the lifestyle our children have or that fact that we save 70%. It is simply an income test, meaning a divorce would virtually wipe out my ability to retire early. According to an online calculator I found, child support payments alone would be more than we spend for our total living expenses each year. This is written into the laws of my state with apparently little or no flexibility.

Here is my point: She REALLY doesn’t want to work and I REALLY don’t want to keep contributing all of my energy to filling this pot of money that she can walk off with someday while I would be under a court order to send thousands of dollars in child support payments to her each month. I have discussed with her the prospect of just quitting my job and living in squalor with her to equal things out (which she wasn’t totally opposed to), but I feel that I would be putting our family at risk by having no income. So then I had a thought that perhaps a divorce on paper would be a good answer for us. The divorce would be 'real' as far as the state is concerned, but nothing between us or how we live would change.


The way I envision it, we can split the assets 50/50 right now and maximize tax benefits (such as putting all of the taxable assets in her name to take advantage of her lower bracket). She could continue not working and I would keep working paying all of the household bills as I am now, with the leftover money accruing to an account in my name. We could decide beforehand that if someone gets unhappy years down the road and chooses to leave, that we each take whatever assets we have in our names and each would provide for ˝ of the support of the children and put it into a legal contract. We would also spell out in the contract everything necessary to avoid any common law/domestic partner marriage snags.

My question for the forum: Has anyone ever done this? What does the group think about such an arrangement? Am I missing any details which could derail the plan? Does anyone have any other ideas about how to best handle this situation?

If the plan I am proposing does seem possible, what is the best way to approach my DW about it? Other than her intense desire to stay unemployed, our relationship is healthy. Remember, I really do love her and I sincerely believe that she loves me too… I just want more of an equal contribution. I was thinking a divorce notice burning party, coupled with a trip to Las Vegas or New York where we could renew our vows and not involve the state this time.

I apologize for the long post. Thank you in advance for your response.
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Old 01-09-2008, 03:29 PM   #2
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Wow. I'll leave the advise on the finances and legal issues to more expert people. I do have a few questions:

Have you considered marrige counseling? It seems a shame to end a relationship with someone you love over issues which may be resolved.

Have you discussed alternatives to her working a traditional full time job? Perhaps part time, starting her own business or a job where she can telecommute?

Have you considered a compromise where you both work part time and divide up more of the responsibilities of the children?

Lastly, I wonder if she really understands how troubled you are about all this. Perhaps a trusted family member or friend could speak to her.
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Old 01-09-2008, 04:43 PM   #3
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If you save 70% of your income, still love your wife and she loves you, then you might just want to chill out for awhile. If she does all the cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids and other household chores you could consider yourself pretty lucky. Someday she might decide to go back to work, but it sounds like you are doing pretty well as it is. So think about your kids, your wife and count your blessings.
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Old 01-09-2008, 04:53 PM   #4
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Sounds like your concerns are two fold.

a. Wife does not work
b. Wife may walk and keep some of 'your' money

First, your wife does work. Somebody has to take care of the kids, possibly the most important job you and your wife have. It's not all about cash!

Second, if you force your wife back to work, what will it cost. Child care, cloths, lunches, transportation, increased taxes. I often thought that when you add it all up the wife makes just about enough for the husband to play golf on the weekends.

Third, what would your position be if your wife said 'OK, but you have to go take a job you hate, do something you just don't want to do and do it for say the next 30 years.... then I'll go back to work and we will both be equally miserable'

Fourth, I have no idea how you would put such a plan to your wife. Mine would say 'OK, but don't count on sleeping in my bed!' 'You seem to love your money more than me' 'You want a devorce..... Fine... you got it!'

I have no idea how your wedding vows went. Let me see 'I promise to love you as long as you are equally miserable as me' 'I promise to love your as long as you raise the kids, care for them when they are sick, cook for me, clean up my house, do the grocery shopping, and any other chore I don't like..... and make me some money'

Personally I think you are a poster child for WOW! And, DW and I are on our 41st year. She did not work till the 30th year and then it was because she wanted to. I would rather have her happy than all the extra cash she could have made throughout the years. We are both retired now, live a great life and have no known monetary problems. (and she made me write this...... no she isn't even home)
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:09 PM   #5
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If you save 70% of your income, still love your wife and she loves you, then you might just want to chill out for awhile. If she does all the cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids and other household chores you could consider yourself pretty lucky. Someday she might decide to go back to work, but it sounds like you are doing pretty well as it is. So think about your kids, your wife and count your blessings.
I agree.

