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Divorce after 20 years - what to expect

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NYMom9999

Member
I live in NY and have been married to my husband for 23 years. We have one daughter who will be 21 in September and is currently starting her 3rd year of college. We own a house together that we're underwater on. When our daughter was born, I went to school while working part time because I have no family here and had no one to rely on to help with childcare, etc. I have since received my degree, but positions in my field in this area are very difficult to get (you have to know someone) and the salary is less than half what my husband makes. He also has a degree and has been at his job for 20 years.

My question is...what is the likely hood that I'll be able to keep the house and get alimony if we divorce? I don't want to be forced to sell it...our daughter has another three years left of school and needs her home, and who knows if she'll need someplace to live after she graduates until she gets on her feet. I don't make enough money to afford the mortgage on my own, but plan on converting the basement into a rental apartment (my sister said she'd finance), to pay for it. I just don't think it's fair that I gave up my career for so many years to raise our child and might be left with nothing. I just started a new job and with my salary, I can't see how I would qualify for a mortgage, whereas my husband makes good money and has job stability and could easily find someplace else.

I spoke to an attorney who said I would be entitled to a lot (including the house), but a friend of mine told me that's not necessarily true, and that there's a very good possibility that we would be forced to sell the house and that our daughter's situation makes zero difference because she's a legal adult who would be aged out of child support in a year anyway. She also said that I would probably receive alimony, but only for a very limited amount of time because I do have a degree in my field. I don't know who to believe so I'm trying to get all the advice I can before moving forward. Thanks for your help.
 


stealth2

Under the Radar Member
I live in NY and have been married to my husband for 23 years. We have one daughter who will be 21 in September and is currently starting her 3rd year of college. We own a house together that we're underwater on. When our daughter was born, I went to school while working part time because I have no family here and had no one to rely on to help with childcare, etc. I have since received my degree, but positions in my field in this area are very difficult to get (you have to know someone) and the salary is less than half what my husband makes. He also has a degree and has been at his job for 20 years.

My question is...what is the likely hood that I'll be able to keep the house and get alimony if we divorce? I don't want to be forced to sell it...our daughter has another three years left of school and needs her home, and who knows if she'll need someplace to live after she graduates until she gets on her feet. I don't make enough money to afford the mortgage on my own, but plan on converting the basement into a rental apartment (my sister said she'd finance), to pay for it. I just don't think it's fair that I gave up my career for so many years to raise our child and might be left with nothing. I just started a new job and with my salary, I can't see how I would qualify for a mortgage, whereas my husband makes good money and has job stability and could easily find someplace else.

I spoke to an attorney who said I would be entitled to a lot (including the house), but a friend of mine told me that's not necessarily true, and that there's a very good possibility that we would be forced to sell the house and that our daughter's situation makes zero difference because she's a legal adult who would be aged out of child support in a year anyway. She also said that I would probably receive alimony, but only for a very limited amount of time because I do have a degree in my field. I don't know who to believe so I'm trying to get all the advice I can before moving forward. Thanks for your help.
How is your daughter starting her third year of college, yet has three years to go?

CS is likely not going to factor in. Ir's possible Dad might be required to help pay for kiddo to finish school, but that would depend on the details.

Yes, you may get spousal support, but I wouldn't count on it to be long-term. The house? A lot will depend on other assets and how they get divvied up.

It may not be as bad as yout friend predicts, but I doubt it will be as rosy as the lawyer thinks. I'd consult with a few more lawyers.
 

not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
Get an initial consult with more than one attorney.

There are some that will claim that you get all that and more, fail to deliver, and charge you a ridiculous amount to add insult to injury.

Find an attorney who wouldn't be a great used car dealer.

Unless your daughter is living at home and commuting to college, she doesn't "need" her childhood home. (And, even if she is a commuter student, what she needs is a home, not necessary the one you are residing in.) You are not thinking rationally.

