By Nancy Shannon
If you are going through a divorce, do not pay expenses for your soon-to-be-ex-wife, such as marital home mortgage payments, and expect the court to give you credit for it later.
The following case study example is loosely based on the facts from a recently released Appellate Court decision in Nebraska.
Jack and Jill decided to get divorced. They had two children. Jack had worked during the marriage and was the main income earner. Jill worked part-time but, for the most part, spent her time raising the children.
When they separated, they were able to work out the short-term financial details themselves. Jack would move out and the kids would stay with Jill in the marital home.
Jill would start working a bit more. Jack kept making the mortgage payment, but didn’t pay temporary child support or temporary alimony. Jill never asked the court for any temporary support. Jack and Jill agreed they would continue on like this until the house sold.
Eventually the case went to trial. At trial, Jill asked for spousal support (also known as alimony). She also asked for child support. At the time of trial, the marital home hadn’t been sold.
At trial, Jack asked the court to give him credit for all the marital home mortgage payments that he had been making from the time of separation until the trial. He asked that future alimony be reduced by the amount of mortgage payments he had previously made.
The court ruled that Jack would not be given credit for making the mortgage payments.
Jack and Jill had made an informal agreement. When the agreement was made there was no indication that Jack would stop making the mortgage payments at a specific time, other than when the house sold.
Furthermore, Jack did not pay any temporary child support or alimony and this was due, in part, because he was making the mortgage payment.
Jack wasn’t happy with the ruling, but maybe he shouldn’t have been all that upset. Remember, if Jack had been making court-ordered temporary child support and alimony payments, it very well could be that his court-ordered payments might have been more than the mortgage.
Your divorce attorney will almost never be able to tell you, with precision, what a trial judge will do. Your divorce lawyer can give you educated guesses, but in the end, it is important to remember that trial judges can, and do, make surprising rulings.
Before you enter into an “agreement” with the opposing party, discuss the terms thoroughly with your divorce attorney. Don’t forget to tell your lawyer all of your assumptions regarding the agreement.
Your divorce attorney should be asking you questions about the agreement, but it is your job as a client to fill in the blanks, as well. Communication with your divorce lawyer is essential.