Divorce is for rich people

[Now would be a good time to remind you all that I AM NOT A LAWYER AND THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. This is purely my own opinion and should not be relied upon in any legal situation!]

What is the value of a marriage? Should we take into account:

-The intangible cost of sacrificing the complete autonomy of singlehood, and

-Increase/decrease in earning potential as incurred by a working/nonworking spouse

-Money saved through tax breaks & sharing of the household bills

Whenever a celebrity couple splits, people get up in arms over how much money the man has to pay in child support and alimony. “Baby clothes don’t cost $10,000 a month.” “She shouldn’t be able to live off that man the rest of her life.” Etc, etc. It’s really annoying to me because I don’t think that child support and most alimony are usually unreasonable.

As far as child support, I take a hard line stance for sure. Women don’t make babies alone and if a man is able bodied, why shouldn’t he be compelled to support the people he helped bring into the world? I don’t care how bitter the divorce was, or how much you hate your ex, NOTHING should get in the way of providing for your child. Not your dislike for ex, or your remarriage, or anything else. (Oh, and by the way- paying your child support is not a substitute for spending time with your children!) Where alimony is concerned, it’s just “cheaper to keep her.” Think about the type of lifestyle you want to have and choose your mate accordingly! Penelope Trunk wrote brilliantly about how to pick a wife and how to pick a husband if you want to have kids. It’s very practical and debunks our cultural narrative that marriage is solely about love. If you want to have a full-time stay at home spouse, be prepared to shell out alimony in the event of a divorce because the court recognizes that staying out of the job market is an economic sacrifice that negatively impacts your future earning potential. When you marry someone (educated or not) and allow them to be a homemaker, you are taking on the responsibility for their standard of living. They keep the house and kids orderly, you bring home the money that pays the bills. That is the implied contractual agreement. Alimony, in a sense, is paying back the benefit you’ve received during their marriage from the other person’s sacrifice.

Divorce can be devastating not just emotionally, but financially. During my externship in the fall, I sat in on divorce court and it really drove home to me how expensive divorce is. Attorneys cost a grip but in this economy, a lot of people are just barely able to make it because of the savings, benefits and economies of scale that living together as a married couple provides. After a divorce, both parties end up living on less than half of what they were living off of together, and if you didn’t have a huge income to begin with that’s a serious problem. Regular folks have more to lose than celebrities, and I think more people should talk about  prenups. Notice I said “talk about” instead of “get”. That’s because the real root of the issue is that not enough people talk about money before they get married, despite it being one of the top causes for divorce. Discussing your credit score, how many kids you want to have, and how you might handle relocating for your career isn’t cute or fun or sexy, but it’s necessary. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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