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Divorce/Alimony – trying to be fair and move on

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  • Avatar Queue 
    Participant
    Status: Resident, Spouse
    Posts: 84
    Joined: 03/26/2017

    I’d like to apologize for the length of this post from the get go.

    I have two reasons for typing all this up. One is to help vent frustration and the other is to get the input from people whose financial opinions I respect. I’ll try and give what I consider relevant details surrounding my situation while keeping things as anonymous as possible.

    My wife and I will have been married 6 years this May. We have a 2.5 year old daughter. We got engaged in 2012, a couple of months before she started med school and have lived together ever since. She graduated med school in 2016. As of May of 2018 we were living in Japan as part of a military commitment. The plan was for us to be there until 2020, then move back to the states for her to finish her residency. In May of 2018 I found out my wife was having an affair with one of the docs she worked with. I tried to talk her into marriage counseling many times as I believed our marriage to be worth saving, but she declined. In June of 2018 she filed an Early Return of Dependent to force me to move back to the US. I met with a lawyer on base and they confirmed that I didn’t have any choice on whether to stay or not. So I moved back to the states and have been living with my parents since. The affair continued for several months after I found out. In Sept of 2018 they decided to discontinue the affair until the divorce is final, at which point they both intend on continuing the relationship. I have gone back over to Japan on two separate occasions to take care of our daughter due to my wife’s TDY schedule. I graduated from college with a degree in Industrial Engineering but always hated it, and before we got married it was understood that I would pursue a different career. I worked many odd jobs while my wife was in school to help support us, but they were sporadic due to moving around a lot, and mostly minimum wage. During this time I decided to pursue becoming a commercial pilot. I got my private license and accrued 150 flight hours before we left for Japan. The plan was for me to continue training once we got back to the states. I’m now in a program with a regional airline and will be flying for them after my training ends in late 2019/early 2020.

    I have always been the more frugal spouse while my wife has a taste for more frequent spending as well as expensive things. I would try and temper her spending and ensure that we contributed what we could to our retirement accounts. I had no problem delaying the gratification until after she became an attending and I got my career up and running.

    We both have retained divorce lawyers and we have agreed to have a mediation hearing in the upcoming month to attempt to come to an agreement on the separation of property, alimony, and child custody. I will be having a strategy meeting with my lawyer soon to decide how to proceed during the mediation, but I wanted the forum’s input on what you consider fair to help me have a more focused conversation during the strategy meeting. I have read up on our state’s alimony laws and alimony can be served in 4 flavors. Rehabilitation, Transitional, Alimony in Futuro, Alimony in Solido.

    My wife currently brings home ~6k/month after taxes. Because she lives on base she does not pay rent or utilities. Additionally she does not pay for health care. She expects her income to go down slightly while she is in residency (she has ~2 years left to complete). I would then expect her income to go up to around 150-200k. My flight training does not allow for me to work a full time job. It’s possible I could work part time as an instructor some this year, but as of now my income for 2019 will be $0. I can reasonably expect my income from flying to be 30k in 2020. Then up to 70k in 2021 and am unsure what it might be after that. We have a total of about 25k in our retirement accounts right now. She has about 230k in student debt and is pursuing PSLF. I have 10k in debt from a personal loan from family.

    Given all this, what would you consider as fair alimony? Are there pieces of information that I left out that might be important? I’m not interested in “sticking it to her”. I just want to make sure I have a realistic idea of what is fair.

    Thanks to all who read this. I appreciate any and all input, both financial or personal, in particular if you have gone through something similar.

    #194099 Reply
    Liked by DCdoc
    Avatar DCdoc 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 327
    Joined: 06/14/2016

    I’m sorry you are going through this. You will recover emotionally and financially. You will find happiness again. I have no doubt about that. What about your child? Who will have custody? Is there a plan for that? I suspect long term your potential income will be similar, perhaps her slightly ahead. But I assume a commercial pilot makes $150k. That’s just a guess though, so anyone giving advice would need to know your long-term financial trajectory, as well as plans for children. What type of residency is she in? Unless peds, her income should likely be higher than what you wroteX. Again, I’m sorry this is happening to you.

    #194108 Reply
    Liked by adventure
    Avatar Panscan 
    Participant
    Status: Resident
    Posts: 577
    Joined: 03/18/2017

    Alimony?

