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Question #40:
My husband and I are divorcing after 20 years of marriage and 3 of separation. We have two children in college who live with me. We own a home for which we owe over 75% of the value. Our financial agreement during the separation has been that he pays the mortgage while I pay all other bills. We both contribute towards our children's' college educations. Since I worked to support the family while my husband completed college and graduate school, could his professional degrees be considered part of the marital assets? Would I be entitled to receive alimony for any extended period of time? He makes double what I make. Also, there is a lien on our home due to taxes he did not pay - will I be able to work out a divorce settlement which would include his assuming total responsibility for the tax lien, thereby allowing me to refinance the home?
If you possibly can mediate your divorce rather than battle it out in court I can not over emphasize the benefit of choosing mediation. The amount of time and money that the adversarial divorce will cost, not to mention the emotional cost to both you and your husband and the children can be immensely reduced by seeking the counsel of an experience attorney-mediator.
With regard to your questions, most states with equitable distribution statutes, such as New York, recognize degrees earned during the course of the marriage as marital property, to be evaluated and divided equitably, which generally means fifty-fifty.
With regard to spousal support, you do not indicate whether you are presently working and able to support yourself and your children. The courts should provide you with some spousal support for a limited amount of time to allow you to seek employment or enhance your education to advance your ability to earn a living.
The courts should also require that your husband provide adequate child support including cost of housing, education, medical, dental, etc. expenses for the children while they are at school at least until they reach the age of 21. If you are working, the courts will require that you also contribute a proportional amount of your income for child support. With regard to the outstanding mortgage and tax lien, any settlement will require that these items be addressed and a resolution be provided. I presume from your letter that the house is also marital property, property purchased with money earned during the course of the marriage, and thus you would have an equitable interest in the house, which would include your having the same proportion of liability for the outstanding mortgage and tax lien.
All of these issues can be addressed in mediation and can be resolved along with all of the many other issues that go into a Separation Agreement which will be necessary in order to file a divorce.
I strongly suggest that you call our office to discuss the possibility of mediating this matter rather than each one of you hiring an attorney and battling it out in court.

Leonard M. Weiner, Esq./ Divorce Solutions

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