Navigate Your Divorce With Clarity
Divorce With Children Path – Petitioner
Follow a clear path toward your future, avoid mistakes along the way and secure the best possible outcome for yourself.
PREPARE & FILE
Deciding to divorce your spouse carries lifetime consequences. As such, it is a decision that requires serious consideration and contemplation. Here are some questions you may wish to ask yourself before deciding to file for divorce:
- Have I done everything within my abilities to repair the relationship?
- Am I really ready for a divorce, or am I reacting emotionally?
- Why do I want a divorce?
- Will a divorce solve the problems?
- Have I accepted that there will be consequences to my decision to divorce?
- Can I handle the unpleasant side effects of divorce?
- Am I willing to take on all of the responsibilities of life as a single person?
Before You Get Started
1. Copy Important Documents
Find and make copies of all documents related to your assets, debts, income, and expenses: tax returns, bank account statements, retirement account statements, life insurance policies, mortgage statements, auto insurance policies, credit card statements, and paycheck stubs. It’s a great idea to make a digital copy of these documents and upload them to the cloud using a new random password-protected file. In addition to financial documents, you may want to consider copying family photographs, home videos, and other sentimental items.
2. Remove Personal Items
Gather up your Social Security Card, medical insurance information, birth certificate, passport, and other personal documents. You will want to move these items to a safe place. Many families mix up these personal documents, and it’s easy for them to get misplaced when one or both spouses are moving out of the family home.
3. Change Passwords
Protect your confidentiality by changing all of the passwords to your personal accounts. This includes passwords to your cell phone, email, computer, social media, and iCloud accounts. Make sure you select a password that your spouse cannot guess, keeping in mind that your spouse knows you better than probably anyone in the world.
4. Inventory Household Items
Use your phone to record a video of the contents in your home. Slowly walk through each room and describe the items as you record. Don’t forget about the items in your home safe.
5. Protect and Access Credit
It is critical to check your credit before you begin the divorce process. You need to know what debts exist and what your credit report looks like so that you can properly plan your financial future. If possible, you may want to open a new credit card solely in your name so that you can have access to emergency funds.
Filing For Divorce
After you’ve committed to divorce mentally and taken action to prepare, it’s time to begin the filing process. You or your attorney will file three documents with the Court:
After your initial court forms are filed with the court, your spouse will be ‘served.’ Service means to give the other party copies of the documents. Serving the initial documents gives your spouse notice that a case has been opened and that he or she is subject to the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders. Proper service is essential for moving forward with the divorce process – until service happens, the minimum waiting period of six months and a day does not begin.
Assuming there is no domestic violence and no reason to believe that your spouse will go out of his or her way to avoid being served, it may be a good idea to have a conversation with your spouse about service.
You do not have to serve your spouse in a public venue, such as their place of employment. Embarrassing your spouse or trying to inflict pain is rarely a good choice. While it may make you feel better initially, you may come to regret your decision when it causes further conflict and increased litigation. Finally, at all costs, avoid having your spouse served in front of your children.
CREATIVITY & NUMBER CRUNCHING
Once you’ve committed to starting the next chapter in your life, you and your spouse will need to decide how everything gets divided. Creativity and cooperation will make your transition much easier. Some numbers are court-determined while others are left to negotioation.
- See the Judge – if needed
- Disclose Finances – always mandatory
- Child Custody & Visitation – meet with a mediator if you can’t agree
- Child Support – based on both parents’ income and timeshare
- Spousal Support – temporary & permanent
- Property Division – have the most creativity and flexibility to negotiate what you want
- Debt Allocation – make everything fair and equitable
- Attorney Fees – need and behavior based
Planning to File Divorce Paperwork On Your Own?
Understanding the Division
A final settlement agreement is documented in a divorce Judgment. If it is an agreed-upon judgment, it is called a stipulated judgment. The Judgment contains the legal terms and provisions as related to your agreements.
1. Seeing the Judge
A judge can help you with your case through something called a Settlement Conference. A Settlement Conference is a court hearing where a judge assists parties with resolving their differences. Judges assist with the settlement process by listening to both sides and suggesting compromises. Some judges will provide input as to their thoughts on the legal aspects of the issues or give insight as to how they might rule if the issues were presented at trial. Settlement Conferences, if used correctly, can be an effective and positive method to resolving divorce cases.
2. Child Custody
There are two types of child custody, legal and physical. Your agreement should state whether you will share joint custody, or if one parent will have sole custody. You should have a clear parenting schedule that defines when your children are with each parent. Detailed visitation agreements will also contain provisions related to holidays and vacations.
3. Child Support
The amount of child support payable from one parent to the other should be stated. If you are choosing an amount of child support that deviates from what a judge would order under the state guidelines, you should be clear as to why you are choosing to do something different. Child support agreements should also clarify which parent is claiming the children as dependents on tax returns, how uninsured medical expenses, child care, extracurricular activity, and other child-related expenses are divided, and who will be providing health insurance.
4. Spousal Support
The amount and duration should be specified as to each spouse, as well as the tax consequences.
5. Property Division
You should be prepared to clearly state what you and your spouse each receive in the divorce. This includes everything from the household items to the retirement accounts.
6. Debt Allocation
It is very important to clarify which spouse is responsible for what debt in order to avoid missed payments and credit damage. If one spouse owes the other spouse money, the payment schedule and/or due date should be listed.
7. Attorney’s Fees
Even if each of you will be paying your own attorney fees, you should say so in the Judgment. If one spouse is contributing towards the other spouse’s attorney fees, you will want to state the amount and the payment schedule and/or due date for the fees.
FINALIZING YOUR DIVORCE
After you’ve split your assets and reached an agreement, all that’s left to do is finalize your divorce.
No two divorces are the same. Some of the steps listed in this roadmap will not be taken by all divorcing couples. Other steps are required, and it is vital that you take the right steps for you and your family in order to ensure a fair outcome. We hope that you take care of yourself during this difficult time in your life. In order to better understand the divorce process and how it relates to you, please take the next step by contacting us.