    #194111 Reply
    q-school q-school 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 2192
    Joined: 05/07/2017

    Sorry to hear this.

    in our state, divorce settlements have changed considerably over the years.  I happen to have a friend going through it now so i get some information.  In our state, it is largely formulaic.  How long you have been married, who made what, and it goes into the algorithm and $ and duration are spit out.   The money for child raising will be less clear and subject to debate.

    that may have nothing to do with how your state handles it.

    it’s easy to focus on the $ and especially while you are training yourself for your future career.  The lawyers will take care of the money part.

    however, if I were to counsel anything, i would suggest you focus on how you will spend time with your daughter and how to have the best relationship possible with her.

    good luck.

    #194115 Reply
    Liked by DCdoc, Anne
    Avatar DCdoc 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 327
    Joined: 06/14/2016

    If your wife has custody and the associated cost, there’s really not going to be much/any money coming to you. Yes, her salary will go up in the future, but so will you’re. Her debt would stay with her. Assets likely divided equally. Any alimony she might owe you would be offset by child support you might owe her. I don’t think money should be your main focus. Neither of you makes a significant amount at present. There’s no much to divide up. You should focus on childcare custody, visitation, your personal wellness, and your future career/earnings. Again, my deepest sympathies. I wish you the absolute best.

    #194126 Reply
    Liked by q-school
    Avatar Kamban 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 2061
    Joined: 08/01/2016

    Realistically the best option would be for you to not have to pay for child support since you do not make much and for her to not pay you alimony since she has child expenses and also student loan.

    In the future you can contribute to child support if you make a lot of money. Otherwise just be there for you daughter and let any bitterness dissipate. A prolonged mediation or court battle will only lead to more expenses that you cannot afford.

    Good luck.

    #194142 Reply
    Avatar Queue 
    Participant
    Status: Resident, Spouse
    Posts: 84
    Joined: 03/26/2017
    Earnest refinancing bonus

    As far as our daughter goes, she’s the top priority. I didn’t mention much about it in my OP, but all of my decisions about moving forward revolve around what’s best for both her and I. The reality is that my wife has a stable career and I do not. So I believe it’s in her best interest to stay with my wife until they get back in the States, and at that point I should be started in my career and will be able to provide for her. Ultimately I would want 50/50 custody, so that our daughter can spend quality time with both of us and truly feel that we both love her above all else. There are so many questions still up in the air it’s hard to for see what the future might hold. The mediation meeting will also outline what my visitation will look like while they are still in Japan.

    I’m about 9 months removed from finding out about all this, and while it’s been a nightmare getting through it, I feel I am on the right track to happiness once again. Therapy and family support have been instrumental in this.

    Back to the Alimony, my wife currently makes around 100k with all the benefits of being a military member, while I make 0, so I do believe there’s a reasonable argument to be made for me receiving at least transitional alimony until I can recreate some semblance of the quality of life we established while married.

    A commercial pilot’s salary has a very wide range, with seniority and type of aircraft flown being the main driving factors. The amount can vary between 70k and 300-400k, but those larger numbers come towards the last 10-20 years of your career and only if you’re flying very large jets.

    #194149 Reply
    Avatar DCdoc 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 327
    Joined: 06/14/2016

    This story is so sad. It’s hard to be the spouse of a physician. Constantly in motion during med school and residency. Not knowing where you’ll be living next year until match day. Long hours during residency. Then potential fellowship match. Oftentimes the non-physician spouse is dragged along for the ride. Add in childcare if it exists and it’s hard for the other spouse to have a resemblance of a stable career. You, and others, have made big personal sacrifices in terms of time, money, and career habits. Adding abroad military obgligatuons compounds the difficulty. I’m sure it’s an awful feeling recognizing this, and despite the sacrifices, having the relationship end. It’s a huge punch in the gut. I’m sorry. You’ve lost many years being the tagalong. Now you need to build a career for yourself, which it sounds like you are doing.

    Avatar Tim 
    Participant
    Status: Accountant
    Posts: 1443
    Joined: 09/18/2018

    A divorce has three primary things:

    1) The marriage itself.

    2) Asset split

    3) Children and related custody and cost issues.