Is it really all that important that she work? If you're saving 70% of your income thats impressive! When I retired my wife quit her well-paid but stressful job and we moved to a less congested area for the quality of life issues. It works for us in part because I'd rather have a stress-free and relaxed wife than a high-paid stressed-out one. After a certain point more money doesn't buy anything but more toys.

DW is rather frugal and not given to excess, more so than me, so as long as the bills are paid and she has time to spend with family she's a happy camper. And if she's happy, I'm happy.

Will getting divorced make things any better? If you're planning on staying with her, but divorced, that doesn't make sense to me. It sounds sort of like you're laying the groundwork for the marriage to end, but are unsure if you really want to do that. If you're going to retire in five years anyway, why write off all that you've worked for? That five years will go fast.

Maybe consider talking with a counselor with her. Seems to me there are some other issues behind this.
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:19 PM   #6
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Why would your wife agree to such a thing?

Besides that, she could take you to court later and say that she was pressured into a "sham" divorce. Courts almost always rule to benefit the kids, so you won't get away with paying only 1/2 the support anyway no matter what your contract says. Bounce it off a family lawyer to see for yourself.

I think you're best off forgetting about it. Forgive me for being blunt, it sounds like a really stupid idea.

If you want your wife to contribute income, find out what her objections are. Maybe she doesn't want to go back to an office, or have set hours. Maybe you can help her find something more flexible, something she can do at home.

If you're able to save 70%, it's not like she's spending that much of your income. If your job is that grueling, cut back and save a bit less. 70% is normally a commendable savings rate, but not at the price of tearing apart a family that you say otherwise is doing well.
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:25 PM   #7
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You are 39, about 5 years away from possible retirement (at age 44!), you save 70% of your income, is your wife going back to work really that important financially speaking? So if she goes back to work you can retire at age 42 instead of 44? Doesn't seem like it would make a big difference... No I think the problem is not a financial one. It looks like you may be resenting your wife because you feel like she is not contributing enough to the marriage or that she is getting a free ride on your back. In addition to taking care of the kids, does she cook, clean and do the grocery shopping or does she do absolutely nothing all day? Or maybe she does all those things but YOU still feel like she is not doing anything during the day because you don't see her do it or you don't notice it anymore? I think the key here is talk talk talk and tell exactly how you feel...
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:34 PM   #8
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Even if you somehow managed to get out scott-free, dating is expensive. You are very unlikely to save 70% of your income while trying to chase down someone to sleep with.

I would say nothing at all to her, and seek counseling for yourself, by yourself.

You have a very involved person taking care of your kids, your home and you. And you are getting all this damn cheap!

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Old 01-09-2008, 05:36 PM   #9
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If you are resenting her now, how will a divorce help if you are still living together? Wont you still resent her? Something is not right here.

It sounds like you are well off. If you can live off 3 -3.5% withdrawals I would hang it up now, it sounds like she is open to that.
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:54 PM   #10
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This whole thing is nuts!

Your saving 70% of your income (holy smoke!!), so it's not about money

Your wife has taken full responsibility for managing the house and the kids, that works.

You SAY you love your wife and enjoy her company, consider that a blessing

If you were 28 instead of 38, I'd say you better grow up. But you're old enough to know better.

And this pseudo-divorce whateveritisthing is complete hog wash

If this isn't some kind of sick joke, then YOU'RE the problem. Suck it up, or seek professional help.
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:57 PM   #11
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This whole thing is nuts!

Your saving 70% of your income (holy smoke!!), so it's not about money

Your wife has taken full responsibility for managing the house and the kids, that works.

You SAY you love your wife and enjoy her company, consider that a blessing

If you were 28 instead of 38, I'd say you better grow up. But you're old enough to know better.

And this pseudo-divorce whateveritisthing is complete hog wash

If this isn't some kind of sick joke, then YOU'RE the problem. Suck it up, or seek professional help.
Hey man, don't sugarcoat it.
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:59 PM   #12
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Welcome to the board, HK, but... uhm... frankly you've described the domestic situation in my house. Except that I'm the credentialed long-term unemployed slacker on call for childcare, cooking, cleaning, and so forth while she brings home the big bucks.

I can sympathize with your spouse's desire not to work. Instead of deciding how you're going to split your assets, perhaps it'd be a more straightforward first step to decide how you're going to strengthen your marriage. If that doesn't work out so well then you'd have to revert to the asset-splitting plan anyway.

