9 Essential Divorce Tips
Divorce is not only emotionally challenging but is also a complicated legal matter that requires significant work and attention on your part. No matter how you look at it, there is a lot riding on your divorce, and that is why we have compiled nine essential divorce tips to help you successfully maneuver the journey forward.
One: Know before You Go
The number one divorce-related tip anyone can give you is that you should not seek a divorce on a whim or in the heat of the moment. If you can save your marriage, your efforts are best spent toward this end. This does not, however, mean that you should not confer with a divorce attorney until you are absolutely ready to pull the trigger. In fact, early consultation with a dedicated divorce attorney can help you better understand the process ahead, your best options, and what a divorce would likely mean for you. This is the kind of information that could inspire you to redouble your efforts in relation to avoiding divorce in the first place. On the other hand, if you know, you know, and it is time to get down to the business of seeking a divorce.
Two: Consult with a Divorce Attorney Early in the Process
The only way to get a divorce is to move through the divorce process, and better understanding what it is all about can help you better prepare for what is to come. This involves consulting with an experienced divorce attorney early in the divorce process. While many people believe that getting a jump on your divorcing spouse is the way to go, it is far more important to simply be prepared for what is to come, and this is where having a divorce attorney on your side comes into play.
Three: Evaluate What You Are Looking for in a Divorce Attorney
You might be surprised by how much you will need to open up with your divorce attorney regarding your marriage. Marriage is obviously a very personal matter, which means that you need to find a divorce attorney with whom you are comfortable sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly in relation to your marriage. In addition to feeling comfortable with your legal counsel, it is important to have realistic expectations. Consider the following:
Your attorney is not a counselor and is not there to help you cope emotionally (although there are counselors out there who can).
Your attorney does not have a crystal ball and cannot tell you exactly how your divorce will proceed. Although, he or she can share how your case is likely to proceed and can help you make the right decisions for you along the way.
Ultimately, the divorce decisions you make are up to you alone, but your attorney has the legal insight and experience to help you make informed decisions that help protect your rights.
Your divorce attorney will play the role of your trusty guide throughout the often-turbulent divorce process, and you are looking for a legal professional who inspires this level of trust in you.
If your divorcing spouse decides to make your divorce as difficult as he or she possibly can, there is little your attorney can do to alter this fact, and your case will very likely proceed to court.
Your attorney is charged with protecting your financial and parental rights throughout the divorce process, and working together as a team is the best way to help accomplish this worthy goal.
Four: Gather the Necessary Documentation
Obtaining a divorce that protects your rights requires a good deal of documentation, and the sooner you begin gathering and compiling this documentation, the better off you will be. Once things heat up, it can be more difficult to gain access to specific items, and forcing the issue via legal measures can be both cumbersome and time-consuming. The majority of the documents you need are financial in nature, including:
Your mortgage information and payment history
Your household bills
Your bank accounts
Credit card statements
Your financial portfolio, including all stocks and bonds
Life insurance policies
Car titles (and titles for any recreational vehicles, including boats, that you own)
Documentation related to business ownership
Other valuables, including works of art, collections, jewelry, and watches
It’s also important to take into account items that have sentimental value (perhaps in addition to financial value), such as family heirlooms.
Five: Let Your Children Be Your Guide
If your divorce involves children, the court will base its decisions related to them on their best interests. You naturally want what is best for your children, and allowing their best interests to guide you throughout your divorce negotiations can help you gain focus and perspective. It’s important to remember that there are also resources available for your children as they go through this very difficult process.
Six: Cut Yourself Some Slack
While your children are obviously of utmost importance, you also have to take your own well-being into consideration. Carving out some you time during the divorce process can do you a world of good.
Seven: Commit to Compromise
In the end, your divorce terms will represent an array of considerable compromises made by each of you. If you commit to compromise early on, you can save yourself significant heartache and can make the process easier on you. Compromising does not mean giving in to your divorcing spouse’s every whim, but it does mean taking the time to identify your divorce priorities and relaxing your standards when it comes to matters that do not make top billing. When you turn every negotiation into a battle, it makes it very difficult to focus on what matters most to you. When you are able to strategize effectively and to let your divorce priorities be your guide, you can turn down the heat on your negotiations and can train your efforts on what matters most to you.
