Fundamentals: Married 13 years, Georgia/Metro Atlanta, S11, S7, no fault, filed and in process of serving her, living in marital home. After a year of marriage counseling, STBX was completely surprised when I informed her we're divorcing. Bottom line: She prioritized our kids over everything, including herself and our relationship for many years, leaving no time for affection, companionship or intimacy. I'm lonely as hell but there's no cupcake because I don't have time for that. I'm laser focused on putting together the best divorce strategy I can because my kids are counting on me. Navigating my divorce is my second full time job.
Hill to die on: There is no universe in which I do not get 50/50 joint physical and joint legal custody (2/2/5/5 or 7/7 preferred). Everything else is a bargaining chip. I know joint physical custody isn't the norm in Georgia unless it's an agreement between the parents. If we go to trial over this, I will have to demonstrate to a GAL that we can communicate and cooperate well enough to co-parent for a judge to award joint custody (Urquhart v. Urquhart, 2000).
Goal: Geographic restriction to current school district.
Finances: We both work W2 careers, both have retirement accounts, one car each, one house. We've always managed separate checking/savings accounts. Equitable split means I owe her $150k between home equity and retirement after factoring in pre-marital assets (Thomas v. Thomas, 1989). Georgia has no requirements or guidelines for alimony, though I won't be surprised if she's awarded temp spousal support since she's unemployed. We will have no financial entanglements post-divorce.
Child Support: Income shares are 40% her/60% me ($240k total gross). I'm expecting to be ordered to pay her CS as the NCP. I've been an involved dad for years but wasn't superdad. My parenting journal is capturing day-to-day superdad details now, and I've reconstructed 100+ educational, social and extracurricular events over the past twenty-four months that can be validated by people other than me.
My List: Radio silence is engaged, my responses to her about the kids are BIFF, and my DGAF meter is pegged at 10 but some days it's a struggle to keep it there. My ICD-PX333 is running whenever I'm not at work, and is a constant reminder to be cool like Fonzie. I've implemented financial austerity. I'll be deleting all social media accounts except LinkedIn prior to discovery. I'm educating myself and doing my due diligence in order to better manage my attorney.
Game Plan: Everything is on the table except my hill to die on, and I will negotiate with whatever it takes. I am addressing custody first before any other details. I'm considering three scenarios.
Scenario 1: Early settlement in the land of rainbows and unicorns. She wants emotional justice because feels betrayed. She's pissed that I'm divorcing her (sunk cost fallacy mindset), that the house is pre-marital so she's getting a smaller amount of equity, she feels she's done no wrong in the marriage, and she thinks I've been planning the divorce for years including the thousands we've spent on marriage counseling. IDGAF.
1a. Offer her my premarital home equity as a 529 plan for the kids, which is an amount equivalent to what we would pay attorneys when this goes to trial. That way she sees it as winning: Taking money away from me, depriving me of the premarital asset, and establishing success for our kids. We had always prioritized our retirement over college savings since you can't take a loan out for retirement, so there's no college savings yet. We're going to spend the money anyway in the divorce, so I'd rather put our kids through college instead of our attorney's kids (or pay for their next Mercedes). If she goes for this, then I'll include a clause that the 529 can only be used for the kids college education. This will be a limited time offer to incentivize her. I'll give her until the first round of discovery is complete, then it's off the table.
1b. Boot to the throat: Early deposition, discovery, mediation, GAL, trial. Always be closing.
Scenario 2: Move-away to another state by STBX due to employment. She was terminated for cause in early 2017. STBX has a non-compete for several years within a radius of her former employer. On top of that, she has very few local employers left to choose from, as she's worked for most of them already with no desire to do so again. She told me she's looking for jobs outside the state.
2a. Obtain temp restraining order locking the kids to their current school district during pendancy of the case. I want to prevent a tug of war during the divorce if she accepts an offer out of the area.
2b. Negotiate geographical restriction clause based on at least one parent staying within the existing school system. Current wording from attorney: It is the intention of the parties that the Minor Children shall remain in their current school system which feeds into $HIGH_SCHOOL. So long as one parent remains in this school district, the Minor Children shall be enrolled in this district. If both parties relocate their residences outside of the school district then the parties agree that the Minor Children shall attend school in the district associated with Father’s residence.
2c. Become custodial parent. Depose her to confirm/deny she is moving out of state for personal economic gain instead of best interest of the children (Bodne v. Bodne, 2003). If she denies, use audio evidence/subpoena witness to support. Factors: Kids are invested in local clubs and want to continue that involvement. Both kids also have an IEP and are on-track academically. I know this is an uphill battle to win.
2d. If she moves away, then I'm fully prepared to follow my kids anywhere. I suspect she'll move 800+ miles away to the northeast to her family support network. I hate the northeast but I love my kids more.
Scenario 3: She gains employment locally and seeks to own the home. She's already let it slip that she doesn't want me to keep the house because it will make my custodial position stronger. She's also said she can't afford to buy a house in this area, which is why she's looking outside the state for a job.
3a. Since the house was my premarital asset, I'll argue that I should get to keep the house and pay out her equity portion. Unfortunately there's no Georgia case law I can cite to support this argument. I've crunched the numbers, and I can afford to keep the house and pay CS at the cost of any future retirement contributions. Unless I specifically give her the house as a bargaining chip in a settlement, I expect the judge to order the home sold.
3b. Even if I gave her the home as a bargaining chip, she would struggle with being able to get a mortgage. She's intelligent but is unable to think longterm about how her employment lapse, ignorance of the mortgage approval process, and cluelessness of the true cost of the home (utilities, taxes/insurance, maintenance, etc) are barriers she needs to overcome.
3b. If she stays in the home, or it's ordered to be sold, then I will rent an apartment in the same school district.
Before you guys do what you do best, I just want to say thanks for all of the tough love you've thanklessly provided here for years. This is hands down the best community for men seeking pragmatic and actionable divorce advice. As I have experiences to share, I will help shovel the gravel around here.
My question to you: Do you see any red flags or unreasonable expectations with the above?
The only way out is through.