Does Timing Matter on Divorce?
Q: Should it matter when I file for divorce? What things should I be considering?
A: While love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, divorce is more about not being the one left to clean up the manure. Important questions to ask regarding timing, as crass as they may seem, revolve around money.
- Insurance Reasons: Who carries the health insurance between the spouses is important to know so no one loses their benefits after divorce without being prepared. If a client needs health insurance and a separate policy is cost prohibitive (they almost all are), or if a spouse refuses to pay COBRA costs, the client could consider legal separation versus divorce to continue coverage for the 12 months the client must wait to turn a Decree of Legal Separation into a Divorce Decree.
- Religious or Financial Reasons: You could choose legal separation over divorce to assuage a moral or religious objection to divorce or even for tax purposes and financial/estate planning.
- If Money is Coming: If one of the parties is in graduate school and will have a lucrative career thereafter, the spouse might choose to defer divorce until they can realize a return on their investment in the marriage. Same thing with a business a spouse began during the marriage, which might take off at any minute.
- End of Life: If your spouse is unhealthy and you would receive a statutory share of the estate upon death of the spouse who might prefer to pay you nothing at divorce, it might better serve you to remain married. (This is the crass part.)
Since Kentucky has some of the least strict criteria for how long parties must live separately before they can file a divorce, as well as how long parties must wait before the Court can enter a Decree of Dissolution, you should consider other things.
Timing in law really is everything as property terms, once settled or ordered by the Court, are set in stone as a general rule. Spousal support, once waived, is forever waived. Markets, on the other hand, fluctuate daily and the date of assignment of a retirement or investment account can make all the difference.
Playing the waiting game can be to your benefit or detriment and is best left to the experts: a family lawyer, an accountant, a tax advisor or even a physician.
Legal Separation: While nearly every client who says “we’re separated” means simply the spouses do not live together, that arrangement is far from legal separation. It can trigger more problems as the spouses continue to accrue interest in each other’s property as long as they’re still legally married (i.e. not legally separated or divorced).