By Dr. Joy Eberhardt De Master, WCI Columnist
It was 2016. The year of the US presidential election. The year the Cubs won the World Series. The year my grandfather died a few weeks before I gave birth. It was also the year I got divorced to save money.
Yes, you heard right. I divorced to save money. My then-spouse and I were looking at the numbers and creating a trust before the birth of our second child (or third child if we count the one who died in utero). We spoke with our fiduciary attorney and pitched the idea to our accountant. There was no reason we couldn’t divorce and stay together. If we were divorced, we could file our taxes separately. If we were divorced, my income would not increase the financial burden of paying off the student loan based on my spouse’s income; these loans numbered in the hundreds of thousands and could easily cost more than our $2,390 mortgage. If I wasn’t in the picture, at least in the sense of a legal marriage, he might pay less on those loans.
Before judging me, please know that we took out as few loans as possible and tried to pay them back. In 2013, my spouse/partner was away during the week (at home on weekends) to complete his doctoral training. (Yes, that was one of the many hurdles to getting the Ph.D.) I started a new pediatric job with a big organization (meaning more money, like double!) and I took care of our toddler. We paid over $1,000 a month to try to pay off the student loan interest so that it wouldn’t be added to the principal, ie it would become compound interest. We paid for two cleanings and child care. My income doubled, but that didn’t seem like much with the new expenses – child care from $895 to $1,300 a month, rent for a room $600 a month, and who knows how much gas with the long, long drive to and from Portland every week. It was futile.
With a second child on the way in 2016, child care costs were skyrocketing – $2,000 a month for my daughter’s part-time nanny and $1,200 a month for my son’s preschool. We also needed a bigger house for a big family.
We have decided to divorce.
More information here:
Navigating Divorce Finances
Why We Divorced To Save Money
How it happened was that the lovely online tax service that people often use, which we’ll call Urbot Axt, gave me the ability to choose the head of household on our tax return. So I chose it. I noticed that I saved money with this designation compared to the Married Filing Jointly option. I played with the numbers and realized over the course of a year that we could easily save several thousand dollars. I realized that I couldn’t choose this option because we were married, and I began to wonder what the advantages of marriage were, at least tax-wise. It turned out there was none for me. And so I divorced.
When people talk about the cost of a divorce, they’re not talking about the actual divorce process. The divorce process in Oregon is boring but cheap if you don’t involve any lawyers and live in the same household as your ex. My ex and I did this. And we saved money. I could testify as head of the family. My ex classified himself as single. We have become partners instead of spouses.
Yes, we were both on board with the idea. Money was a stress. Divorce was a way to deal with this stress. Life and parenthood on the West Coast is not for the cash-strapped. Divorce was not ideal or even desired, but simply a practical choice to provide for our children.
We have not made it public. Our families still don’t know unless they read this column. (We didn’t actively hide this from them, but felt that, coming from a conservative religious background, it might cause a rift where a rift was not needed.)
What is annoying in divorce is the obsolete parental class, the fact that pregnancy is not considered a factor in the judgment of divorce (the child “only exists” at birth, even at 40 weeks gestation), and a judge who doesn’t believe a couple can “understand the parenting details”. Our divorce was rejected by the court due to insufficient data on how we would be parents and how expenses would be decided. Twice. When my second child (or third child, depending on how you count) was born, we weren’t sure if we were divorced or not, due to the slow legal process. It was rather silly. The hospital registrar filled out an additional form—in case we were divorced—to recognize that my child’s father was, in fact, his father.
Shortly after the birth of our child, we obtained court documents indicating that we were officially divorced.
More information here:
Financial checklist to complete after divorce
Has Divorce Saved Us Money?
Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes. Relationships are worth it but not easy. I would say that the divorce has not changed our relationship. Parenting has, however. The life of a parent is exhausting and sometimes rewarding. I say this with love and respect for all caregivers, including myself.
Have we saved any money? Yes and no. Honestly, our expenses have increased with the children. Living with neurodiversity is a level of expense in itself with psychological assessments, doctor appointments and therapy, and social and educational supports. Yet neurodiverse people are also the reason I’m writing this today on a computer in a building with electricity and heat. (There’s a reason why some children are twice called exceptional.)
Have we chosen a better future for our children? I think so. Being divorced gave us more financial flexibility, which led to job flexibility. We are more with our children. We can advocate for their needs. We can play with them.
Now my partner and I are considering whether we should remarry. New tax laws make divorce less advantageous. Maybe we can. Maybe we will. Until then, we are divorced and live in the same household. And that’s how we like it.
Have you ever considered getting divorced to make your relationship more tax-efficient? Is it something you would try one day? What kinds of disadvantages and advantages do you see? Comments below!