Friday, September 25, 2009

Social Security, Marriage and Divorce - A Bonus

This is my 150th blog. I have always been somewhat amused that our social security system encourages multiple marriages. This issue is highlighted in "Divorce and Social Security: A Rocky Marriage," by Eugene Steuerle and Christopher Spiro. They state as follows:

"A serial spouse can leave the public holding the bill for multiple ex-spouses, all of whom could receive full benefits.
Spousal and survivor benefits—which entitle the lower earner of a couple to half the higher earner’s benefit and to all of the benefit if the higher earner dies—were designed in 1939, before divorce was common. For this reason, the original legislation paid little attention to how the breakup of a marriage would affect such benefits. By 1965, however, divorce could not be overlooked, and policymakers included a provision allowing the lower earner to keep his or her benefits upon divorce, provided the marriage had lasted at least 20 years. Eligibility was extended to those with only 10 years of marriage or more in 1977.
When it was first introduced, the divorce provision was a way to protect a small number of lower earners after their marriages ended. Today, far more people are affected by this provision than its designers could have foreseen. Ten percent of U.S. adults are divorced now, whereas only 3 percent were in 1970. This sharp increase should induce policymakers to reexamine some of the idiosyncrasies of the divorce provision. For example:
A marriage shy of 10 years does not count. The selection of 10 years as the length of time a couple must be married before being eligible for spousal and survivor benefits upon divorce is arbitrary.
Divorced people can face a remarriage penalty. Divorced people who remarry before age 60 can lose the spousal or survivor benefit from a previous marriage. When that benefit is greater than the spousal benefit that would result from remarriage, divorced people face a significant disincentive to remarry.
A serial spouse leaves the public holding the bill. A higher earner who has many marriages, each lasting more than 10 years, can generate much more in spousal benefits than a worker who pays the same amount of taxes and marries only once. Thus, taxpayers in general can be forced to subsidize a person who marries and divorces several times, whereas that person bears no responsibility within Social Security for his or her marriages."

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Spending, Marriage and Divorce

I have always been fascinated in handling divorces when I discover the couples have very separate finances. I use to think this was an indicator that the couples would get divorced. This is not always good logic. It may be that I did not see marriages where the couple had separate finances and stayed together. I was reminded of this when I read an article in the August 16, 2009 New York Times by Catherine Rampell entitled, "I Say Spend. You Say No. We’re in Love." See the entire article at She says that "Despite the old saying "opposites attract," scholars have found that in almost every way imaginable, people tend to choose mates who look, sound and act as they do. But in the area perhaps most fraught with potential conflict — money — somehow, some way, people gravitate toward their polar opposite, a new study says."
She goes on to ask, "Why do people seek out their opposites in spending attitudes? Most likely, what we hate in ourselves, we also hate in other people...."I can see how this might be one of those kinds of seductive differences in the early stages of courtship," said Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families. "Maybe you say to yourself, ‘This guy makes me feel so free,’ or ‘This gal reins me in.’ "
She rightly states that this is unfortunate because spending decisions are a common source of marital conflict and a major contributor to divorce.
What does all this mean? For me it is another good reason to do premarital counseling.

As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at WM 9/18/09

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sports and Divorce

It should come as no surprise that many professional athletes get divorced. The August 9, 2009 New York Times article entitled "Taking Vows in a League Blindsided by Divorce" by Greg Bishop discusses this issue. See the entire article at Bishop notes that "inside the Jets’ locker room, James Dearth counts 20 married men among his teammates..suggest 12 to 16 of the married Jets will divorce." He goes on to say "polls, studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the divorce rate for N.F.L. players is between 60 and 80 percent, which is higher than that of the general population, where nearly half of marriages end in divorce, but comparable to athletes in other sports." He goes on to quote Kris Jenkins, the nose tackle, who lists reasons that football marriages fail: "rampant infidelity, women who target athletes, trophy wives, lifestyles not conducive to marriage and players being surrounded by entourages, which can discourage intimacy." The problem is further agrevated by problems associated with retirement. Bishop notes that "when athletes retire, most face an identity crisis. Many do not retire on their own terms, and once they leave the game, they also leave behind the fame and fortune, the crowds and adoration. Their wives experience a similar loss of status. The dynamic players they married can become passive and withdrawn." What is to be done. The best answer seems to be counseling but the public must change the way we view professional athletes. We must see them more are real people but talented individuals who are not that special. Maybe we should consider paying them less and start treating them like normal people and not celebrities.
As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at WM 9/11/09

Friday, September 4, 2009

Are You Listening?

People don’t listen well. This is especially true in marriage and divorce. Many people do what I call anticipatory listening. They hear what they think they are going to hear. A possible solution to this problem are two saying my father used. The first comes from the 1955 Danny Kaye movie, "Court Jester." Get it, Got it, Good. The acronym is GIGIG. The other is First you tell them what you are going to tell them, Then you tell them, Then you tell them what you told them. Both of the saying make sure the person listening has a better chance of getting the message. Even when the person hears you, they may not understand. I love the old Abbot and Costello routine, Whose On First, which illustrates this. I have reprinted it below.

Abbott: Strange as it may seem, they give ball players nowadays very peculiar names.
Costello: Funny names?
Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third--
Costello: That's what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.
Abbott: I'm telling you. Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third--
Costello: You know the fellows' names?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: Well, then who's playing first?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: I mean the fellow's name on first base.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The fellow playin' first base.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy on first base.
Abbott: Who is on first.
Costello: Well, what are you askin' me for?
Abbott: I'm not asking you--I'm telling you. Who is on first.
Costello: I'm asking you--who's on first?
Abbott: That's the man's name.
Costello: That's who's name?
Abbott: Yes.

Costello: When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?
Abbott: Every dollar of it. And why not, the man's entitled to it.
Costello: Who is?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: So who gets it?
Abbott: Why shouldn't he? Sometimes his wife comes down and collects it.
Costello: Who's wife?
Abbott: Yes. After all, the man earns it.
Costello: Who does?
Abbott: Absolutely.
Costello: Well, all I'm trying to find out is what's the guy's name on first base?
Abbott: Oh, no, no. What is on second base.
Costello: I'm not asking you who's on second.
Abbott: Who's on first!

Costello: St. Louis has a good outfield?
Abbott: Oh, absolutely.
Costello: The left fielder's name?
Abbott: Why.
Costello: I don't know, I just thought I'd ask.
Abbott: Well, I just thought I'd tell you.
Costello: Then tell me who's playing left field?
Abbott: Who's playing first.
Costello: Stay out of the infield! The left fielder's name?
Abbott: Why.
Costello: Because.
Abbott: Oh, he's center field.
Costello: Wait a minute. You got a pitcher on this team?
Abbott: Wouldn't this be a fine team w i t h o u t a pitcher?
Costello: Tell me the pitcher's name.
Abbott: Tomorrow.

Costello: Now, when the guy at bat bunts the ball--me being a good catcher--I want to throw the guy out at first base, so I pick up the ball and throw it to who?
Abbott: Now, that's he first thing you've said right.
Abbott: Don't get excited. Take it easy.
Costello: I throw the ball to first base, whoever it is grabs the ball, so the guy runs to second. Who picks up the ball and throws it to what. What throws it to I don't know. I don't know throws it back to tomorrow--a triple play.
Abbott: Yeah, it could be.
Costello: Another guy gets up and it's a long ball to center.
Abbott: Because.
Costello: Why? I don't know. And I don't care.
Abbott: What was that?
Costello: I said, I DON'T CARE!
Abbott: Oh, that's our shortstop!

What listening tools work for you? Do you have any suggestions on listening tools?
As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at WM 9/4/09