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Will moving out affect your position in divorce negotiations?

Is a high-asset divorce a recipe for a long court battle? The recent celebrity divorce between actress and American Idol finalist Katherine McPhee and her husband shows just how contentious issues of property division and spousal support can become when one spouse has a significantly higher income or asset ownership.

There were no allegations of hidden assets, but apparently there was a disagreement about when the couple split up. Katherine claims they separated in March 2013, but her husband claimed it was over a year later. The final divorce documents list 2014 as the separation date. Interestingly, at least one media source suggests that the later date explains why Katherine’s husband was able to obtain half of the income from her cancelled NBC show, “Smash.” 

In general, a trial separation does not carry any legal effect, as a couple might still be deciding whether to continue their marriage. Living separately, in contrast, can have a legal effect. To the extent that the separate living arrangement reflected one or both spouses’ intent to discontinue their marriage, any subsequently acquired property might not be considered part of the marital estate. State law ultimately determines how the debts and assets of the marital estate are defined. 

Notably, Katherine’s husband also prevailed in his request for spousal support. Alimony is also a matter of state law. In Florida, there are five different categories of alimony, including lump sum, rehab and transitional alimony. If you are considering a divorce, consult with an attorney before taking actions that might have legal consequences, such as moving out.

Source: TMZ, “Katherine McPhee Divorce Finalized … ‘Smash’ing Victory for Nick,” Feb. 10, 2016

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