Tyler Coe Interviewed for Let’s CLEAR This Up: Divorce and Homeownership
Jason Parkin, Director of Business Development with Clear Mortgage, recently interviewed divorce and family law attorney Tyler Coe on the weekly “Let’s Clear This Up” YouTube series. The following is an edited excerpt of the interview, edited for clarity from the full interview on YouTube. The video series with interviews of professionals across the Des Moines metro can be found at the Clear Mortgage YouTube channel. Learn more about Clear Mortgage by visiting their website, LinkedIn and Facebook pages.
Changes in Divorce during the COVID-19 pandemic
The general public has this impression that the pandemic has been hard on marriages. When the pandemic first started in 2020, I had my general cases I was working on in addition to a stream of new clients. Usually in summer months, divorce and family law matters get very busy because kids are out of school and parents feel it is much easier to get divorced.
During those months I received future-planning calls in the sense people were calling and asking, “Tyler, can we talk about filing my divorce – but not in a week or month. Probably in the next six months we can work towards filing in a year.” Their goal is to develop that future plan including child custody, finances, spousal support, child support, property division, gifted and inherited property, and more.
In my practice, I rarely get the opportunity to plan for the future months or years in advance because people want to file within a month and move quickly. This shift allowed me to practice law differently in the sense it was truly future planning and parents wanted to know what would happen within the next year so they could plan thoughtfully and thoroughly. These plans would not stop at six to twelve months, but truly include three-year, five year, and ten-year planning including retirement. This makes me happy because we can provide better services in a more comprehensive fashion,
Around October 2020, the longevity of COVID-19 hit people and they realized that the future planning they made gave them more confidence to actually move forward with the divorce. They also realized for many reasons that they did not want to be married or stuck in the same house as their spouse any longer. The reasons weren’t necessarily because of infidelity or finances, but the fact their partner was not the same person they used to be. A lot of people realized they were not equal partners in the relationship any longer and were ready to get out because the pandemic was going to last for at least another year or so.
Can marital counseling help married couples “work it out”?
If you find yourself in the situation, you can consider whether you can really work things out and not get divorced. I always ask people if they want to preserve the marriage because once the divorce is final, you can always get remarried, but it is messy and tricky. I always ask my clients if they want to go to what the courts call conciliation counseling where you can actually ask the court to require the other party, your spouse, to engage in counseling for a certain period of time. If you don’t want to go through the court system, you can just do it together. As a professional, I have a whole list of marital counselors who can get to the bottom of issues. Sometimes the marriage counselors say the marriage is not going to last, other times they advise to keep working on the marriage. My advice to clients is to give it a try because a divorce is expensive. Plus, if a couple can make a marriage work, they should.
How is the marital home and home mortgage approached in divorce?
As things move forward and it looks like a divorce will occur, the marital home and marital property come into play. A lot of clients say they must keep the marital home, which causes me to ask whether it is the memories or maybe the client and their spouse designed the house specifically for the family? Is there something special about the house where the client wants the kids to feel continuity and consistency in their lives? I always tell clients to look at the house as a structure that provides shelter for their family and they can keep or get rid of it. Another thing I ask them if they want to stay in the house where they have memories, both good and bad. This is what I call “the marital museum” and ask the client if they really want to keep the home.
Ultimately, most people do say “yes” and that involves either refinancing for one spouse so they can pay the equity difference. The nice part about the mortgage market currently is people have more flexibility in choosing a 15-year or 30-year mortgage. Mortgage consultants provide a better understanding of the process as to refinancing or buying a new home which can include more hand-holding because people are not as familiar with the financing process because maybe they were not really involved with the purchase of the house.
Can married couples talk about a divorce?
If people are able to communicate and believe their spouse is talking to them in good faith, meaning they are note recording the conversation or taking surreptitious notes to provide to their attorney and have it appear in court. It helps couples to have general conversations, but not sign anything without running it past an attorney. A way to diffuse the situation is to say, “That is interesting. Let me talk to my attorney about that.”
When it comes to finances, you don’t have to come up with exact numbers, but based on incomes and family history and Iowa case law we use our best efforts for spousal support including length of marriage, incomes of the parties, work history of the parties, education and other things. I would not advise the parties to discuss alimony or spousal support, but discussions about the house are usually okay. That way you can get the basics worked out and let the lawyers worry about the numbers and details.