It sounds like your spouse has found her avocation for the next few years and might resist any changes you propose for her life. But if you're so desperately unhappy with the inequality of contributions, would it be possible for you to scale back on your part? If you're saving 70% of your current income, perhaps it's better to cut back hours or change careers and only save, say, 35% of your income. Especially if the alternative is to spend 125% of it on a divorce settlement and child support.

BTW the "rule" for our marriage has been that either of us is free to leave at any time-- as long as the first one to go takes our kid. That deterrent has kept us together for over 15 years now. Your vision of her just taking off with the kids might be so much green grass on the other side of the fence.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:06 PM   #13
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I'll be turning 39 years old later this year and there are several parallels between your story and mine. Our 15 year marriage ended when she divorced me last year, and I was the primary breadwinner during our marriage.

First - Try to work out the issue with your wife directly. Tell her everything about how you feel, openly and honestly and bluntly. Listen to her input and her perspective. Try marriage counseling. Then if that doesn't work try something else. I know from your point of view right now this is a big issue, but divorce won't solve it for you, and will probably create more problems for you.

Second - when you say you initially "fully supported" your wife shortly after the kids returned to school, do you mean financially (which is the way I read it) or financially and partnership-wise/emotionally sincerely supported her decision?

Third - You're assuming that before the kids started school your contributions to the marriage were equal and now you're pulling more than your fair share. I can understand that opinion. Let me suggest that assuming this without taking steps to verify it as true and then considering a divorce over it is irrational on your part. Here's what I would suggest you try doing: Arrange your lives so that your wife and you swap roles for a week or two. You do everything she does now (take care of the kids, shuttle them back and forth to practices, etc.), and she does everything you do now (work long hours to bring home a paycheck, etc.). I bet you both would have a better appreciation for what each of you contribute and you might see things as far more equal and fair than you either previously thought. Or, if you find out that your assumption is true, then you both at least understand that one of you has it harder than the other.

Fourth - Child support, asset division, and child custody are matters that vary from state to state, so I won't comment on what you found and heard except to say two things: (1) That sounds pretty similar to what my state says, (2) if you're going to go the divorce route at least you should research the laws in your own state directly and/or talk to a competent attorney.

Fifth - You're really not doing very well in working with your wife on this issue. You're doing several things that are pretty passive-aggressive and manipulative: (1) Talking with Internet strangers about this instead of your wife, (2) Threatening her with different things, such as quitting your job and (possibly) a "fake divorce" to get what you want. I was this way, too. It would be hard work to be up front and open with her about it and working together to find a way to solve the issue, but IMHO it would be worth it to save your marriage.

Sixth - There are several problems with your "fake divorce" plan:

1. I don't see any incentive for your wife to be supportive of the idea. Yes, you can make her go along with it because you can file for divorce. If you choose that path, you'll probably get a real divorce. Imagine taking about $20K of your savings and flushing it down the toilet (that's for your attorney bills and her attorney bills as she fights you on it), selling your house (you likely won't be able to live there, and she won't be able to afford it either), not watching your kids grow up, lowering your standard of living by about 30-40%, and not be able to retire any earlier. Oh, and you'll be stuck in your job because you'll need it to afford the child support payments.

2. Essentially what you're talking about is a post-nuptual contract. They do exist, but they're rare. They're like pre-nups but they happen after you're already married. I highly doubt you can create a pre-nup that specifies a 50/50 split for the cost of the kids. It sounds like such a provision would be attempting to override your state's child support laws, which I would suspect is not permitted. Your other clause about each taking your separate assets also sounds like an attempt to override your state's asset division laws, which again could be a no-no.

3. If you're divorcing in the eyes of the state, then the state would also expect you to pay her child support. If you have already figured out that your potential child support payments would be and they're greater than what you spend now, I don't see how you advance your own selfish cause of financial preservation by continuing to pay all the bills you do now plus pay her child support (which would, in turn, probably be money that would be considered her assets if when you split down the road.

To be a little repetitive, I would suggest you fix your relationship with your wife, ideally with open and honest communication coupled with mutual trust and respect. I think your other approach of a "fake divorce" will lead to a real divorce, which won't solve your relationship or financial problems. And I think you should stop being passive/aggressive/manipulative by unilaterally threatening to quit your job and or fake divorce your wife.

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Old 01-09-2008, 06:07 PM   #14
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As a divorcee, I sympathize deeply with those going through rough times in marriage.

I suspect there are problems you aren't telling us about. I just don't believe that the money is truly your motivation.

