MONEY Financial Planning

Start Preparing for Same-Sex Divorce

same sex groom figures on cake cut in half
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Sometimes you get the bitter with the sweet. Here's how to plan for love not keeping you together.

Now that the US Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, I’ve been happy to see the celebrations and joyous faces of couples who have longed to make their commitment a legal one. The legal landscape is leveled for married same-sex couples, and the longtime challenge of navigating different state laws is finally over. Congratulations!

But I’m a financial planner who works with divorcing and divorced people, so at the same time that I congratulate all these happy newlyweds, I can’t help thinking ahead to the financial complications that may ensue when some of these marriages break up.

I am painfully aware that in some states, same-sex couples had been hampered in many areas of their lives: property ownership, adoption, employee benefits, inheritance rights, and medical decisions, to name a few. Happily a lot of those hurdles will be gone now. But in a few years, new ones will pop up.

Though divorce laws vary state-by-state, some basic factors commonly guide courts’ approach to financial decisionmaking: how long the couple has been married, how they have contributed financially to each other and to their family, and what property is separate or commingled.

If all goes well, with marriage equality we will have divorce equality. For example, we could factor in that assets acquired during years a gay couple partnered but were not legally wed will be included in the marital pie. Estate plans drawn up earlier to facilitate transfer of wealth between partners could be understood as statements of intent when dividing marital property. The decision by one spouse to be a parent would now be the right for both.

I imagine it will be challenging to evaluate financial and nonfinancial contributions based on an ambiguous timeline and the differing perceptions of two individuals. In marriage, there is a clear demarcation line. Partnered couples who choose to marry have an opportunity and responsibility to understand their many financial and legal entitlements. These entitlements come with the knowledge that all prior planning or lack of planning (unintentional or not) is superseded.

It’s my belief that same-sex couples, in the near term, should sign prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements to clearly identify financial issues and set a clear rational path for disentangling themselves if the unhoped-for situation happens. These agreements could instruct how and what the couple would divide if they separate, their intent concerning financial support for one another, and the basis for how they legally titled assets in their estate planning. Gray areas exist when assets are not jointly titled or beneficiaries are not designated on financial accounts or specifically gifted personal property. Siblings, children, and other relatives may have very different ideas concerning what they should receive vs. what a partner should.

There are other implications for same-sex couples: Spouses who pay alimony can deduct that spousal support on their federal income tax returns. Divorcing couples can divide retirement assets and are entitled to receive qualified domestic relations orders; that helps them avoid federal taxation on some workplace retirement plans such as 401(k)s and pensions. Transfers of all or part of an IRA can be done without incurring federal tax. Social Security is no longer prevented from recognizing same-sex marriages in determining entitlement to Social Security benefits—some of which can be claimed on the basis of a spouse’s work record, even after a divorce.

In the short term, though, until same-sex marriage is no longer a novelty, there are strong financial reasons to prepare for the unthinkable. Until there is equality in the practice and protection under these laws across the states, same-sex married couples need to take control of their financial planning and leave as little as possible to interpretation.

Vasileff received the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ 2013 Pioneering Award for her public advocacy and leadership in the field of divorce financial planning. Vasileff is president emeritus of the ADFP and is a member of NAPFA, FPA, and IACP. She is president and founder of Divorce and Money Matters, serving clients nationwide from Greenwich, Conn. Her website is

TIME celebrities

Judge Overturns Terrence Howard Divorce Settlement

Terrence Howard walks into a Los Angeles court for a hearing on a divorce settlement with his ex-wife Michelle Ghent, in Los Angeles on Aug. 13, 2015.
Damian Dovarganes—AP Terrence Howard walks at a court house for a hearing on a divorce settlement with his ex-wife Michelle Ghent, in Los Angeles on Aug. 13, 2015.

