Different Considerations Representing In-Spouse and Out-Spouses in Divorce
In the 20 years I have been a family law, I have represented thousands of clients. There are many ways to divide them (paying v. non-paying, grateful v. ingrate, rude v. kind), but for this post, I will divide them into “in-spouses” and “out-spouses”.
An “in-spouse” in a divorce is the one “in the know” about the finances of the marriage. Some people refer to this as the “breadwinner”, but in my experience, that is not necessarily true. For example, you may be the neurosurgeon who earns $700,000 a year, but your stay-at-home house husband is the one who is investing the money and paying the bills and taxes, and other than the fact that you know your salary is $700,000 a year, you really have no idea where the money goes. This would make the neurosurgeon an “outspouse”.
There are different strategies to take when you are representing an “in-spouse” v. an “out-spouse”. I am very much an in-spouse. I love money and I love investing – stocks and real estate, in my opinion, are FAR more interesting than custody. By reason of commonality, a majority of my clients are the in-spouse. If you are representing the in-spouse, the biggest challenge I find is that you must instruct them to practice patience. It is simply frustrating after you have produced all the documents (10 times) to wait and wait for your outspouse’s team to review documents, only to propound further discovery on the information you have already provided 10 times. Not only frustrating, but very costly. As an in-spouse, you may be tempted to conceal certain assets, or tell “white lies”. Don’t. Go by the book, DISCLOSE DISCLOSE. There are dangers in hiding assets, AND, it is way more costly!
If you find that you are an “in-spouse” in a marriage, here are some tips. EDUCATE your spouse. Maybe they prefer reading Sports Illustrated instead of Money Magazine, but when APPLE split 7/1 – that excited me more than any home run! I let my husband know! He could care less, but we rejoiced. Talk about the mortgage, the Dow, the bond markets- make lists of your assets and give them to your spouse once in a while. Given them an open-door policy to your finances. OR, if some of that is private family business stuff, have a prenup (by the way, full disclosure is also mandatory for valid prenups), to protect the assets. In my experience, unless you have a valid prenup, it is good practice to share things in a marriage so that the other side is not an “out-spouse” who draws out a divorce when it occurs.
When representing an “outspouse”, your role as attorney is triply important. Not only do you need to conduct thorough discovery on the other side, you have a duty to explain it to your client, AND explain money. (I once had a client tell me, completely earnestly, that her car payment is $150,000 a month and her house “rent” is $3,500 a month.) (She is on the deed, house purchased during the marriage). I also once had a client tell me that she had no retirement accounts, and yet when I reviewed the Disclosures produced by her husband, she had $260,000 in a Traditional IRA at TD Ameritrade. As I was reviewing the very detailed disclosures, she went on and on about how he was certainly for sure hiding money. (Her husband is a mid-level manager at Sony, W-2 with no bonuses). When representing an “outspouse”, it is important to keep their expectations at bay. Discovery is extremely important, but in my experience, it does not pay to spend $100,000 to chase after “hidden money” in the amount of $100 under the bed. It may be possible that people hide money, but in my experience, the allegations of “hidden money” far exceed any true instances of hidden assets in a divorce.
Finally, if you are the “outspouse”, I highly recommend that you learn about money. There are many resources out there, including wife.org. Their tagline is, “A man is not a financial plan.”
The more you know, the more prepared you will be in life. Also, in my experience, couples who share responsibilities in the kitchen, in childcare, and in finances, last longer. In this day and age, it is no longer the “man” that is a breadwinner. “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin.
As always, come to me with any questions. I love educating people!