Money “Triggers” in Divorce: The Emotional Financial Issues Most Relevant to Family Law


Money “Triggers” in Divorce: The Emotional Financial Issues Most Relevant to Family Law

Conflict in divorce is more likely to occur when there are more human aspects, such as parenting plans, decision-making for children, and relocation with children.

Financial issues are not uncommon.

Financial claims and positions can trigger strong emotions such as anger, shock, or anxiety in divorcing spouses.

While couples may try to have a peaceful and amicable divorce, they might not be able to achieve the same results as a win-win business deal. Even with the best intentions, sometimes legal positions on financial issues can be antagonizing or even insulting.

These are some of the most contentious financial disagreements that can arise in a divorce. They can quickly escalate the tension and make it high-conflict.



While the law assumes that the spouses will share equally the fruits of their marriage, it allows for exemptions for property that is not the result of a joint effort. One spouse may have brought the asset into marriage. Or, the receipt might be so personal that it cannot reasonably be expected that the spouses would share it. These exemptions may include property acquired before the relationship, inheritances, and gifts from third-parties.

Conflict can be increased by inadequacy in managing expectations and annoyingly detailed tracing of exemptions.


One spouse may claim that their spouse has squandered, or otherwise misappropriated some of the net worth of the couple and should therefore be entitled to fewer gains and/or more accountable for losses. This allegation, which is often referred to as “bad faith”, will almost always be viewed as an attack on the character and wisdom of the spouse.

Preservation Orders

A Preservation Order can be used against a spouse who disposes of assets or displaces funds after separation. These injunctions can be used to freeze assets or funds to protect the spouses from being reckless or maliciously spent. These court orders can quickly escalate hostilities.


Imputation of Income

Income-driven analyses are used to determine child support and spousal support. One spouse could claim that the other is deliberately unemployed or underemployed and should be entitled to a higher income.

Self-employed spouses may be closely scrutinized when they define their income for support.

It is not a good idea to criticize your spouse for being dishonest or needlessly idle.


Child over the age of majority

For child support purposes, a spouse may claim that a child isn’t a “child” of the marriage. They will often claim that a child who is over the age of majority cannot withdraw from their parents’ custody due to illness, disability, or any other reason.

This is often interpreted as an attack on the child’s unemployment, disability or serious academic pursuits.



This is a very volatile topic at times. The first question on a spousal assistance analysis is to determine if the claimant spouse is entitled. This prompts a discussion about the roles played by spouses in the marriage, and often, starkly different recollections. It is likely that accusations of revisionist history will quickly become polarizing.


The next question is when it should be paid. Once the entitlement has been established and the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance, the next step is to determine how long it should last. It is not surprising that the duration of the support will be too long for the payer and not enough for the recipient. This impasse can lead to accusations of greed and sloth.


Like all disputes that are susceptible to high conflict, madness does not necessarily determine the method.

Alternative Dispute Resolution models have been developed in Family Law over the years to provide spouses with cost-effective solutions to even the most contentious of issues.

Joint retention of financial professionals could also help make the subjective objective and convert opinions into facts.

In general, parties will benefit from any approach that encourages them more to their interests than their positions and acceptable outcomes over wrong or right ones.

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