Check out the interview here:
Did you know married couples actually might still be together just because they can’t afford not to be? A recent study revealing 34% of Texas couples who want to divorce say they can’t because of financial reasons.
On today’s Ask the Expert, Jennifer Hargrave joins us in the KRLD Zoom Room. She is the head of the Hargrave Family Law. Jennifer, do these numbers surprise you?
It doesn’t surprise me at all. I mean, of course we know that financial stress is a big deal for families. I would say it’s sort of a symptom of a relationship that’s breaking down. If there’s not good communication and you’re just not on the same page with life goals or whatever, then we see that in the financial discord in a lot of relationships. But of course divorce is expensive and so people are factoring that in as well.
Another way to reframe it and look at it is for some families divorce is actually on sale because your assets are worth so much less. So it can be an opportunity to get out of the marriage. But if cost is what’s prohibiting a family from ending a broken marriage, the first thing I just want to say is my heart goes out to you because I know living in a broken marriage is incredibly stressful and especially stressful when you feel stuck, because you don’t have financial options.
But I think people need to know and understand that there are lots of options out there and they need to explore those options because we know that the toll of staying in a broken marriage, it was taxing not only financially, but also on your health. It just creates so much stress. So hopefully we can explore some of those today and kind of empower people to make a better decision.
It also can just be literally dangerous to not only your health, but the health and welfare of your kids.
Absolutely. A lot of people stay in a marriage saying that they want to protect their children, but what they don’t know and understand is how conflict in the house is so damaging for kids. So I always say, you don’t have to be divorced to have conflict in your house. It is that conflict when you’re living for the kids are seeing day in and day out and you’re role modeling for them what marriage looks like. So we know that that’s taxing.
You said there are multiple options people can take. What are some of those options?
So I think people need to know, first of all, there’s lots of information and we’re fortunate in Texas, there’s a website called Texaslawhealth.org, where you can go and get information that’s provided really from the state bar for resources, for forms, for filing and so forth.
There are also some other services that are providing legal help. I know Hello Divorce is one, Divorce Concierge. I can’t list them all but there are lots of services out there where people can get some help with the forms.
The other thing that I often recommend is instead of really doing it yourself, because that can be really risky and we do see people… It’s complicated and it can get really messed up and while you’re trying to save money, it really just ends up costing a whole lot more money on the back end when you have to go fix the problems. So I encourage people contact lawyers who do unbundled services or limited scope representation. We do that all the time.
So we will sit down with people to pay for an hour or two or three of time for a lawyer to walk through the process, to look at the decree and make sure that it says what they want it to say and that we’ve divided all the assets and done all of that. So that can be a really good use of time and money is just instead of doing a full representation with a lawyer is just to use the lawyer to help make sure you’re doing everything right.
How important is it to plan before you start filing paperwork to set up your own homestead, to set up your own accounts, to make these plans for the future?
Certainly planning is helpful if you have time. I think especially if you’ve been a spouse who’s been out of the workforce, if you have time to retool your skills, maybe get some more education, get your foot in the door so you can begin to generate some income for yourself. It’s going to be really, really helpful.
I’m going to tell you, for a lot of people I mean, there’s not a lot of planning and we do it. We help them get through the divorce all the time. The other thing I think for somebody that’s hard is once you’ve made the decision to divorce, when you’re not sharing that decision with your spouse, it can just kind of increase the drama and that sense of betrayal or whatever when you’ve been living with that decision for a while. So usually spouses don’t like to find out that their spouse has been planning a divorce for the past three years. That is usually very, very unsettling.
Again, that is Jennifer Hargrave with Hargrave Family Law.