If you don't work and your spouse is economically abusive, controlling the money with a tight fist so that you barely have enough to pay the bills and little or no access to any additional funds, divorce may seem like an impossibility. How can you pay for an attorney without access to any money? If you have children, how will you pay for their food, clothing, or shelter once you begin divorce proceedings? It may surprise you to find out that your economic situation could actually drastically improve once you file for divorce. Here's what you should know.
The court can step in once a petition is filed and order bills to be paid.
Inside a marriage, there's nothing illegal about what your spouse is doing, even if it does keep you struggling to provide groceries and to make sure that the bills are paid on time. However, once you file your divorce petition, the court has the right to step in and take some of that control away from your spouse.
Your economic dependence on your spouse does not mean a lack of entitlement to the marital assets. Your attorney can ask the court to order your spouse to release some of the money that he or she has been controlling to pay your attorney fees and to provide for reasonable household expenses.
Marital assets will be disclosed, assessed, and divided.
If you've been kept in the dark regarding your household finances, the odds are very good that you don't even know exactly what marital assets are available. However, the court can put temporary orders in place that will prevent your spouse from emptying bank accounts or selling off any marital property before you divorce. The court will also order a full disclosure of the assets belonging to both you and your spouse. Marital property generally includes all income and any assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage, such as:
- pension plans and retirement funds
- 401ks and IRAs
- stocks and bonds
- annuities and life insurance plans
- savings accounts, checking accounts, and CDs
- cars, boats, and real estate.
There are some exceptions, however. For example, inheritances and gifts received by only one spouse are usually not considered marital property. Neither are assets or property that were in one spouse's name alone prior to the marriage (although any equity that's accrued since might be).
If you live in what's known as a community property state, like Arizona, the court considers each spouse to be 1/2 owner of all marital property. Most states, however, have what is known as an equitable distribution rule. In those situations, the property doesn't have to be divided equally but it is divided fairly based on a number of factors, including such things as the length of the marriage, the income and future earning capacity of each spouse, and the standard of living established during the marriage.
If your spouse has been economically bullying you into staying in the marriage, you don't have to allow it to continue. Your attorney can help you file the necessary petitions to the court so that you have access to the household funds in order to get a fair divorce. For more information, talk to a divorce lawyer like Kenneth J. Molnar Attorney today.