Ever wonder what your divorce will look like and how you’ll face the future? Attorney Janet Boyle, founder of Family Law Solutions, talks about the top five challenges divorcing individuals face in this interview with Joshua Berngard of Buzzer Real Estate. From considering home-life changes to how you can view your divorce and future lifestyle, this interview will help you avoid the mistakes that far too many couples make.

Joshua Berngard:

Hey, everybody, Joshua Berngard here with the Buzzer Real Estate team. Thank you for tuning in. Once again, I have a special guest, as you can see on the other side of my screen. This is Janet Boyle. She is the founder and principal of Family Law Solutions. So, thank you so much for coming on.

Janet Boyle:

Thanks for having me, Josh.

Joshua Berngard:

Wonderful. Yes. So, let me tell you guys how I really came about calling upon Janet. She put an article out with their company about three weeks, a month ago, about what really happens with a spouse of a CEO, businessman, businesswoman, or executive in a company.

Joshua Berngard:

I see quite often when dealing with divorcees, we’re selling their home; we’re trying to figure out what that looks like. And we’d love for you to touch base and educate those who are watching. Especially because the article focuses on 50 year olds and up, right? Because that’s the golden age, if you will, that most people didn’t have two incomes in a household. It was one breadwinner. And obviously that someone else was taking care of the kid, man of the house, whatever that may look like. And so the generations have changed, but there are still some out there. So can you, first of all, touch base on what the law looks like, what it states a spouse would get on working?

Janet Boyle:

See, the questions always become very personal to each case. And that’s what’s really important, because when we wrote that article, you can notice there’s a lot of questions and not necessarily a lot of answers. That’s because some of the questions are, what will I have to live on? What will my support be? And the answer is, it really depends on what your income is and what the lifestyle was during the marriage. 

But let’s be honest: the lifestyle during the marriage, when you cut it into two piles, can you still have the same lifestyle? And I don’t care if you’re 25 or 85. The answer to that is generally no. There are some very wealthy people out there for which the answer is yes. But even people with a lot of assets can’t always end up living the way that they live. 

So, the law says that the lower-earning spouse will get 33 percent of the other spouse’s income minus 25 percent of their income and not to exceed 40 percent of the total income. So, what you’re dealing with is a spouse who’s been married – to the point of the 50 and above – usually long-term marriages, and long-term marriages and divorce is defined as 20 years or longer. So, you’ve got people who were married for 20, 30, 40 years, and now they’re going to split up. Are they going to walk out equal?

Joshua Berngard:

Never.

Janet Boyle:

Rarely. Rarely, let’s put it that way.

Joshua Berngard:

I haven’t seen it myself.

Janet Boyle:

Exactly, exactly. And there’s so many issues that come in as people get older. If they’ve had a retirement plan, it included both of them living in the same house or living in the second house for vacations. And now they’re getting divorced and they can’t have that. So, what can they get? That’s partially where you come in: Where’s the equity of the house? Is one person going to keep it? Are you going to sell it? Are you going to divide it? And who gets what portion? Most people walk into my office and presume that the assets are going to be divided equally. And that’s not Illinois law. So, it’s not unusual for the lower-earning spouse to get a larger percentage of the assets, like 60 percent of the house, 60 percent of some bank accounts. But does that ever compensate for that difference in the income?

Joshua Berngard:

Correct.

Janet Boyle:

Probably not.

Joshua Berngard:

Yeah. And like you said, it’s all different – but it’s really something, and again I think 90 percent of the people that I even work with or talk to… like I said, I’m coming in at the very late stages of this when they’re usually getting forced to sell. I want to educate those people, especially my generation. I think after this COVID situation, I think the article says that 50 year olds and plus are on a rapid number, and I know it’s been on an incline for the last four years now that they’re getting divorced. And so I know after COVID, there’s going to be a whole surplus, I think, on every age bracket. So, I think this is very important that again, these questions need to be asked. I wrote some down obviously from here. So, the article that you guys reference as well was saying, hey, the five mistakes. And so let’s just touch base on them. Waiting to consult with a financial expert.

Janet Boyle:

I always advise it almost immediately. Once I get the information, I either want them to meet with their financial expert or I can get them to somebody who’s good. And look at it realistically; look at where things are invested now, where they need to be invested in the future. And so much of that depends on the age. If you’re in your 30s, you’re going to invest one way. If you’re in your 50s, 60s, you’re going to invest a different way. So, early on, you’ve got to get a handle on what’s there. And it’s funny, Josh, because in almost every case, one side knows all the answers and the other side knows none of the answers.

Janet Boyle:

Yeah, one side handles it – they pay the bills, they do the investing, whatever. So one side has to really get a handle and need somebody they can trust, which is rarely the person who the other side’s using. So again…

Joshua Berngard:

That’s why I get called in, right?

Janet Boyle:

Exactly.

Joshua Berngard:

All right. So, the second thing: understanding your liquidity needs is going back to the same thing. How much do you need? How much do you want to live? And it’s excellent because – can you touch base on the percentage? I’m sure it’s in here about how many people live underneath the poverty line after getting divorced in their fifties.

Janet Boyle:

Well, I know that I could…you even pulled some numbers. Eighty percent of women over 65 are more likely than men to live under the poverty line.