    Your potential income and her potential income are not really the issues. You have flight training and she has residency. The question is what are your earnings now. The six years have not been lavish and I don’t think you have any obligation to support her and neither does she have an obligation to support you. Quite frankly, alimony would be inappropriate and there are no assets to split. As long as she takes her debt, so be it. Three years from now she could be a stay at home mom, would you think she owes you alimony?

    a) The legal custody definitions are HUGE. Visiting, where she lives, joint, summers with one or the other, school year, holidays and responsibilities. For some it is amicable and flexible. Others its you almost need to go back to court to get the agreement enforced. Proximity and cooperation are the primary issues to consider. Possession is 90% of the battle with your daughter. Sometimes circumstances change and attitudes change in the future. For instance, your ex-wife doesn’t feel comfortable with your daughter sleeping over with you new wife and teen step son.

    b) Cost obligations tend to get mixed in with custody. It will be until your daughter is 18. Most likely you will start with 50/50 regardless of income.

    Your mediation needs to focus on what your real goals are. That is the only real value your attorneys are there to advise you. If you and your wife can agree on the custody and child support, it’s an uncontested divorce. Both of your attorneys will be happy to mediate and litigate and advise as long as you pay.

    You and your soon to be ex need to focus on the daughter. Neither will gain much via property or alimony. The kid is the big rock, that will be determined by both or you, not the attorneys.

     

    #194159 Reply
    Avatar Queue 
    Participant
    Status: Resident, Spouse
    Posts: 84
    Joined: 03/26/2017

    Yes my wife will be doing her residency in family med, and since she might be staying in the military, I thought 150-200k seemed a reasonable attending salary.

    I see some of you saying that child support and alimony will essentially cancel each other out. I certainly hope that’s not the case as im currently at the mercy of my parent’s charity and if Im forced to find full time work to sustain myself it will likely postpone my flying career by a year or two. I understand that might happen, but it certainly wouldn’t be what I would consider fair given the circumstances. I made it clear to my wife that I want our daughter to live with me, but she’s willing to fight me tooth and nail to keep her. The fact is our daughter attends a great Japanese daycare and has good friends where she is and I hate to uproot her just because I’m being forced out of her everyday life. It’s certainly a very tough situation to be in with no easy answers.

    Maybe I’m just throwing myself under the bus by agreeing that she stay in Japan for now, and while I don’t like it, I believe it’s what is best for her. I don’t want to make the wrong decisions just because I believe I deserve alimony. But at the same time, I don’t want to be punished financially for doing what I think is the right thing.

    #194160 Reply
    Liked by DCdoc
    Avatar LIFO 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 110
    Joined: 01/27/2018

    Sorry to hear you are going through this.  I am not advocating a litigious approach but isn’t adultery a crime under military law?

    #194163 Reply
    Avatar Queue 
    Participant
    Status: Resident, Spouse
    Posts: 84
    Joined: 03/26/2017

    It is a crime, but the punishment is up to her Commanding Officer. Not much happened besides a letter being put in her file saying that kind of conduct isn’t becoming of an officer. She was also passed over for some awards. There was a no contact order issued between the two of them, but it got rescended as soon as I had to leave due to the Early Return of Dependent.

    The military spends a lot of money on physicians and it can be hard to retain them, so the rules can be bent if it’s in the best interest of the military.

    #194167 Reply
    Avatar Anne 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 778
    Joined: 11/07/2017

    I’m so sorry you are going through this.

    I’m not saying you should take this tack. But depending on the circumstances, adultery can be a crime under the UCMJ. Your wife knows this, and this is why they have (at least outwardly) terminated the affair until the divorce is final. Especially given that it was with another doctor she works with. I can tell you that working with doctors who are having affairs with each other affects the military unit(s) they are in.

    You do have some rights in this situation, including the right to your military healthcare and the benefits that your military ID affords you, until the divorce is final. Make sure your attorney is familiar with law as it pertains to divorce in the military. Since it’s only 6 years, won’t affect much after the divorce but you have rights during the separation period.

    Finally, plenty of spouses get custody of their child (and are awesome parents) despite not having a stable career. Do what’s best for your daughter, now and in the future.

    #194170 Reply
    Avatar DCdoc 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 327
    Joined: 06/14/2016

    What’s early return of a dependent? That effectively kicks you out of the country and away from your daughter?

    #194175 Reply
    Avatar Queue 
    Participant
    Status: Resident, Spouse
    Posts: 84
    Joined: 03/26/2017

    @dcdoc : Yes. One spouse can file for ERD, and the other spouse has no way around it. I thought there was no way that was correct, which is why I went to the lawyer on base.

    #194177 Reply

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