WE CARE LEGAL SERVICES
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By Jan Grossman, Esq.
One of the frequent questions asked by our clients in divorce consultation is: “Do I get back from my ex all the money my ex wasted on _______________ during the marriage?” (The blank can be filled by any of the following or combination of the following: gambling, alcohol, drugs, QVC, clothes, plastic surgery, credit cards, compulsive shopping, expensive hobbies, hookers, sending my step child to private school and college, day trading penny stocks, weekly skydiving trips, etc.)
Most divorce clients fantasize the judge looking down sternly at their ex and saying something like “You wasted our marital wealth on stupid crap so I’m giving the entire house and all of the stock to your poor innocent spouse.” Our clients seem shocked and disappointed when we tell them that, for the most part, the law doesn’t concern itself with how a divorcing couple lost its wealth over a 15 year marriage or who was responsible for the marital financial leakage. Here are some typical client concerns:
“MY HUSBAND KEPT ME IN THE DARK FINANCIALLY. I NEVER KNEW HE WAS SPENDING ALL OUR MONEY AT TOPLESS BARS! THE COURT SHOULD GIVE ME BACK MY MONEY.” The short answer is “Nope.” The long answer is “That’s your problem, Sister. You should have handled it back then.”
“I LET MY EX HANDLE ALL THE FINANCES. I TRUSTED HER. SHE TOLD ME SHE WAS SAVING FOR OUR FUTURE. NOW, I FIND OUT SHE SENT EVERY PENNY I EVER MADE TO HER FAMILY IN ___________ (THE BLANK CAN BE FILLED BY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING OR COMBINATION OF THE FOLLOWING THE PHILIPPINES, GHANA, INDIA, CROYDON, KENSINGTON, ETC.) ALSO, I FIND OUT THERE’S $100,000 IN CREDIT CARD DEBT IN MY NAME. THAT’S JUST NOT FAIR).” Maybe not, but the courts aren’t likely to be sympathetic. It happened on your watch.
“MY HUSBAND NEVER WORKED DURING OUR MARRIAGE. HE LAID AROUND ON THE COUCH AND DRANK BEER ALL DAY, WHILE I BROUGHT HOME ALL OF THE MONEY AND GOT REPEATED PROMOTIONS. WILL I GET MOST OF THE MARITAL WEALTH?” Nope, he’ll get most of the wealth and alimony too. The Court typically doesn’t care how a divorcing couple got to their financial situation. The court looks at the litigants’ individual situation at the time of the divorce. In this situation, in Pennsylvania, poor hubby has no job skills no resume, no training, and no capacity for earning any wealth in the future. Wife is a well-paid executive with a bright financial future. Let’s give Wife only 30% of the assets, 70% of the debt, and prop up poor husband with $2,000 a month alimony.
“BUT, I WAS A VICTIM OF SPOUSE ABUSE. I WAS AFRAID TO ASK ABOUT MONEY. I’D BE BEATEN.” No court is going to look back at who hit whom in 2007. If you didn’t like not having control of funds, that was the time to leave.
Here is the divorce economic rule in Pennsylvania: A spouse doesn’t get rewarded for being a negligent, forgiving, tolerant, co-addicted, and/or enabling partner throughout the marriage. In fact, that tolerant spouse will probably get economically punished. Imagine if every judge had to hear testimony about every argument bad marital financial decision going back 20 years and decide who was to blame and at what percentage. The courts would need hundreds of judges to manage the caseload and us family lawyers would be rich enough to afford their own private islands.
Here is the 100% solid advice:Spouses an unfair financial position, whose partner isn’t carrying their share of the load and the relationship is terrible, this is the time to leave.
In the video below, assuming this couple is getting a divorce the following week, does the wife get back any of the sixty thousand of the marital funds Husband spent without her permission for the “big surprise?” Probably not, but in Pennsylvania she would get her share of whatever the “dream kitchen” could be sold for…probably pennies on the dollar.
Even though the court won’t care, for all arm-chair marriage counselors out there, who do you place the blame for the “$60,000 dream kitchen?” Is the Husband a money-wasting dense, dufus or is the Wife an insensitive, unappreciative *^&@&@?