Today, many marriages include two working spouses. In some of these, one of the spouses earns substantially more than the other. In other marriages, the wife has not worked, or has not worked much. When spouses in these marriages divorce, a problem arises for the higher income earning spouse. I will refer to the higher income earning spouse as the husband, with the disclosure that he is not necessarily the higher paid spouse in the current work environment. Under Florida law, a substantial disparity in earnings between spouses results in the husband’s exposure to the wife’s support, attorney fees and expert fees. I refer to this as the provider spouse conundrum.
Experienced lawyers recognize the problem. When representing the husband certain precautions need to be taken. In these situations it never makes sense to make the wife’s lawyer work too hard. This follows in recognition of the fees the husband is ultimately exposed to as a result of that work. Rather, a better strategy is to have the husband work with his lawyer and accountant to understand his own financial situation. A team is formed to include the client, his lawyer, accountant and any other professional whose discipline is required to solve the problem. This is particularly true when the husband is self- employed. In many instances, this work comprises the most difficult aspect of the case. I am an adherent to the school of lawyering that maintains that a lawyer needs to provide a solution to a problem, not just impulsively throw ideas at the judge to see what sticks.
Once the assets, liabilities and income of the family are understood, then the husband and his team can share the information and analysis to the wife’s team. This works better than requiring the wife’s team to jump through the hoops of discovery, which will ultimately take time and money that the husband will pay for. I use the term “spoon feeding” to describe the degree of cooperation necessary from the husband’s side of the case.