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These articles by Barbara Fox and Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on November 3, 1999. All

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Equitable Vs. Equal

Equitable is not the same as equal, and that’s a common

misconception among women who enter divorce litigation, says Sudha

Tiwari Kantor, an attorney with Stark and Stark at 993 Lenox Drive.

"In actuality, equitable means fair," says Kantor. Fairness

is determined case by individual case and by looking at the overall

picture of each family’s circumstances. Courts apply 15 factors, set

forth in a state law, to divide up assets and liabilities that the

parties accumulated during their marriage. These factors range from

the length of the marriage to the tax consequences of the property


Kantor is one of the attorneys conducting "What Every Woman Should

Know Before, During and After Her Divorce," on Wednesday, November

10 at the Stark & Stark Lenox Drive office and on Wednesday, November

17, at Freehold Gardens, both at 6:30 p.m. In addition to three attorneys

(including Maria P. Imbalzano and Frances M. Merritt)

there will be financial planners (Neelam Jain of AXA Advisors,

Terri Simonds of Amper Politziner & Mattia, and Sharyn Maggio

of Rosenfarb Winters) plus therapists, Robert Rosenbaum of Bunker

Hill Consultation Center, and psychologists Henry Weistuch, Elaine

Hicks, and Amy Altenhaus.

The Stark and Stark program is geared towards women, says Kantor,

because "we don’t want husbands and wives to show up together,"

but also because most of the inquiries come from women. "Men usually

have attorneys that are available to them or friends who are attorneys."

A lot of women are thinking about divorce, but often they don’t have

access to informal consultation and they don’t have funds for money

o to their attorneys because every time they ask they get billed."

The seminar is free. Call 609-895-7307.

Born in New Delhi, Kantor moved to the U.S. at the age of six and

her family still resides in Cherry Hill. She received a BS in political

science from Rutgers, Camden, Class of 1990, and a law degree from

Rutgers in 1993.

The stereotype of the rich divorcee, says Kantor, represents a select

few women, says Kantor. Women still stand to lose the most in a divorce,

particularly if they have spent some time out of the workforce. "Still

to this day it’s the women who are lower income earners, and it’s

the women who are responsible for the day to day needs of the household,"

she says. "When it comes to divorces, a woman’s quality of life

is more likely to decrease substantially and a man’s quality of life

to increase significantly." They lose more than income, she adds.

"They give up health insurance benefits and a retirement plan


Even if a woman retains a certain amount of assets, she says, they

can still get hit hard. "A lot of women don’t understand the tax

pitfalls of getting the house, that they have to pay capital gains

tax," she says.

Alimony is also taxed, and new laws and changing attitudes are affecting

how these are awarded to women, says Kantor. "The changes that

I’ve seen occur in the last six years or so is that alimony is not

favored," she says. "Less and less alimony is awarded, and

fewer and fewer men are willing to pay."

Limited duration alimony — as opposed to permanent or rehabilitative

alimony — is still relatively new in the courts, and it allows

the court to set a termination date on alimony payment. It is determined

on a case by case basis, explains Kantor, taking into account the

following factors: a spouse’s need for living assistance, the ability

of the other party to pay, the duration of the marriage, the living

standard in the marriage, the joint acquisition of assets in capital

income, the history of the financial or non-financial contributions

to the marriage of the party, including contributions to the care

of children, and other income available to each party from other investments.

The court can also determine a spouse’s eligibility for alimony, and

set the criteria, based on his or her age, physical and emotional

health, earning capacity and employability (based on absence from

the job market or training involved), education, parental responsibilities,

and the likelihood that he or she can maintain a reasonably comparable

standard of living after divorce.

Men are not the only ones who typically leave the courtroom unhappy,

says Kantor. "Women don’t walk away very happy either," she

says. "When the parties are educated about what the laws are,

then their expectation isn’t like what happened on LA Law. They’re

more realistic. If he’s making $68,000 and she’s capable of making

$50,000, they’ve been married for a long time, and he’s accepted that

she’s not a worker, and that’s how they’ve developed their marital

enterprise, then that will continue basically. He will have to expect

that they will live off his $68,000."

But a woman in her 30s who in a five-year marriage has two kids and

a degree in computer science is not going to get alimony for the rest

of her life. "She will get some help to reestablish herself in

the workforce, but she can’t sit back and watch TV. Now, depending

on her age, the court is going to say, `Look you had it good for all

of those years, so now you’re going to have to think about what you’re

going to do with your future.’"

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