Joshua Berngard:

There it is.

Janet Boyle:

And, again, it’s changing. Even with my generation, it’s changing. Women in particular are working more, have more professions, are wage earners. But I see it even in your generation and younger than you that there still is one of the two that generally takes care of the children or forgoes some of their career potential. And it’s usually women still to this day, even in the younger generations – but it can be the men. There’s more and more stay-at-home dads. So that is the person who is going to be potentially below the poverty level.

Joshua Berngard:

Impacted the most. Definitely. Okay. Now, again, I’m just kind of going through this. Next question was letting emotions take over. Now, I’ve seen it. So you’ve got to talk about it. Again, these are the five mistakes. Talk to the audience here watching us about that.

Janet Boyle:

Emotions. When somebody comes in to see me, usually one side or the other is way ahead. They have decided a year ago they’re getting divorced. So, in their mind, they’ve come to a conclusion that this is where it has to go, but the other side is often blindsided. And that makes it very difficult because they have to go through those stages of emotions to get to where the other person is. And, oftentimes, that’s so hard. Since the other side decided a year ago, or six months ago, or four years ago, the other side feels great. You know what I mean? You’re living a lie. You cheated me. I don’t trust you anymore. And it just deteriorates from there. You were talking earlier about being able to come in and help with these contentious situations, where nobody trusts the other person’s realtor or financial expert or whatever it is. I’m sure you’ve seen it.

Janet Boyle:

You know, I want the plants. No, you can’t have the plant. When I was younger, the way that we used to do things was they’d always be fighting over something silly. I want the lawnmower, but you’re moving to a condo. But I bought the lawnmower. I need the lawnmower. What are you going to do with the lawnmower? So, we were buying the other side a lawnmower. The two lawyers would get together and chip in 150 bucks each and go buy another lawnmower or whatever it cost. Microwaves…It sounds so ridiculous now. But back in the day, people would fight over the microwave. We would buy them a second microwave, because people get hung up emotionally on things that don’t matter. The house is a great example of that. I went to a seminar once where the speaker said we have to disabuse the women of the bricks.

Janet Boyle:

And that is so often the largest or one of the largest assets in the estate: the equity in the home. So what people need to understand is it’s no longer a home. It’s a house. It’s a piece of property. The home is where you make it, and you can make it somewhere else. But people put a lot of effort and time into their house, and they feel like it’s that brick and mortar, not what you do to it. But, yeah, the emotions run rampant and everything – the distrust, the feeling betrayed, disloyalty. It’s sometimes just fine, sometimes not, but it’s there in almost every case.

Joshua Berngard:

Amen. Thank you. And the last one I think was – which is really, really pinpointing a lot – failing to properly ensure what you’re owed in the future.

Janet Boyle:

Yeah, and this is where getting the financial advisor early on is really, really, really important, because somebody has to take over. I know you’ve referenced the new normal. There’s a new normal. And it isn’t what you saw before. That’s in every case – I don’t care if you’re 25 or 55 or 65, but when you’re older, it’s really important because your new normal has to be something less, generally, than what you had. Or even if it isn’t, it’s different because there aren’t the two of you. Okay. So, you have to adjust; you have to know what your assets will do. You have to know how long you need to work. You need to know how long you can count on getting support or paying support, depending on which side you’re on. And those are things that have to come into play.

Janet Boyle:

Long-term marriages – the parties really should walk out somewhat equal. But even if and when they do, you need to consider if one side is going to be continuing to work and make more money and continue to have the ability to fund a 401k, continue to have their employer pay for their medical insurance, all of that. And if the other side isn’t, they have to drain assets to do that. That’s where the discrepancy comes in.

Joshua Berngard:

So glad you mentioned that.

Janet Boyle:

So, you’ve got to have that plan. You’ve got to have that idea that maybe this is all I’m going to get. If that’s all I have for the rest of my life, how can I live? What is my standard of living? What can I do? If I’m going to get support for a limited period of time, how much can I bank during that time to protect the future years? There’s a lot that goes into it. People always think divorce lawyers just deal with the emotions, and actually we’re dealing with the real estate, the financial advisor, the estate planner. That’s something you’ve got to get into – the estate planner – and decide where’s it going to go? You don’t have that husband or wife anymore.

Joshua Berngard:

So true. And with your experience, I could hear it. I know that obviously being the principal of your firm, it is definitely something that, again, only someone with the experience going through a number of divorces would you even think about – oh, your employer pays for your health insurance and the flip side. I mean, it’s these small things like you said. And so I appreciate your expertise on this. So, everybody I’m going to put her information on right after this. So please make sure you reach out if in fact – I hope you don’t – but if you do need.

Janet Boyle:

My line is always open – I never want the people I know, but their neighbor or friend, that is always great.

Joshua Berngard:

You got it.

Janet Boyle:

Josh, thank you for having me. This was great. And I look forward to working with you in the future.

Contact a Gray Divorce Attorney Today

To contact a gray divorce attorney at Family Law Solutions, give our office a call at (312) 332-1344 and schedule your first confidential consultation. We have two conveniently located offices in Downtown Chicago and Arlington Heights to serve your needs.