Points to Consider Before You File for Divorce
Participating in Marriage Counseling
Before filing for divorce, make sure that you have exhausted all possibilities of reconciliation. You will never regret having taken the time and energy to save your marriage. If you have not tried couples counseling, seek to explore and commit to marital therapy. It is possible that a qualified therapist can help the two of you find new ways to communicate and interact in a healthy and supportive manner that could put your relationship back on track.
Choosing the Right Attorney for You and Your Legal Matter
When divorce is inevitable, make sure that you choose the right family law attorney. You and your lawyer will be spending a great deal of time together during the divorce process, so it is important that you hire someone whom you trust. The dissolution of marriage can be emotionally exhausting, so choose an experienced attorney with whom you are comfortable discussing the details of your situation. Consider interviewing several lawyers before you hire counsel and remember that many reputable and seasoned attorneys will charge a consultation fee. It is worth paying a nominal fee to obtain an experienced lawyer.
Hiring a New Attorney
If you discover in the early stages of your legal matter that you are not able to communicate with your lawyer, it is important to obtain the services of a new family law attorney right away. If you attempt to change counsel too far into the case, it will be expensive for a new lawyer to become familiar with your case, and may not even be feasible if the court refuses your request to draft substitution of counsel.
Understanding Your Finances
If you have not paid attention to the details of your family's financial planning, seek to discover and understand your investments and the approximate value of your debts and assets. Also seek to discover the value of all retirement assets. Retirement accounts will include IRAs, 401(k) s, 403(b) s, and pensions. Although the assets contained in these accounts may not seem significant now, they could be worth a great deal more in the future.
Hiring a Tax Professional
The dissolution of marriage will often entail tax consequences. A tax professional can discuss the tax implications of capital gains, child support and spousal support payments, the separation of retirement assets, etc.
Recording/Registering/Holding Separate Property in Your Name Only
If you wish to keep pre-marital or inherited assets separate from community property, make sure that the assets are titled in your name only. Do not use community funds to maintain your separate asset and do not comingle (mix) with community funds. If you title real property and other titled assets in your spouse's name, they could be considered to have acquired a community interest. It will certainly complicate tracing your separate interest and proving your separate interest in a divorce, if the funds are intermixed with community funds.
Creating a Highly Specific Parenting Schedule
The more specific you can be regarding parenting time, i.e.: pick up and drop off times, vacation, holiday schedules, etc., the easier the process will be for all concerned. Your relationship with your spouse regarding the children will change after you divorce, and the plan you agree on now can prevent misunderstandings in the future. A specific parenting plan is also beneficial to your children because it will create an anticipated routine for them and prevent unnecessary chaos.
Keeping Accurate Records
It is the payor's responsibility to prove that child support has been paid, so you must maintain accurate and ongoing records of all child support payments to avoid the possibility of duplicate payments. Maintain receipts, cancelled checks, and/or photocopies of all of your child support payments.
Insuring Settlement Assets and Ongoing Payments
If you receive child support or spousal support, you may wish to either have your former spouse maintain life insurance on the amount owed or you can also obtain authorization to purchase your own life insurance on your spouse’s life in the divorce documents, allowing you to purchase and own a life insurance on your spouse’s life, in order to insure funds will be available in the event the paying spouse dies prior to satisfaction of the obligation.
Being Patient with the Divorce Process
Even though the divorce process may be lengthy and stressful, remember that you will likely regret it if you make unfavorable agreements regarding your children, or your property. It is important to remain patient throughout the process in order to obtain the best possible settlement.
Your Divorce Will Differ From Your Friend’s Divorce
When you discuss your divorce with your divorced friends, you will discover that everyone's parenting plan is a little different, and everyone's community property was divided in a different manner. The amount for child support and spousal support will vary as well. Keep in mind that child support is highly specific and is calculated based on a formula devised by the legislature, and the amount depends on many factors including the income of each party, the amount of spousal support paid, daycare costs, etc. Spousal support awards, however, can be highly subjective and judges rule only after considering many variables, some of which include health, age, lifestyle during the marriage, educational levels, years out of the work force, length of the marriage, etc.
Having Realistic Expectations
Divorce is similar to marriage in that it requires both parties to compromise. Many people enter into divorce proceedings and expect that even their most exaggerated demands will be met. When your finances, children, property, a business or retirement assets are in dispute, you must have realistic expectations and focus on problem solving.
Filing for Modifications with the Court
After your divorce is final, make sure that you file any additional or subsequent agreements regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities with the Court. Verbal or written agreements signed by both parents, will not necessarily be upheld later and will not supersede Court Orders
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