advice lays groundwork for plan in divorce

            Posted on July 24, 2016 

Advice lays groundwork for fair plan in divorce

Q.   Two years after we married, my wife got pregnant. Because she earned more, we agreed I’d be a stay-at-home dad. Our second child soon followed. So I’ve been the children’s primary caretaker. My wife sometimes cared for the children on an occasional evening and during most weekends.

Now my wife wants a divorce, sole custody of the children, the house, and child support. I’m concerned about our children being pulled from me, their primary caretaker, and about lots of other stuff.

I have no money to pay a lawyer, so I’m asking what you think I should stick to as my bottom line.

A.    First, you and all the readers of this column can send me, care of the Boston Herald, your email address, and a request for a copy of my “209A speech”. If you follow the advice in the speech, you should avoid getting suckered into saying or doing something your spouse can use to get you kicked out of the house.

Second, at the temporary order stage of the case, Judges usually preserve the status quo. So you should be allowed to remain in the house with, and as the children’s primary caretaker. Your wife will likely get the right to take the children on alternate weekends - from Friday afternoon to either Sunday at 6 PM or until she brings the children to school on Monday morning and on Wednesday evenings.

But don’t agree to “nesting”. That’s where the children stay put and you and your wife alternate weeks living in the house. I know of no vetted studies demonstrating that nesting is in the children’s best interests. To the contrary, nesting will harm the children’s sense of security at a time when their security needs to be reinforced. Nesting also creates an extra financial burden as you will each need a place to live when not in the home.

The first $250,000 of family income is used to calculate child support. Go online to mass.gov/dor/child-support/guidelines.html and do the math to arrive at a number that has a 99% chance of being the amount you’ll get in child support from your wife. If household income is over $250,000, your alimony should be about 32.5% of the difference between the incomes earned by each of you.

These outcomes will likely be the same in the divorce Judgment. If equity in the house equals money your wife has in retirement accounts, you’d keep the house. And you’ll get 50% of the value of all the other marital assets.

If you prepare for a long ride, start with a fair plan, and hold your course, you should end with a fair plan.