The ruling means Howard and his ex-wife Michelle Ghent will have to negotiate a new financial agreement

(LOS ANGELES) — A Los Angeles judge has overturned Terrence Howard’s divorce settlement from his second wife after finding the actor signed the agreement under duress.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas Trent Lewis ruled Monday that Howard signed the 2012 agreement over fears his ex-wife would leak private details about him, including phone sex recordings with other women and a video of the actor dancing in the nude.

The ruling means Howard and his ex-wife Michelle Ghent, will have to negotiate a new financial agreement. It does not undo their status as a divorced couple.

Howard tearfully testified about Ghent’s threats during a recent hearing. Lewis did not hear from Ghent because her attorneys did not submit a sworn statement from her in advance of the hearing.

TIME Love & Relationships

Why Women Are More Likely to Ask for a Divorce

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A new study suggests women are more likely than men to initiate a divorce in opposite sex relationships, but the same isn't true for non-marital relationships. If men and women were living together without marrying, each gender was equally likely to initiate a breakup

In a presentation to the American Sociological Association, researchers report that women are more likely than men to ask for divorce. But non-marital breakups are more gender neutral.

The results came from an analysis of the aptly named “How Couples Meet and Stay Together” survey, collected from 2,262 adults with opposite sex partners who answered questions about their relationship status between 2009 and 2015. Women initiated 69% of divorces, compared to 31% of men. But if men and women were living together without marrying, each gender was equally likely to initiate a breakup.

Almost all studies to date have shown that women are more likely to ask for divorce, the study’s lead author, Michael Rosenfeld, said in a statement. An associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, Rosenfeld said that social scientists assumed that women’s heightened sensitivities to the ups and downs of relationships would mean they were more likely to leave both marriages and non-marital unions.

But the latest data suggests that perhaps there’s more involved. Women may be responding to the still arcane conventions of spousal roles, which contrast with growing equality in other institutions, such as the workplace. “I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality. Wives still take their husbands’ surnames, and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare,” he said in the statement. “On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations … of gender equality.”

TIME Crime

Jared Fogle’s Wife Files for Divorce After Child Sex Charges

Katie Fogle says she is "extremely shocked and disappointed by the recent developments involving Jared"

The wife of Jared Fogle, the ex-Subway spokesman who is facing child pornography charges, released a statement on Wednesday announcing that she plans to seek a divorce, according to multiple sites.

Katie Fogle released the statement on the same day that Jared, 37, is expected to plead guilty to charges that he traveled across state lines to have sex with minors as well as possessed and distributed child pornography.

The statement reads: “Obviously, I am extremely shocked and disappointed by the recent developments involving Jared. I am in the process of seeking a dissolution of the marriage. My focus is exclusively on the well-being of my children. Neither I nor my family will have any further comment on the matter. I appreciate respect for my family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Jeremy Margolis, Jared Fogle’s attorney, said in a statement that his client “is agreeing to plead guilty to the charges filed against him today. In doing so, Jared is accepting responsibility for what he has done. He is also volunteering to make restitution to those affected by his deplorable behavior. While Jared fully recognizes that such monetary contribution will not undo the harm he has caused, he is hopeful it will assist these individuals as they try to move forward with their lives.”

“Jared also understands that he requires significant psychiatric medical treatment and counseling. He has already begun that process by being extensively examined by a world-renowned expert in sexual conditions in order to chart a course to recovery. It is Jared’s intent and goal to become healthy again.”

“Most importantly, Jared understands that he has hurt innocent people, vulnerable people, and his family. He has expressed remorse to me and to his loved ones, and will, when given the opportunity, express that remorse to this court and to the people he has harmed. His intent is to spend the rest of his life making amends.”

After he serves his sentence, Fogle will be released from prison but will be subject to several conditions as part of the plea agreement, according to documents obtained by PEOPLE.

The father of two is to possess no child pornography of any kind and is forbidden from having unsupervised contact with his own children unless approved by his probation officer. He will be required to notify whoever has custody of his children of his conviction.

Supervised visits would be allowed only if the guardian agrees.

In July, authorities raided the Zionsville, Indiana, home where Fogle lives with Katie and their two children.