Furthermore, if you can't afford the house on your own, there is no good reason to keep it.

There are many things worth focusing on in a divorce: 50% of retirement/pension for that job he's been at for 20 out of 23 years of marriage comes to mind. Marital assets and debts should be shared equitably. You might get alimony depending on the very specific circumstances of your situation. You can ask, should you be awarded alimony, that he be required to carrying life insurance with you as the beneficiary, to cover the unpaid alimony should he die while alimony is still in effect.

Oh, and by the way, YOUR degree is a marital asset, as it was earned during the marriage.
 

NYMom9999

Member
How is your daughter starting her third year of college, yet has three years to go?

CS is likely not going to factor in. Ir's possible Dad might be required to help pay for kiddo to finish school, but that would depend on the details.

Yes, you may get spousal support, but I wouldn't count on it to be long-term. The house? A lot will depend on other assets and how they get divvied up.

It may not be as bad as yout friend predicts, but I doubt it will be as rosy as the lawyer thinks. I'd consult with a few more lawyers.
She's going for a degree that takes longer than three years, which is why she's still in school.

We have no assets besides the house. We lease our cars and have a good amount of credit card debt.
 

NYMom9999

Member
Get an initial consult with more than one attorney.

There are some that will claim that you get all that and more, fail to deliver, and charge you a ridiculous amount to add insult to injury.

Find an attorney who wouldn't be a great used car dealer.

Unless your daughter is living at home and commuting to college, she doesn't "need" her childhood home. (And, even if she is a commuter student, what she needs is a home, not necessary the one you are residing in.) You are not thinking rationally.

Furthermore, if you can't afford the house on your own, there is no good reason to keep it.

There are many things worth focusing on in a divorce: 50% of retirement/pension for that job he's been at for 20 out of 23 years of marriage comes to mind. Marital assets and debts should be shared equitably. You might get alimony depending on the very specific circumstances of your situation. You can ask, should you be awarded alimony, that he be required to carrying life insurance with you as the beneficiary, to cover the unpaid alimony should he die while alimony is still in effect.

Oh, and by the way, YOUR degree is a marital asset, as it was earned during the marriage.
Our daughter goes away to college, but is home during breaks and the summer. I'm just trying to look out for what's best for her. She shouldn't have to be deprived of her stability. I'm sorry, but I don't think that's irrational.

I can afford it if I rent out the basement. We've been paying for this house for 16 years and I would feel like all that money was just thrown away if we had to sell it at a loss.

How is my degree an asset? I earned it on my own. I'm not sure I follow what you're saying?
 

Just Blue

Senior Member
Our daughter goes away to college, but is home during breaks and the summer. I'm just trying to look out for what's best for her. She shouldn't have to be deprived of her stability. I'm sorry, but I don't think that's irrational.

I can afford it if I rent out the basement. We've been paying for this house for 16 years and I would feel like all that money was just thrown away if we had to sell it at a loss.

How is my degree an asset? I earned it on my own. I'm not sure I follow what you're saying?
It actually kinda is irrational. Your DD is 21...not 11. I'm sure she will "adjust" if you end up renting an apartment and she goes there during breaks. It would also be prudent for her to get a job as she likely won't get the financial help from you and her father after the divorce.
 

not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
Our daughter goes away to college, but is home during breaks and the summer. I'm just trying to look out for what's best for her. She shouldn't have to be deprived of her stability. I'm sorry, but I don't think that's irrational.
Then she DOES NOT NEED THE HOUSE.

When I was in college, I had various friends who could no longer retreat to their childhood home, due to a variety of reasons: death, divorce, family moved for a job, foreclosure - in one case, physical abuse. EVERYONE I knew that went through this somehow found a way to deal, was not homeless, and have since gone on to do better than a lot of those who had "stable" homes.

You may not think it's irrational, but that does not negate the fact that your reasoning is irrational.

You are being somewhere between a helicopter and a snow plow parent.

