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Danger! False Dilemmas and Biased Information in Divorce Cases

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Making financial decisions in a divorce proceeding without the advice of legal counsel is insane.  An article in USA Today published in 2016 presents a false dilemma often encountered by spouses in a divorce.(SEE http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/08/06/divorce-decision-keep-house-sell/87542328/.)  The article posits a relatively simple decision between unlikely options; however, the real issue appears to be ignored.  A wife is contemplating on keeping the house or selling the house.  Sounds easy enough to consider; however, the two options presented are not the only options.  An experienced attorney will be able to present many more options and carefully guide you through the risks and benefits of each option prior to you making the important decision on how to proceed.

Before we tackle the real issue presented in the article, we should point out that that the false dilemma presents other issues that must be addressed.  The decision to sell a house after marriage involves consideration of tax consequences or whether other cash or semi-liquid assets exist to compensate the other party who shares an interest in the home.  Another option that expands the false dilemma is whether it makes sense for the parties to jointly lease the property to one of the spouses which would not require either to compromise the other for her cash interest in the property.  In that scenario, the parties would agree to sell the property at a specified future date or at a time triggered by a specific event (e.g. graduation of the youngest child from high school).  The bottom line is that many, many other options can be presented and framing a legal position as a matter of black and white or Choice A vs. Choice B is inaccurate.  As the same article advises, seek the advice of a competent family law attorney.

The real issue presented in the article, but not discussed, involves the presentation of the false dilemma.  The wife indicates that “[My husband] says I’ll receive about $50,000 of his retirement account but that’s it.”  It’s the first part that presents so many complications in divorce and custody cases.  Far too often, one party relies on the representations made by the other party and uses that as a focal point for a decision.  This tact is wrong on too many levels.  An experienced attorney will obtain independent factual information without relying on statements made by the other party, which information is universally biased.

Whether it’s stating the amount in retirement accounts or a how much the marital home is worth, it is critical that the information is independently verified.  Retirement plans are complicated and other benefits may stem from a retirement (e.g. health insurance, lending opportunities, cash out, etc.).  The true value of retirements, life insurance and investments should be considered prior to making any agreement on how to allocate marital property.

Contact The Drexler Law Group in Colorado Springs, Colorado for an independent analysis and a strong advocate in the divorce or family law process.

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