Q: I am representing myself, but my husband has an attorney. His family is giving him all kinds of money to fight me, which I think is unfair, but I cannot get the judge to order him to share the money with me. He says he is borrowing the money, but I know that’s not true. During the marriage I stayed home with the kids and couldn’t save for retirement.
I want more than half of his retirement to make up for the fact that I couldn’t save any money. His lawyer is incredibly rude and won’t even talk about this; she just says this is never going to happen because that’s not how it works.
I also asked for child support going back to the date he walked out. He left in January 2021, but the judge didn’t order child support until September. Again, his lawyer tells me that I don’t have a chance to get the child support back to the date he left. It doesn’t seem right that I don’t get retroactive support when he decided to walk out. I can’t understand why his lawyer won’t even discuss these issues with me. We recently had a pre-trial conference and she just told the judge we need trial dates because the case will never settle. I think I am being very reasonable — how can I get them to settle these issues instead of a trial?
A: You probably can’t get them to settle these issues because you are not actually being reasonable. Frankly, the lawyer isn’t being mean, your positions are outside the norm of what typically happens in such situations and you may have no basis in what you filed for the judge to even grant the relief you are seeking.
Starting with his retirement, generally assets acquired during the marriage are divided equally unless there is a pre-nuptial agreement that dictates otherwise. Retirement assets are often divided using a marital coverture formula because sometimes they exist prior to the marriage and generally continue to be contributed to post-divorce with non-marital money. You can certainly argue for half of his entire retirement accumulated to date because you were unable to contribute to your own but don’t expect to get more than half of his retirement. He doesn’t owe you anything for the joint decision that you would take care of the children and not work. Think of it this way, you didn’t save for retirement, but you also didn’t expend thousands of dollars on day care so you divide the assets you saved.
You cannot get retroactive child support dating back before the service of a complaint for divorce. I do not know who filed or when but the date of service is the earliest point you can seek retroactive support. You can only ask for retroactive support if you make the request in your complaint or counterclaim for divorce. Your husband’s lawyer cannot advise you of this because that would be improperly giving you legal advice.
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