About the money and the *things*... something that really surprised me after my divorce is how replaceable they are. When married, it seems so vitally important not to give up this or that *thing* in marriage. "If I get divorced, she could get the house", "She could take our new furniture", "she could get my sportscar!" and so on. Now maybe child support is an issue since I don't know about that. But the rest of it is remarkably easy to replace. I guess it took me about 4 years to replace it all, including the house, starting from negative net worth. When married and contemplating divorce, I thought it would take a lifetime! Not so.

What is NOT easy to replace is a deep, loving relationship and trust. If you have that, then you will always be wealthy, in a sense.

So, think about it. Is it the money, or the power struggles that we get into in marriage? I'd suggest working on the marriage, perhaps with a counselor or at least by some heart to heart discussions. Forget about divorcing and living together. That's bound to result in an escalation of the power struggles (in my opinion).
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:09 PM   #15
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Here is the dilemma. I love my wife, but I cannot bear the thought of me continuing to bring home hundreds of dollars each day while she stays home choosing not to work. I believe that a marriage should have generally equal contributions. I feel it was equal when she had our young children there, but since they started school they are gone most of the day. I no longer feel that the burden of life’s responsibilities are equal and I am at my wits end. These feelings are made even stronger by divorce laws in my state, which I learned about from a close friend who recently was served divorce papers. .......
If you love your wife, why are you even thinking about the details of divorce? Those two statements are not compatable.

If you love your wife, why aren't you talking to her, laying out your hopes, dreams, concerns, and feelings about what "equal contributions" means? And finding out what her hopes, dreams, concerns, and feelings about what "equal contributions" means?

Somewhere in talks like those lay answers acceptable to both of you.

Get divorce schemes out of your mind! Tear out the page in your dictionary that has the word "divorce" on it! Quit reading your state laws about divorce, and quit talking to friends about it who have recently divorced.

That is an entirely wrong, incorrect, unproductive, ill-conceived, fruitless, and generally stupid line of thought-----IF, as you proclaim, you "love your wife" (not to mention your kids).

You need to be thinking, I love her, I love my kids, I married her for "better or worse, through sickness and health, till death do us part". And we need to be talking---"this is what I dream of, what do you dream of, how can we both get some satisfaction?"

Try it sometimes. It works wonders.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:12 PM   #16
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If I got served with this "proposal" I'd sue for divorce post haste. Creating exactly the problem you are trying to avoid.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:13 PM   #17
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HK, I think you have let your burning desire to get out early from your grueling job cloud your judgement a little. I can sympathize though; I have resented my wife in the past for turning down promotions at work because she was afraid of added responsibility and that she may not enjoy as much...etc. I got pretty mad at that one, but I got over it. We are child-free-by-choice for 25 years.

Maybe if you got a job you enjoyed more it would help you cope and your timetable on ER might not seem to be the most important thing in life.

Good luck and I'm saying a prayer for you and your family tonight.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:27 PM   #18
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I should add to my long-winded reply that it is easy to fall into the trap that stay-at-home spouses don't do much all day, or what they do is easy. The reality, in my situation at least, is that keeping a household and kids going is hard work.

Another idea for you two to get perspectives on how important what each of you do would be to stop doing what you do for the marriage for a week. This can't be done perfectly, of course, but you could have her not fix any meals for you, or wash or fold or iron any clothes for you, not run any errands, not buy groceries, etc. For your side of things, you could just simulate turning off your paycheck (have it deposited to a different account), you could stop paying bills, mowing the lawn, preparing the taxes, etc.

My experience is that I took her for granted to a certain degree, even though I objectively did more than most husbands do. I have some evidence that she also took me and my contributions for granted. But my point is not to apportion blame...that way lies madness. My point is that it's easy to believe you're contributing more than your fair share when in fact you're not, and you might find yourself with a much harder row to hoe if you get divorced.

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Old 01-09-2008, 06:34 PM   #19
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I'm thinking that your anger at her comes from the fact that you proposed something that sounds extremely reasonable to you, yet she wouldn't even discuss it. She just said "I'm not going to work, and that's final. If you don't like it, you can lump it."

You feel that she doesn't appreciate how important this is to you, and doesn't realize how unfair it is. So, to make her appreciate that, you would like to say "OK, fine. I want a divorce." But you don't really want a divorce, so you've come up with this pretend divorce. It lets you demonstrate your feelings, and yet remain married to her.

Maybe you can find a better way to make her understand how you feel.

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On another note, what if you proposed that you work for another five years, and then switch roles -- you handle the kids/housework while she gets a job.
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:37 PM   #20
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Ladies and gentlemen- do we have a troll here?
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