Question: What is a divorce?
- Something you get? You hire a lawyer to get a divorce.
- A legal proceeding? I'm going through a nasty divorce right now.
- Something you're given? You go to court and are granted a divorce by the courts.
- All of the above.
Got your answer? Good. Now let's see if you were correct.
Answer: Divorce is...
When you got married, you made vows, obtained a marriage license and a marriage certificate.
When you did these things, a binding contract was formed about the way your marriage would endure.
As a result of the marriage, rights and obligations were created for you and your spouse with respect to certain legal monetary and property rights. And if you have children together, you also have legal obligations with regard to the care and financial support of your children.
So in order to end your marriage and get a divorce it must be done using a legal proceeding by going through a divorce so that your marital contract can be terminated and you are granted a divorce by the courts.
The right answer is D - All of the above.
If you chose D give yourself one point. Heck, if you chose A, B or C, give yourself a point as well.
What Issues Need To Be Resolved In A Divorce?
While everyone's case is unique and the number of issues any one couple can face (and the complexity of those issues) are mind boggling, we'll focus here on the four main areas of divorce.
No matter which of the five divorce options you choose for the divorce process, there are four main areas you'll need to discuss. They are:
- Parenting Plans & Child Custody
- Child Support & Expense Sharing
- Alimony (also known as Spousal Support or Maintenance)
- And the division of your marital assets and liabilities (also known as Equitable Distribution in most states here in the US)
Let's take a closer look at each one.
Parenting Plans & Child Custody
Once you and your spouse divorce and establish separate households, there isn't much you can do to get rid of the loneliness you might feel on nights your kids aren't with you. But you can make things easier on yourself and your children by crafting a comprehensive parenting plan and child custody arrangement.
In addition to the standard topics such as where the kids will spend nights, weekends and holidays, you'll also need to discuss things like how they'll get from house to house, who will help them with their homework and who will attend parent-teacher conferences.
Do you or your spouse travel overnight for work? Will you need to change up the schedule from time to time?
And what about overnight guests?
I know it may be hard to think about that now but there will come a day when you've moved past your divorce and will start seeing someone new.
All of these issues and more must be covered in a good parenting plan.
Child Support & Expense Sharing
Many people think child support is a simple calculation. But there's so much more to coming to a child support agreement than simply calculating a support amount.
There are a number of factors that can come into play when calculating child support. And to make matters worse, every state here in the US has a different formula.
- Your incomes
- The number of overnights the children spend with each of you
- Who pays for their health insurance
- Who takes them as a tax deduction
- The age of your children
- Alimony being paid or received
- The cost of extraordinary expenses such as daycare, camps, etc.
And many more. The point is calculating child support is very complex and not something you should attempt with a free calculator you find on the Internet.
In addition to the regular child support amount, you'll also need to determine how extraordinary expenses are shared. This can include items such as:
- Music lessons
- Cell phones
- Car Insurance
Figuring out who pays for what, who approves which expenses and what contribution is required from each parent can be tricky.
If you have children, be careful when choosing the divorce method you will use and understand fully how each method addresses, resolves and memorializes all of the issues related to your children.
Alimony is the most emotional, most challenging and most difficult topic of all.
Simply stated, alimony is a payment from one ex-spouse to the other and is intended to aid the lower earning spouse in making the transition from married to single. It is not intended to unjustly enrich the recipient party, or punish the paying party.
It is strictly based on need and is gender neutral. Both men and women can receive alimony.
But unlike child support in which each state is required by the federal government to have a guideline calculation, there are no such guidelines available for alimony.
Coming to an agreement on this challenging topic can be a nightmare since each state has its own statutes, laws and ways of determining it. And none of them are exactly clear.
In addition to the difficulty in coming to an agreement, there are a host of other implications such as:
- Will the alimony be taxable or non-taxable?
- What if your income is variable?
- How about bonuses? Are they included in the alimony discussion?
- And the biggest question of all… when does alimony end?
Be sure the divorce method you choose gives you the tools to resolve such a complex issue as alimony if it's applicable in your particular case.
The process of splitting your marital assets and liabilities is known in most states as Equitable Distribution.
No matter whether they're assets or liabilities, you'll need to value them, discuss how they'll be equitably shared and move them from one column to another.
You need to be aware of the tax implications of certain transactions. And the paperwork required in executing such transactions with the courts. You'll also want to be clear on what exactly is a marital asset or liability as some can be both marital and pre-marital.
Before You Start the Divorce, Learn Your Options.
While we've given you a good overview of the topics that are covered during a divorce, you now need to choose the divorce method that's going to help you discuss, resolve and come to agreements on the relevant issues surrounding your case.
When contemplating which divorce option to use (or service provider for that matter) keep in mind the financial issues related to your divorce and how well a particular method can resolve them fairly.
Not all options are best suited to do this so if your financial issue are complex, it may limit the choices you'll have for how to get a divorce.
Divorce is not one-size-fits-all. Everyone's situation is different and has its own unique complexities. Regardless of how simple you believe your divorce situation might be, attempting to undertake divorce on your own may not be as easy as you think.
Choose the Divorce Option Right For You
Remember, this is your divorce and how you choose to proceed is entirely up to you. Take the time to do your homework and learn about all of the options available. This way you can empower yourself with knowledge and choose the divorce method that's right for you and your family.