Eight: Understand the Divorce Basics
If you do not understand the divorce basics, the entire process can feel like something that happens to you – rather than a process that you participate in. Better understanding the universal terms that must be resolved in your divorce is an excellent place to start. These include (as applicable):
Child custody arrangements
Division of marital property
If you are able to find common ground on each of the terms that apply to your divorce (regardless of how you get there), you can move forward with what is known as an uncontested divorce. If not, however, you’ll need the court’s intervention (on all unresolved terms).
Child Custody Arrangements
Child custody is divided into both legal and physical custody in the State of Texas. Legal custody addresses which will be making the big picture parenting decisions, including those involving:
Your children’s schooling
Your children’s healthcare needs
Your children’s extracurriculars
Your children’s religious upbringing
You and your children’s other parent may share this responsibility; one of you may have tie-breaking authority (in the event you reach an impasse); one of you can make the decisions on your own, or you can divide this decision-making authority between yourselves according to the kind of decision being made. Those decisions that you encounter on a daily basis as a parent remain the purview of the parent who is there at the time.
Physical custody refers to how you and your ex will divide your parenting time between you. If the court’s intervention is required, you will likely receive one of the state’s standard parenting plans. If not, however, you can create whatever kind of parenting schedule works for your family (and your new reality). The basic categories of physical custody include:
One of you becomes the primary custodial parent, which means your children spend the majority of their overnights with that parent.
You divide your parenting time more evenly between the two of you.
Child support is calculated according to specific state guidelines that leave little room for variance. Exceptions, however, are made. The primary factors that guide child support payments are the number of overnights each of you has with the children and you and your ex’s incomes (relative to one another). Even if the amount of time each of you spends with your shared children is about equal, the parent who earns more is likely to pay child support to the other.
Division of Marital Property
Those assets and properties that you and your spouse acquire when you are married are identified as marital property, and this is true regardless of who purchased the item in question and regardless of whose name is on the title. In Texas, marital property must be divided equitably in the event of divorce, and this means fairly – in relation to wide-ranging factors. Such factors can include:
The overall size of the marital estate
Any discrepancy in earning capacity
The relative health of both spouses
The age difference between the spouses
Each spouse’s separate property
Any anticipated or realized gifts or inheritances received by either spouse (gifts and inheritances made in one person’s name alone are considered that person’s separate property)
The tax considerations related to the terms of the divorce
Each spouse’s obligations in terms of child support and/or alimony
The cost of litigating the divorce, including attorney fees
If fault played a role in the breakdown of the marriage
Any improper use, hiding, or wasting of marital property
Any other factor the court deems relevant
In Texas, alimony is called spousal maintenance, and it refers to payments made by the spouse with the financial means to help the spouse who experiences a financial downturn upon divorce. Typically, alimony is intended to help the financially disadvantaged party gain firmer financial footing – through additional education, training, or experience – and move forward on his or her own. The factors that tend to play a role in whether or not alimony is ordered and if so, its duration and amount include the following:
The length of the marriage
Each party’s age
Each party’s ability to provide for his or her own reasonable needs
Each party’s level of education and employability
Each party’s separate property
The amount of time necessary for the recipient to gain the education or training necessary to become more financially independent
The overall mental and physical health of the party seeking alimony
The payor’s ability to pay in relation to child support obligations
Any contributions the recipient made to the payor’s career and earning power
Any contributions the recipient made to the marriage in his or her role as the homemaker and/or caregiver for the children
Any marital misconduct
Any other factors the court deems relevant
Nine: Know the Complicating Factors
Every divorce is complicated. This is a given. There are, however, certain factors that tend to make the matter that much more complicated.
If your divorce involves high assets, you can expect it to make the division of your marital property that much more challenging. Business ownership is another factor that can make dividing your assets equitably more complicated.
If your spouse refuses to negotiate terms in good faith and/or simply chooses to make your divorce as contentious as possible, you can expect a bumpy ride.
Some divorcing couples recognize that one parent or one parent’s situation is better suited to the role of the primary custodial parent. Other couples are amenable to sharing their time with their children more evenly. If, however, you and your divorcing spouse both have your sights on primary custody, it can complicate the matter considerably.
It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a trusted divorce attorney who dedicates his practice to skillfully protecting the financial and parental rights of clients like you. If you have divorce concerns, we are here to help and on your side, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.