While most of us wish for a happily ever after, reality often has other plans. Close to 50% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. It’s not always a bitter end, though. Sometimes, a couple may come to a mutual understanding that the marriage is unlikely to last.
Regardless of how you approach a divorce, preparing for some stress throughout the process would be best. To keep things smooth, you must plan and prepare for several aspects. Divorce can be a logistical nightmare if you go into it without seeking legal counsel.
This article will examine three key aspects you need to be ready for.
1. Financial Documentation
Negotiations around assets, property, and investments are always an important focus point during a divorce. Even if you have already agreed upon a certain arrangement beforehand, there will still need to be a lot of documents to organize.
For instance, the first set of documents you should prioritize are income-related. Based on these records, a court will decide on alimony, child support, and asset division.
The documents in this category will include paycheck stubs from both spouses and business expenses if self-employed. Tax returns for the last three to five years and any documentation that notes your net worth, income, and assets.
You will also need to organize your data in the areas of:
- Real estate holdings
- Joint financial accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Any marital debts
- Pension funds
- Automobile ownership
You want to ensure that you are comprehensive in your documentation. This is because financial transparency is critical. The last thing you want is for there to face an accusation of incomplete financial disclosure in court.
2. Spousal Support
Spousal support will also be another area that good documentation will help you with. However, you want to ensure that you understand the laws governing spousal support in your state.
If you feel like something fishy is happening in how your spouse is projecting their financial situation, inform your legal counsel. If you don’t already have an attorney, look for reliable law firms online and reach out to them through the Contact Us page on their websites. Alternatively, you can ask for attorney recommendations from people you trust.
Several complex factors go into spousal support orders. According to Harden Law Firm, courts will often consider the length of the marriage, which spouse has custody of children, and the earning ability of each spouse.
For spouses who wish to avoid paying support, your best option would be to have made a prenup beforehand. However, if you haven’t done so, the next best option would be to prove that your spouse doesn’t need financial support.
This can be achieved by highlighting glaring incidents of financial mismanagement from your spouse or proving evidence of substantial income they receive from a side business.
There are also a few states, like South Carolina, that still recognize fault-based grounds for divorce. You could file a fault divorce, giving you a better chance of avoiding payments. Remember, spousal support in SC can be a bit complex because the state doesn’t have a formula for deciding alimony payments. Instead, it relies on the court’s discretion.
3. Child Custody
No matter how amicable you hope to be in divorce proceedings, strong emotions come into play when children are in the picture. The court will typically determine the arrangement in the child’s best interest. Sadly, too many parents make child custody a toxic competition.
There might be a chance that you and your spouse cannot agree on custody. If so, be prepared for the court to evaluate who will be the ideal custodian of your child. Several factors will influence a court’s decision on this matter. These include:
- Parent-child relationship
- Parental fitness (physical and mental)
- Who the primary caregiver has been
- The child’s wishes
- Ability to provide stability and continuity in the child’s life
- Parental support system (family, friends, community)
- History of parental involvement
- Instances of abuse or neglect
Of course, no two custody cases will be similar. Still, with the above aspects in mind, you should have a rough idea of who is more likely to receive child custody.
If there are any signs that your marriage cannot be saved, a divorce or separation remains the only option. Remember, you cannot expect everything to go your way in a divorce.
Divorce, by its very nature, brings major changes, and there will have to be some degree of compromise needed for both parties to walk away satisfied.
Unfortunately, aspects of money and custody become bitter battlegrounds for many spouses. It can also be tough to swallow if you feel like your spouse is being given an unfair advantage. However, the justice system has its way of doing things. All that the average person can do is get the best attorney they can afford and hope for the best.