Is 50/50 in divorces fair?
- The legal terminology for splitting things 50/50 in a divorce is community property law, which Investopedia defines as 'a US state-level legal distinction that designates a married individual's assets. Any income and any real or personal property acquired by either spouse during a marriage are considered community property and thus belong to both partners of the marriage. Under community property, spouses own (and owe) everything equally, regardless of who earns or spends the income.'
- As of 2021, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin observe community property law for divorce.
- The first divorce that took place in America occurred in December of 1639, involving Mr. and Mrs. James Luxford of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Mr. Luxford was found guilty of being married to two women simultaneously and was ordered to 'forfeit all he owned' to his most recent wife, as well as pay a hefty fee and serve time in the stocks.
- According to census bureau data, in 2019, for every 1,000 marriages in America, 14.9 ended in divorce.
According to brides.com, marriage is defined as a formal union and contract between two individuals that unites their lives on an emotional, legal, and economic level. Marriage experts assert that marriage is meant to be a lifelong commitment, and as such, debts and assets are shared. Divorce is the exercise of ending that commitment which is a legally binding contract that has been sealed with a personal covenant between two people.
The union and separation of two lives is an emotional process involving trust and betrayal. It can be an ugly procedure that sparks heated debate over the way property and assets should be divided. One spouse often feels entitled to leave the marriage with more--which is simply unfair. Lawful divorce is meant to dissolve the marital contract and separate personal lives without leaving either party destitute.
Every state governs divorce proceedings differently. While some states consider all substantial assets to be marital property and subject to 50/50 division, other states apply an equitable distribution standard taking many factors into account. However, incorporating complex calculations into the division of marital assets increases the likelihood of human error and the probability of influence by human opinion. The best way to avoid this is with a simple, enforceable federal law that can be applied across the board.
Finally, assets should be equally divided as compensation for the responsibility held by each spouse. Even the NCBI recognizes the “second shift” of housework and childcare that one spouse typically carries in addition to working outside the home. This work should be recognized and compensated during divorce proceedings through an equitable distribution of assets.
Splitting things 50/50 in a divorce is not fair. According to Merriam Webster, fair is defined as 'marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.' In a fair 50/50 divorce, this would mean each person in the marriage contributed equally, which is unlikely. Statistically speaking, one person in the union makes all or most of the money; therefore, the financial contribution within a marriage is unlikely equal. Splitting things uniformly actually shows favoritism toward the partner who did not contribute as much.
The argument that marital non-financial contributions can be assessed toward asset distribution in a divorce is unreasonable, as they are highly subjective in value. Being that they are intangible, there is no way to monetarily quantify them. And those that assert that all homemakers contribute the same amount toward their marriage and home are simply mistaken. Divorce lawyers must stick to the financial facts when splitting assets.
Because premarital assets and inheritances are considered in divorce proceedings, earnings during the marriage should also be considered. If children are involved, one of the parents is already responsible for paying child support, which is determined by a judge based on income. Providing child support on top of a 50/50 split would certainly not be equitable since the child support would be allocated to the higher earner from the marriage.
Just as marriage is circumstantial, so is divorce. And, as such, 50/50 splits end up being inequitable in the long run.