The 11-hour raid came just months after the executive director of Jared Fogle’s Foundation, 43-year-old Russell Taylor, was arrested on federal porn charges himself.

On the day of the raid, Subway officials announced that they were ending their relationship with Fogle, who first appeared in a commercial for the restaurant chain in 2000.

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TIME Innovation

How to Transform Libraries Into the Next Great Startup Incubators

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Libraries should be the next great startup incubators. (From March 10, 2015)

By Emily Badger in CityLab

2. The divorce rate is falling. Here’s why that’s bad news for some Americans. (From March 17, 2015)

By Sharadha Bain in the Washington Post

3. Can we truly redesign the experience of death? (From March 24, 2015)

By Jon Mooallem in California Sunday

4. High schools can boost grades by banning mobile phones. (From May 18, 2015)

By Jamie Doward in the Guardian

5. Learning from the past: A thousand year-old Anglo Saxon remedy was just proven effective against hospital superbug MRSA. (From April 1, 2015)

By Clare Wilson in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email


Who Gets Custody of the Family Dog?

Purple Collar Pet Photography—Getty Images

For divorcing couples, pets can be just as important as kids.

When couples split, custody is one of the hardest issues they have to resolve. And that goes for dogs and other furry family members as much as for children.

Formosa Hsu and her ex-partner Joseph, who did not have kids, spent years in mediation to decide how to split the time of their little beagle mix Pupineya, whom they had adopted when he was 3 months old.

For Joseph, a 33-year-old software engineer, the idea that he wouldn’t see the dog again was the “worst feeling in the world,” he remembers. Hsu, 42, a beauty consultant from Charlottesville, Virginia, says she was “devastated.”

Finally they struck a deal: The dog would split his time between the two, even though they now live on opposite coasts. Six months in Virginia, six months in British Columbia.

Welcome to the tricky and highly emotional world of pet custody.

“I tell attorneys who are handling divorces, number one, ask if they have kids. Number two, ask if they have pets,” says Debra Hamilton, a mediator from Armonk, New York, who successfully handled Pupineya’s case. “These days pets are just as important as kids. Sometimes even more important.”

In the past, the issue of pet custody almost never emerged in divorce proceedings. Now it comes up in about half of cases, Hamilton estimates. About 10% of divorces end up getting “rough and rocky” over dogs and cats, she says.

Indeed, 27% of attorneys report an increase in pet custody cases over the last five years, according to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The most desired animal: dogs, 88% of the time.

Cats were much less sought-after, with 5% of cases. Even iguanas, pythons, African grey parrots and giant turtles have been fought over.

Why have we become so willing to go to war over Fido or Fifi?

“I think what is happening is that a lot of people are choosing not to have children, but they are getting pets earlier than ever,” says Jacqueline Newman, a Manhattan attorney who has handled multiple pet-oriented divorce squabbles. “Therefore pets become like children – and people will fight for them.”

If a couple does have kids, the typical arrangement is that the dog or cat will go wherever the children go, experts say.

Money issues often follow. After all, raising a dog can be expensive – especially in high-cost urban environments.

In fact, the first year of raising a small dog will set you back an average of $2,674, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Medium-sized dogs will chew through $2,889 in their first year, and large-sized dogs $3,239.

Since not every pet owner makes the same amount of money, that can be a problem.

“I call it ‘doggy support,'” Newman says. She recalls one pug, Oliver, who was “a very expensive dog.” “High vet bills, special food, doggie daycare, dogwalkers. It was more than $1,000 a month,” she recalls

The result: The higher-earning partner ended up forking over more than three-quarters of pet-care costs, despite having Oliver half the time.

That is also what happened with Pupineya, with Joseph handling most of the pet-care costs, including cross-country airplane jaunts. But after years of wrangling, both partners are happy to have the matter settled, so they can enjoy time with their four-legged family member.

Says Hsu: “My life was never complete until adopting the pup.”


