The Divorce Amount Owed was Nearly One Million Dollars
When someone is going through the divorce process, there are so many things going on. The process can become incredibly complex, and many people worry about losing a big chunk of their property. The division of assets during the divorce process often turns into a contentious battle that leaves nobody satisfied. For Michelle Buonincontri, she estimates that she ultimately lost out on around $1 million in retirement savings because of her divorce.
How could this have happened?
Michelle Buonincontri, now a certified financial planner and certified divorce analyst, attributes her massive loss to her lack of a prenuptial agreement between her and her husband. She and her ex-husband were married in 1997, and each of them already owned property. They decided to live in her house, one that she had bought on her own with a down payment of around $20,000 before they were married.
She says that the decision came back to haunt her when they divorced 15 years later.
During their marriage, Buonincontri’s parents were divorced, and her father developed serious mental illnesses. She and her husband refinanced the home’s mortgage and gave that money to her father. Buonincontri, at the time, was a stay-at-home mother and worked part-time. They had added her husband’s house to the deed in order to refinance her home.
Because her house was located in New York, she thought state law would protect her right to the home if there was a divorce, but that was a mistake.
Understanding Arizona’s divorce laws
In Arizona, all assets acquired during the course of the marriage must be divided equally between the two parties if there is a divorce. This includes all of the following:
- The marital residence
- Pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s
- Stocks, commissions, and salaries
- Vehicles, RVs, and boats
- Other real estate
- Furniture, artwork, collectibles
This also means that any debts acquired by either party during the course of the marriage will be split between the two. This can include credit card debt, mortgages, student loans, and more, regardless of whose name is on the debt.
Buonincontri and her husband agreed to sell the home in NY and split the proceeds evenly. However, after Buonincontri moved to be closer to family when one of her children got sick, her husband decided not to sell. On top of that, an IRA she had kept in concession for not receiving spousal support payments from her ex-husband and for delaying child support, was listed incorrectly and might also have to have been split between the two.
At this point, Buonincontri no longer wanted to put her children through more emotional turmoil and decided to let her ex-husband keep the house. At the time, the equity in the home that would have bee split was $250,000. Buonincontri estimates that money would have grown to $1 million over 20 years, not including the additional savings she missed out on to pay off the debt she accrued during the divorce.
Please seek assistance during a divorce
If you are getting divorced, please see assistance from a qualified and experienced Arizona divorce attorney. The case above is complicated, but this is more common than most people realize. Your attorney will work to ensure that all settlements are clearly indicated in the settlement so that there is no question as to who gets what in the aftermath. If your divorce is happening across state lines, it is vital that you seek legal help to navigate all of the complexities of dealing with various sets of laws that may apply. Finally, if there are minor children involved, you want to make sure all child custody matters are properly handled.
Click here for divorce bank account questions in Arizona.