Doug and Penny had been married for 38 years. Doug earned a good living. Penny worked in a bookstore part time. They had saved for retirement, their home was paid off, and their two children are grown and on their own. They had no debt. The marriage had come to an end years ago, but inertia kept them together.
Penny wanted spousal support. Doug felt the amount Penny wanted was unfair. The other issues were fairly straightforward: splitting the equity in the house and the retirement account. The house had about $650,000 in equity, and the 401(k) had more than $1,000,000 in it. They would be able to draw social security in three years.
We choose to start with the spousal support. The parties had maintained a comfortable lifestyle. Doug earned about $10,000/month. Penny earned about $1,800/month working part time. She was a high school graduate and had no additional skill set. She had no interest in seeking a management job or other work with the bookstore. Both parties were in good health. Doug wanted to retire at 65 and expected to earn $2800 in Social Security retirement. He anticipated that his 401(k) would generate about $5,000/month.
The first question was how the divorce would impact Penny’s right to receive Social Security. Since she was married for more than 10 years, and had not remarried, she can draw on Doug’s account after he retires. She also could draw on her account, but his account would pay her more.
The two issues in spousal support are duration and amount. Since this was a long marriage, it would be unusual in these circumstances for the court not to award indefinite support to Penny. Doug reluctantly and then graciously agreed. The parties then discussed the amount of support Doug would pay Penny. Since he planned to retire in three years, Penny agreed that the amount of support would need to be reduced. She planned to continue to work. After a lot of back and forth, Doug agreed that he would pay $1,640/month in support. Together with her earnings from the bookstore, this gave Penny a monthly income of $3,400.
Once the retirement account was divided, Penny and Doug would receive the same amount from the 401(k). The parties agreed to split the fund by its present value in half. With Social Security, the parties would then receive about the same amount of income. At that point, Spousal Support would cease. The parties agreed that they would split the cost for a QDRO attorney to draft an order to the plan’s administrator to bring about the division of the 401(K)
The parties agreed they would sell the house and equally split the proceeds. The house was going to need a fair amount of repairs and deferred maintenance. Doug agreed to pay for these repairs and to be reimbursed out of the sale. Penny was amenable to this.