So You Decided it’s Time For a Divorce…Now What?
Divorce, now termed dissolution of marriage in most states, including Florida, is not something to be taken lightly. However, there are times, for a variety of reasons one or both parties of a marriage determine their marriage is no longer working, it is, as a judge would say, irrevocably broken. Now what?
First, if both parties have come to the decision, together, that their life as a married couple is over, they can begin to explore how a divorce works in which state they are residents. If, however, only one party is desirous of a divorce and has not yet told the other party of his or her intentions, the telling will be the first consideration on the road to divorce. Each situation is different when it comes to “the telling,” but it is best to keep emotions calm, be reasonable regarding accusations, and never do so in front of their children. Try to remember that at one time there was love and admiration, that life will go on, and that working together through the divorce will, in the end, bring a much better outcome than kicking and screaming all the way.
Each state has their statutes regarding divorce, both with and without minor children, and include guidelines regarding alimony, equitable or equal distribution of marital assets and liabilities, child support, parental care of minor children and all issues regarding divorce. It is a good idea to go online and read the statutes for the couple’s state of residence. For example, Florida has equitable, not equal distribution of property, and there is a big difference.
The next step is to determine if a Family Law attorney will be needed or if the couple plans a simple or what is termed no contest divorce and will not use an attorney. States like Florida will not allow a simple divorce if there are minor children involved or if the couple has real marital property such as a house. If there is an acceptable court pre or post marital agreement, it is sometimes easier to handle a divorce without the help of an attorney, unless there are minor children whose future cannot be determined in pre or post marital agreements.
If the couple agrees on everything, have no minor children and no real marital property they can go to the courthouse to purchase the required papers for filing for divorce, and having one party serve the other. Both parties must fill out and have notarize din-depth financial disclosures before the divorce can be granted. A simple divorce usually costs several hundred dollars, payable to the court at the time all paperwork is filled out and returned to the county courthouse of the couple’s residence. A judge will review the request, and if all is acceptable, grant the divorce.
On the other hand, should the couple disagree on any part of the final outcome or have, in the state of Florida, minor children and or marital real property, it will be necessary to retain the services of an attorney. So, the next step for each party will be to seek out an attorney, usually one specializing in Family Law, to take their case. Family, friends, the internet, and taking advantage of free, initial consultations offered by most attorneys are good ways to narrow down choices before making a final decision. Once an attorney has been chosen there will still be work for the client to do.
As proof for all claims and accusations will be necessary, it is essential the clients gather any documents required to do so. These documents can include mortgages, loans, credit card and bank statements, retirement plans, and sales receipts. Making a list of all items of value acquired before and after the marriage with proof of value and acquisition as well as debts and liabilities is necessary so personal property can be divided into premarital (before marriage) and marital (after marriage) categories.
If the couple lives in Florida, for example, it will be necessary to prepare for mediation. In most jurisdictions, mediation is required before a court date can be set. There are several advantages to agreeing to a marital settlement rather than taking the case to court. If the case must proceed to court the couple will be facing other legal procedures to prepare for such as motions, depositions, interrogatories, gathering of witness both personal and expert, and an increased cost to cover additional attorney fees.
Divorce is never easy and rarely do both, or even either party receive the final outcome they had hoped for. Nerves are frayed, health often compromised, and costs soar as the length of time used to obtain the final judgment increases. So, some final advice is to make realistic plans for the future after divorce, thinking not only of oneself but also of the other party, especially if there are minor children involved. Try to keep emotions in check and look for ways to compromise. Be realistic about demands. Try to remember; it took two to make the marriage and two should come away with the ability to move on with a fresh start. No marriage or no person is perfect, and certainly no divorce is either.