TIME Vatican

Pope Francis: Church Should Welcome Divorced, Remarried Catholics

Vatican Pope
Gregorio Borgia—AP Pope Francis wears a red scarf as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the Vatican after an audience with Altar boys and girls Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

"They always belong to the church," he said

The Catholic church should be more welcoming to Catholics who divorce and remarry, Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

Catholics who do so are not allowed to receive Communion and are considered by the church’s teachings to be living in sin, the Associated Press reports. (Besides being widowed, Catholics who want to remarry in a church-sanctioned fashion must first receive an annulment.) While the Pope has not yet called for the ban to be lifted, he did tell churches not to treat remarried Catholics as if they were “excommunicated.”

“People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way,” Francis said during his first general audience following his summer break. “They always belong to the church.”

Francis also acknowledged the children of divorce, asking pastors “not to add additional weight beyond what the children in this situation have to bear.” How can these children practice faith, Francis wondered, “if we keep [the parents] far from the community as if they were excommunicated?”



TIME celebrities

Gwyneth Paltrow ‘Had No Idea’ About the Birth of the Term ‘Conscious Uncoupling’

Gwyneth Paltrow at the "I'll See You In My Dreams" Los Angeles premiere in West Hollywood, Calif. on May 7, 2015.
JB Lacroix—WireImage/Getty Images Gwyneth Paltrow at the "I'll See You In My Dreams" Los Angeles premiere in West Hollywood, Calif. on May 7, 2015.

The term caught the actress by surprise

Gwyneth Paltrow is as famous for her moniker for divorce as she is for her illustrious movie roles and her unrealistic lifestyle recommendations.

But in the September issue of Fast Company, Paltrow insists that she was not aware that the now-infamous term “Conscious Uncoupling” would be the title of her online letter revealing her separation from Chris Martin.

“When I announced that I was separating on the website, [Goop editorial director Elise Loehnen] titled the piece ‘Conscious Uncoupling,’ and I had no idea,” Paltrow explains.

She has nevertheless become a vocal advocate for the process of “conscious uncoupling,” touting its benefits on Howard Stern’s radio show and posting an article about the philosophy by Dr. Habib Sadeghi & Dr. Sherry Sami on her website.

When she is not popularizing esoteric nicknames for divorce, Paltrow is juggling her thriving acting career and her high-end website Goop. She spills about how she balances her divergent careers to Fast Company: “I’m a big believer in the ampersand. I don’t see it as I’m leaving something behind. I see it as this year, I probably won’t make a movie, or I probably won’t do a TV show or a play, and I’ll focus on the business,” Paltrow says. “It’s our tendency to want to put women in one little category.”

But Paltrow is not one to fit in a category. She admits that she has taken on personal and professional challenges in her past that even she marvels at now.

“My future self is always afraid when I look back,” Paltrow muses. “I had this the other day where somebody was asking me about [the movie Emma], which I did in England when I was 22. It was really my first starring role, an adaptation of Jane Austin’s Emma. And I remember at the time people saying, ‘Weren’t you intimidated to play this English heroine? You’re this American girl.’ When I think about it [now], I would be petrified.”

There is no room for fear in Paltrow’s jam-packed life. Whether she is handling an amicable divorce, starring in a movie, or running a business, Paltrow seems to have it all figured out.

This article originally appeared on

TIME Marriage

Math Says This Is the Perfect Age to Get Married

Cultura/GretaMarie—Getty Images/Cultura Exclusive

A new study suggests that people should get married between the ages of 28 and 32 if they don’t want to get divorced, at least in the first five years.

Before we proceed to the explanation: Don’t shoot me if you’re older than that and not married yet. These are just statistics and can in no way account for your personal situation, or that last cheater/psycho/narcissist you wasted 18 months on. Nobody’s blaming you. You are a wonderful and entirely loveable person.

Now, moving on.

The study was done by Nick Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah, and published by the generally pro-marriage Institute of Family Studies. It suggests that people who get married between 28 and 32 split up least in the ensuing years. This is a new development; sociologists formerly believed that waiting longer to get hitched usually led to more stability, and there was no real sell-by date.

