The General Legal Process
The legal process itself is about completing and filing paperwork. The tough part are the negotiations to create the Marital Separation Agreement, which is the financial settlement, and Parenting Agreement, which documents how co-parenting will be handled.
Divorce laws vary by state, and shape how assets are divided or parenting time is determined. Even though these laws generally mean the same thing, nuances exist on a state-by-state basis. For example, an affair or abandonment may be a cause for fault in some states and not in others. Fault may guide parenting time or how assets or debts are split. Untangle The Knot strongly encourages you to have a consultation with a lawyer to discuss your specific circumstances and how the laws of your state will affect your situation.
Do It Yourself Divorces or DIY Divorces are an ever-increasing trend. This means the research and paperwork is done by the couple. You might consult a lawyer to gain information on specific topics, but they are not typically used to a large degree in this process. If there are points in which you and your spouse cannot find common ground, a mediator could be used to reach agreement. Many divorces are completed this way using mediation. Mediators may be trained in the skill of mediation only, or they could be formally trained as lawyers, financial professionals or therapists as well. Choosing a lawyer with a dual-specialty can be very beneficial in certain circumstances.
Collaborative divorces are gaining popularity as well. In these cases, both spouses retain a lawyer who specializes in collaborative law. Either you reach a settlement a settlement in this process or both spouses need to retain new counsel and begin again. The incentive is high to settle and stay out of court!
The aforementioned types of divorces are uncontested, in which both parties agree to the divorce and are working toward a settlement. Less friendlier circumstances are contested in which one party does not want the divorce or there are issues in which a common ground cannot be found. Arbitration or trial are used in these circumstances and in both, a third party in a position of authority will be making the decisions for you about your children and your money. This is not where you want to be! Untangle The Knot will provide you information and strategies to stay out of this position!
If you are dealing with any type of abusive situation, please document each instance in a safe place. Just make a note of what happened, location, date, time and if anyone else was present. Be sure to keep this in a location where it will not be found–work, a friend’s house, somewhere in the house your spouse would never look, or anywhere you feel is safe. Hopefully this is not a document you’ll need, but you will sure be glad you have it if the need arises.
Seperation vs Divorce
Some couples choose separation over filing for divorce. There are different kinds of separations and they could have implications on your divorce, which do vary by state. Some things to keep in mind:
- The date you formally separate is critically important to capture as that typically is the point at which assets and debts obtained are allocated to the associated spouse.
- Separation could be permanent and never move to divorce if the couple chooses to do so based on religious or insurance reasons.
- Beware–Moving out could be considered a reason for “fault” in some states.
- If you do file a formal separation, the waiting period could be longer for divorce.