By Todd D. Wolfrum

By Todd D. Wolfrum Attorney-at-law
Here are the three levels of marital fighting: 1. Daily Drama - There is a disagreement and the couple doesn't talk to each other for awhile; 2. Forced Camping - Someone sleeps on a couch; 3. Attorney Contacted - Someone starts doing math the day after they sleep on the couch.

No one is happy before, during, or after a divorce. This is true whether or not there are kids and even if you could not wait to get rid of that deadbeat anyway. And this is true because financially, divorce is a disaster on par with an uninsured trip to the periodontist.

The economics of divorce starts with devising a property settlement. On a very basic level, separating marital property is easy: Each party is entitled to half of everything acquired during the marriage. It's as simple as sitting down and listing your marital assets.

Or is it? The value of everything you own is up in the air - nothing in the living room has a price tag. Often, parties can separate the personal property amicably. When they can't, the best method is having a private auction. It's a microcosm of supply and demand - there's only one bowling trophy after all, so is it worth more than the microwave? Why argue when you can bid?

The house might be underwater with its financing, especially these days. Dividing assets is easier and more enjoyable than dividing debt. Although many seem to "know" him in the biblical sense, not all of us are married to Tiger Woods. In a perfect world, each party takes half the debt. On Earth, you might be willing to take a little more to protect your credit.

Separate property is just that - not involved in the property settlement of a divorce. If you inherited land from your parents during the marriage, that is considered yours outside of the 50-50 split in most cases. Property you owned prior to the marriage is also considered separate. Unhappy with the property settlement? Child support and alimony aren't going to settle your hash. It is never enough or always too much, depending.

Alimony is supposed to be figured by the court at what is reasonable taking into consideration the parties' financial situation. It is calculated differently from county to county. By law, it is supposed to be argued rather than calculated, so it is always an issue you can appeal.

A popular method used by some judges to calculate alimony goes as follows: Let's assume we're dealing with a couple that has been married twenty years. She is an RN and makes $65,000 a year. He works at Burger King and makes $15,000 (except when Whoppers are $1).

Start by taking the difference in income, which in this example, is $50,000 ($65k - $15k). The percentage of that difference payable annually as alimony is 10% plus another one percent added for every year of marriage. In this example (20-year marriage), 30% of the $50k difference, or $15,000, would be payable per year; $1,250 monthly.

For how long? The second part of this calculation is easier. For every year of marriage, you get three months of spousal support. So twenty years of marriage would equal five years of spousal support. Actually, if the guy in this scenario isn't happy with this, he really is a deadbeat.

Child support is entirely separate from alimony, although the alimony payer does get some credit here (not enough). Child support is figured, supposedly, on the basis that if the couple was still together, what percent of their combined income would go for the children?

There are mandated formulas for child support and very little for attorneys to argue once income and deductions are determined. Let's just say if you're paying support for four kids, your days of enjoying life have ended and you're hoping your parents have an extra room. The person receiving support is in no better situation, with four kids crammed in a two bedroom apartment.

Not every marriage is salvageable and divorces happen. But if your financial situation is the cause of your strife, know that there's no more gold at the end of the rainbow than at the beginning. In fact, there's exactly half as much.