The law about the division of assets and liabilities in divorce seems pretty simple: it should be equitable. And yet, it is never that simple. All sort of questions come into play. Question such as when the assets or debt was acquired, whether both parties benefited from the debt equally, whether a gift was intended for one or both, and even whether both contributed equally to the marriage. When two people sit down to hash out the division of their finances, everything is fair game. I recommend legal counsel to couples in this situation to help understand what the court might decide, but this typically results in two very different answers to the problem and we are right back where we started.
What I’ve learned is that the answer rarely exists outside the mediation room. When we sit down together, we put all of the financial information on the table. Frequently at that point, each party voices a perspective of why s/he is entitled to slightly more than half of the assets or less than half of the debt. Naturally the other party has a completely different take on the situation and this creates a momentary impasse. What I’ve noticed lately is that after that moment passes, I can ask both parties what they believe is fair and they likely will change their story. They become more willing to share fairly after really hearing how the other person sees the situation and being asked to reconcile that with their sense of fairness.
It is difficult to listen carefully to another’s perspective and not be moved by it, even a little bit. I’m uplifted by this transition in people, this willingness to draw upon their own moral code rather than staying mired in fear or greed and their trust that the other will do the same.