Jonathan Marks, STL Moms: Important divorce advice for prospective single mothers

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Host: In today’s STL moms and dads, Jonathan Marks from the Marks Law Firm is here with what women specifically should know is available to them financially. Good morning.

Jonathan Marks: Good morning John. My pleasure.

Host: So, in our society today, we’ll talk about the St. Louis area where you practice, usually, you run into men having more economic status than women.

JM: In general, I mean it’s stereotypical, but still today it’s based off that bias of, when you’re going into a situation, I think courts still have some more of a circumstance where they view that the husband coming into the door is going to have the better financial situation.

Host: So based on that, we’ll jump from that starting point, what should women do? If this is in motion, what’s the first thing they should do?

JM: Typically, there’s five different things that you talk about with a woman which is coming in for an initial consultation. First thing that you want to focus on is whether or not she wants to retain the marital property, basically the marital house. Typically, if it’s a stay-at-home parent their focus is going to be on trying to maintain stability, and when trying to maintain that stability there’s typically a focus on how they can keep things status quo for the children, and in doing so, when you’re talking about a marital home, there’s a lot that goes into it because once you’re a single parent you are going to have to be paying for that situation, you have to look at what the costs are associated with it.

Host: So that leads us to maintenance.

JM: Right. So when you’re looking at support and of itself, the maintenance calculations’ importance is to whether or not someone’s unable to meet the reasonable needs to appropriate employment, that some also then would come into play for purposes of figuring out what the calculation is going to be for child support. And all of those financial circumstances come into play when you’re looking at the costs associated not just now with how you’re going to maintain the household but then also the expenses that go along with the children, such as the health insurance, the out-of-pocket costs and the childcare costs as well.

Host: You also have debt, as well, to think about.

JM: Right. And that’s something that people don’t think about, because it’s not tangible in nature. It’s one thing when you’re looking at the mortgage because you’re going to the home, it’s another thing when you’re looking at an auto loan because you’re driving an automobile, but that credit card debt is what really can be a financial burden on you because you’re not typically thinking about the fact that it’s accruing interest on a daily basis, and so every time that you’re getting a monthly expense from that credit card company, you’re actually reducing what your net dollars are available to pay for these other expenses.

Host: All right. What’s next on the list?

JM: So, then you also want to take a look at what your marital property division is going to be. So you could focus on two aspects. One, what about your ‘today’ situation? Whether you’re retaining the marital home, or you’re going to be moving into another home; what is it you’re going to be taking with you for those basic essentials that you then don’t have to replace?

Host: And do you get into the specific items? That always slows things down I hear.

JM: It does slow things down. You try not to do it too much, I mean, you really do hope that within the parties you can subsequently give them a list and say, ‘here’s some blue post it notes for dad, and here’s some pink ones for mom’ and you go room by room and try to select what is necessary, and try to be fair and equitable. And sometimes it doesn’t happen and you do have to expend it, but you don’t want to expend a bunch of attorney fees in that situation, and you want to really focus on bigger assets such as the bank accounts and especially the retirement accounts, since somebody can plan not just for today, but have a better idea of what the retirement aspects are going to pay them down the road.

Host: And then finally, retirement.

JM: Focusing not just on the division itself but how you get to it. So whether it’s a pension, it’s a 401K. Typically, we use what are called qualified domestic relations orders to divide those assets in and of themselves. You need to really make sure your attorney is fluent on how those are drafted to ensure that you’re not losing out on moneys that may be due to you, and that you won’t know for 10 to 20 years down the road.

Host: What a hassle. You know, if you can, try to reconcile. Going through all that… Thanks so much for coming in today.

JM: My pleasure, thank you.

You need an experienced divorce attorney on your side.