Going through a divorce can be an emotionally difficult and stressful time, even if you are parting amicably. On top of that, the legal process can seem daunting if you don’t know what to expect, which most people don’t. Here are seven key things to keep in mind when navigating the legal side of divorce.
1. Understand the Grounds for Divorce in Your State
The grounds for divorce vary by state. Some states allow no-fault divorces, where you just state irreconcilable differences. Others require things like adultery, abandonment, or cruelty. Know your state’s requirements and ensure you can prove the grounds needed for the divorce. This affects everything from how you file to the timeline.
2. Choose the Right Attorney
A divorce attorney is your guide through the complex legal process. Find one experienced in family law and knowledgeable about local judges and laws. Make sure you communicate well together and feel comfortable sharing personal details. Ask questions upfront about their strategy and how they’ll handle things like custody and child support. You need to get along with the person you choose, as they will be working closely with you for the duration of the divorce. The right divorce attorney is empathetic and able to offer emotional support as well as handle legal matters.
3. Get Organized Financially
Finances are something divorce attorneys go over with a fine-tooth comb. This is so they can decide how the financial assets are split between both parties. To get the process started, you’ll need to gather tax returns, bank statements, debts owed, retirement accounts, and more to determine assets, incomes, and living expenses. This guides child support amounts, alimony, and the division of property. Being organized from the start helps things go smoothly and prevents unnecessary delays.
4. Understand Child Custody Laws
Custody arrangements, visitation rights, and determining what’s in the child’s best interests can be complex. Just because you believe you are the best parent to have primary custody of your children, it doesn’t mean the court will agree with you. Familiarize yourself with custody laws in your state to see whether they favor joint custody or not. You’ll also want to think through practical considerations like schedules and living arrangements so that your children have the right level of care for their needs.
5. Don’t Forget Health Insurance Changes
After a divorce, you can’t remain on a spouse’s policy. Look into COBRA or options through work. Medicaid or private insurance may be alternatives too. Make sure there are no gaps in coverage, especially for children. Health insurance changes should be accounted for in the divorce settlement, so the children and you are provided for.
6. Know Community Property Divisions
How assets and debts are divided depends on whether you live in a community property state or an equitable distribution state. Community property states split marital assets 50/50. Equitable distribution looks at what’s fair given each spouse’s contributions and situation. Bear this in mind before you file for divorce.
7. Finalize Everything in Your Divorce Decree
This legal document finalizes the terms of your divorce. It covers things like asset division, debts, child custody, child support, visitation rights, alimony, and more. Make sure you read it thoroughly and understand all the terms before signing. It will guide issues that arise post-divorce.
Going through a divorce is not easy, but understanding the legal process helps minimize stress and ensures your rights are protected. Educate yourself on state laws, find an attorney suited to your needs, get finances organized, and read the decree thoroughly. With the right guidance, you can navigate this life change.