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Commentary: Breaking Up Is So Costly To Do
by Honorable Anne Kass. Ann Kass is a District Judge in the Second Judicial District State of New Mexico.
The other day while talking to several lawyers who do not handle divorce cases, I made the comment that divorce is not a legal problem, it's a cash flow problem. They laughed, but I was serious.
Most American families live to the full extent of their incomes. Many families live well beyond their incomes by using credit cards. In many families, it takes two incomes to run one household.
When divorce happens, the first economic consequence is the establishment of a second home, which doubles or at least dramatically increases housing and utility expenses. This creates an immediate and severe financial crunch that seems to take most families by surprise.
One unavoidable consequence of divorce is the downward adjustment of standards of living, which is a very painful experience.
What's more, the longer divorcing people struggle against this inevitable consequence, the worse it gets. That's largely so because they struggle with the assistance of $100-an-hour lawyers.
A good number of divorcing couples come to court with the fantasy that lawyers and judges can solve all their problems.
However, after five years of observing divorcing couples with money problems, I have concluded there are only five possible solutions to their cash flow crisis. They are:
• Get more jobs to make more money.
• Spend less money.
• Sell assets and use the proceeds to meet living expenses.
• Borrow money for living expenses.
Obviously, each of these solutions has a down side. Getting more jobs can mean no one is around to raise the children.
Spending less money, of course, is no fun and sometimes is not possible. Selling assets requires assets to sell, and often a quick sale is not possible, particularly with real estate.
Borrowing money requires someone who is willing to lend it, an borrowed money will have to be repaid sooner or later. Finally, bankruptcy is accompanied by a host of unpleasant side effects
But, these five solutions are all there, and divorcing parties will be disappointed if they expect lawyers or judges to come up with others. Neither judges nor lawyers have licenses to print money.
It is important for divorcing couples to realize that if not having enough money is their problem, no judge in the world can fix it--and lawyers only make it worse.