I can afford it if I rent out the basement. We've been paying for this house for 16 years and I would feel like all that money was just thrown away if we had to sell it at a loss.
That's what you think right now. You don't sound like you're remotely ready to become a landlord. You should do a lot of research before entering into that field.

How is my degree an asset? I earned it on my own. I'm not sure I follow what you're saying?
Yes, you earned it on your own during the marriage. Since you can earn more with the degree than without, and marital assets/income were expended supporting you while you were earning this degree, the income above what you could earn without the degree would increase the household income, the degree is an asset. It might affect the amount of alimony, since you are now more qualified.

And yes, it can come up in a contested divorce in NY, even though, you are in field where finding full time employment is difficult and your STBX makes more.
 
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LdiJ

Senior Member
I live in NY and have been married to my husband for 23 years. We have one daughter who will be 21 in September and is currently starting her 3rd year of college. We own a house together that we're underwater on. When our daughter was born, I went to school while working part time because I have no family here and had no one to rely on to help with childcare, etc. I have since received my degree, but positions in my field in this area are very difficult to get (you have to know someone) and the salary is less than half what my husband makes. He also has a degree and has been at his job for 20 years.

My question is...what is the likely hood that I'll be able to keep the house and get alimony if we divorce? I don't want to be forced to sell it...our daughter has another three years left of school and needs her home, and who knows if she'll need someplace to live after she graduates until she gets on her feet. I don't make enough money to afford the mortgage on my own, but plan on converting the basement into a rental apartment (my sister said she'd finance), to pay for it. I just don't think it's fair that I gave up my career for so many years to raise our child and might be left with nothing. I just started a new job and with my salary, I can't see how I would qualify for a mortgage, whereas my husband makes good money and has job stability and could easily find someplace else.

I spoke to an attorney who said I would be entitled to a lot (including the house), but a friend of mine told me that's not necessarily true, and that there's a very good possibility that we would be forced to sell the house and that our daughter's situation makes zero difference because she's a legal adult who would be aged out of child support in a year anyway. She also said that I would probably receive alimony, but only for a very limited amount of time because I do have a degree in my field. I don't know who to believe so I'm trying to get all the advice I can before moving forward. Thanks for your help.
Here is the problem. You are under water on the house so it has no equity. You would have to qualify, on your own, for a mortgage in order to keep the house. You cannot tie up your soon to be ex-husband's credit. You would have to refinance in just your name. Now, if he agrees to you staying in the house for a few years until your daughter graduates and gets on her feet, and agrees to stay on the mortgage until then, it might save the two of you from having to short sell the house now. In addition, you might not be under water in a few years.

However, unless your husband agrees, the house would likely have to be sold at a short sale. For a 20 year marriage, you ARE likely to get some alimony.
 

NYMom9999

Member
Here is the problem. You are under water on the house so it has no equity. You would have to qualify, on your own, for a mortgage in order to keep the house. You cannot tie up your soon to be ex-husband's credit. You would have to refinance in just your name. Now, if he agrees to you staying in the house for a few years until your daughter graduates and gets on her feet, and agrees to stay on the mortgage until then, it might save the two of you from having to short sell the house now. In addition, you might not be under water in a few years.

However, unless your husband agrees, the house would likely have to be sold at a short sale. For a 20 year marriage, you ARE likely to get some alimony.
We've been together since we were teenagers. As soon as I graduated high school, my parents moved out of state and we moved in together. He was never supportive to me for most of our marriage. We have very different personalities and our differences have only gotten worse over the years. I stayed only so our daughter could have some stability and because he's a good father. A lousy husband, but a good father. I would be really angry if he forced the sale of our house just so I didn't get it.
 

stealth2

Under the Radar Member
I wouldn't necessarily call your desire wrt the house irrational, but I would consider it unrealistic. *Might* your husband be willing to keep himself tied to the home until your daughter graduates? I suppose so - but I don't know him. I suspect not. Or he'd be willing to hang on in the marriage for a few more years. I would be more concerned with how your daughter completes her degree. If you/Dad are helping her pay for school, I'd consider that more important than holding onto the house. Will she be upset if you have to sell the house? Probably. But she is no longer a child - she should be able to understand the realities. Hell - I was upset when my parents sold my childhood home, but I understood that they needed somewhere that could accommodate my grandmother. My kids understand that their childhood home - and their rooms - have required changes to accommodate my parents. And that, like it or not, when they are both gone, I will be selling this house. It's how life goes.

