Q. My husband and I have been trying to navigate the divorce process on our own now that we have unlimited free time. We are trying to limit the use of our attorneys because neither of us is working right now. We have been able to agree to most things but are stuck on one piece. I filed for divorce on August 1, 2019. After I served the divorce papers, one of my business partners inherited the building that we run our hair salon out of. She put the building into trust and recently named me as one of three beneficiaries along with our other two partners so we could keep the business going if she gets this virus and dies.
I made the mistake of telling my husband about this and now he insists that because our divorce isn’t final, my potential future share of the building is a marital asset and it needs to be valued and he should get half. I read the property division law and it looks like the length of marriage is defined from the date of marriage until the date of service on a complaint for divorce.
Am I reading this wrong? Or I really have to buy him out of half my share?
- You are not reading the statute wrong but you are applying the definition to the wrong section. It becomes confusing because the same statute deals with property division and alimony. The definition you are reading applies only to the length of marriage as it relates to alimony for purposes of durational limit calculation. For property division purposes, the length of the marriage is from the date of marriage until the date of divorce. But, just because you are misapplying the definition, does not mean you have to give him half.
I understand your desire to keep legal fees to a minimum given the uncertainty of this pandemic but you need to have your lawyer read the trust instrument. I suspect on reading the trust, your lawyer will determine that you have no present interest in the trust property – in other words, your interest only “vests” if your partner dies meaning your husband gets zero.
If you are truly against involving your lawyer, look at the trust to see whether the title says “Irrevocable” or “Revocable” trust. Sometimes the title itself gives you an answer. If the trust is revocable, that means your partner can change the beneficiaries and you have no vested interested right now so your “interest” is worthless. If the title does not say, read through the document and see if you can find a place where it uses the terms revocable or irrevocable.
If the trust is irrevocable, you really need to have your lawyer read it because it is still possible you have no quantifiable present interest. Don’t let your desire to settle quickly in your “spare time” without lawyers cost you more in the long run.