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