Given he's been at the same job for so long, does he not have a pension? Retirement account?
 

stealth2

Under the Radar Member
We've been together since we were teenagers. As soon as I graduated high school, my parents moved out of state and we moved in together. He was never supportive to me for most of our marriage. We have very different personalities and our differences have only gotten worse over the years. I stayed only so our daughter could have some stability and because he's a good father. A lousy husband, but a good father. I would be really angry if he forced the sale of our house just so I didn't get it.
Well, that stinks, but.... it's life. Honestly? If he were the one here for advice, I'd tell him to give you the house and take the debt. I suspect you'd have to sell the house anyway. I'd also be wary of your sister financing the renovation. What are her terms?
 

NYMom9999

Member
I wouldn't necessarily call your desire wrt the house irrational, but I would consider it unrealistic. *Might* your husband be willing to keep himself tied to the home until your daughter graduates? I suppose so - but I don't know him. I suspect not. Or he'd be willing to hang on in the marriage for a few more years. I would be more concerned with how your daughter completes her degree. If you/Dad are helping her pay for school, I'd consider that more important than holding onto the house. Will she be upset if you have to sell the house? Probably. But she is no longer a child - she should be able to understand the realities. Hell - I was upset when my parents sold my childhood home, but I understood that they needed somewhere that could accommodate my grandmother. My kids understand that their childhood home - and their rooms - have required changes to accommodate my parents. And that, like it or not, when they are both gone, I will be selling this house. It's how life goes.
He doesn't want the divorce and says that our problems are mostly due to my emotional and anger issues. I'll admit...I haven't been perfect, but I'm much better than I was. My friends all love him and can't understand why I want a divorce. When I tell them we're total opposites and that I want more out of life than this completely unfulfilling relationship, they tell me I'm being unrealistic.

[/QUOTE]Given he's been at the same job for so long, does he not have a pension? Retirement account?
[/QUOTE]

Yes, he has a 401K, but I don't know how much is in it.
 

not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
He doesn't want the divorce and says that our problems are mostly due to my emotional and anger issues. I'll admit...I haven't been perfect, but I'm much better than I was. My friends all love him and can't understand why I want a divorce. When I tell them we're total opposites and that I want more out of life than this completely unfulfilling relationship, they tell me I'm being unrealistic.
They don't have to live with him.

I'm assuming that you're divorcing because there are worse things than being alone - like, being married to him.

Yes, he has a 401K, but I don't know how much is in it.
That's one of them there marital assets to include on that loooong pile of papers you both have to put together, so that (in theory) an equitable division can be arrived at.

If he's a reasonable person, he'll do it.

If he's channeling my ex, he'll balk. In my case, I didn't fight for it, because it was ~$6K for a 4 years of employment, so I'd add a good chunk in legal fees to get... what? (At some point after the divorce he cashed in the whole thing, not realizing that would it would be intercepted for some of his cs arrears. :D ) HOWEVER, in your case, it's well worth pressing the point if he's difficult, because the amount should be much larger. Unless, of course, he's been cashing out stuff along the way, preferring money in hand and taking the tax penalty. Or doing something else with the $... (Look up wasteful dissipation of assets.)
 
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cbg

I'm a Northern Girl
He can't take a loan or any other type of in-service distribution of the 401(k) without her signature. Can't speak for other assets.
 

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