Wolfinger analyzed data from 2006-2010 and the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth. He found a sort of upside down bell curve. “The odds of divorce decline as you age from your teenage years through your late twenties and early thirties,” he writes. “Thereafter, the chances of divorce go up again as you move into your late thirties and early forties.” For each year after about 32, the chance of divorce goes up about 5% says the study.

Divorce chart


Some wag over at Slate called this the Goldilocks theory of getting married: you have to be not too young and not too old.

There are lots of reasons why late 20s/early 30s would make sense as a time to start a lifelong partnership with someone: people are old enough to understand if they really get along with someone or are just blinded by hormones. They’ve already made significant life choices and taken on some responsibilities. And they may be just financially solvent enough to be able to contemplate supporting someone should the need arise.

On the other hand, they’re not so old and set in their ways that they can’t make the myriad of little adjustments in habits and lifestyle and goals and personal hygiene that marriage requires. They probably don’t have ex-spouses or children among whom they to divide their time, resources and loyalty.

Wolfinger says the curve persists “even after controlling for respondents’ sex, race, family structure of origin, age at the time of the survey, education, religious tradition, religious attendance, and sexual history, as well as the size of the metropolitan area that they live in.” He thinks the reason might be selection bias. “The kinds of people who wait till their thirties to get married may be the kinds of people who aren’t predisposed toward doing well in their marriages,” he writes. This also means “people who marry later face a pool of potential spouses that has been winnowed down to exclude the individuals most predisposed to succeed at matrimony.”

(Again, I refer you to my caveat in paragraph two. It’s Mr. Wolfinger suggesting singles over 32 are not marriage material, not me. )

Other sociologists who cover this waterfront were quick to weigh in with doubts. The University of Maryland’s Phillip Cohen used a different set of data, from the American Community Survey, to say that getting older didn’t mean your marriage had less chance of survival. According to his analysis, the perfect age to get married if you don’t want to get divorced is 45 to 49, which, he notes, is why people shouldn’t make life decisions based on statistical analyses on the Internet.

Philip N. Cohen

The truth is: divorce is a difficult social pattern to measure. Many states decline to collect data on it. And since a growing number of people are opting for living together without getting the government seal of approval, counting divorce is becoming less useful as a way of measuring family fracturing.

Still, there are a few truisms backed by research: Having money and a college degree reduces your chances of getting divorced, as does getting engaged before moving in together and waiting to have kids until after the nuptials. Those you can pretty much take to the bank.

Until the next study.

Read next: The 25 Most Influential Marriages of All Time

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TIME celebrity

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert Are Getting a Divorce

The country singers tied the knot in Texas in 2011, after dating for 6 years

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert are calling it quits after four years of marriage.

“This is not the future we envisioned,” the couple said in a statement to The Associated Press Monday. “And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately. We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.”

The country singers tied the knot in Texas in 2011, after dating for six years.

Both remained mum on social media about the split leading up to the announcement, with Lambert Tweeting about an upcoming show just hours before the statement’s release Monday afternoon.

The famous pair – who recently played an Independence Day show together – have weathered rumors of relationship troubles for years, which Shelton, 39, addressed in a 2013 PEOPLE cover story.

“[I tell Miranda], ‘I have nothing to hide from you,’ ” he said at the time, noting he even let Lambert, 31, go through his phone. “That’s always been our policy: ‘Here’s my phone. Go through it.’ … That’s really the kind of trust we have … There are no secrets. [I’ll say], ‘Go dig through my drawers or my computer if you feel like you need to.’ And that’s been a really good thing, because I don’t want her to ever have any doubts.”

Lambert has spoken out about their relationship before, as well. Last year, upon their third wedding anniversary, she told PEOPLE, “Marriage is hard, and it’s awesome, and you should make a huge deal of it. We always try to be together, I wouldn’t want to be on opposite ends of the country on our anniversary! That time is sacred.”

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