Many of our clients have asked our office what they should know before filing for divorce. Before springing into action, you should take a moment to prepare yourself.
The dissolution process can be complicated and extremely difficult for those involved. It is important to have your ducks in a row to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Preparation helps reduce the stress associated with divorce and will help reduce the cost.
For a more detailed discussion on how to prepare for divorce call the Law Offices of Paul F. Sherman at (503) 223-8441 or Contact Us for a free divorce or child custody consultation.
TRY TO KEEP CUSTODY OUT OF THE EQUATION.
Removing the children from the divorce can greatly simplify the dissolution process. It is always better to come to an agreement with your spouse regarding how you would like to raise your children and what is the best parenting plan for your household. Sometimes this is simply not possible and a custody battle is inevitable, but for most people, an agreement on custody and parenting time is the best solution to minimizing the stress and cost of dissolution.
Generally, the court will review the status quo when making custody determinations. Parents who are accustomed to spending substantial time with their kids should insist on continuing to do so.
When one spouse leaves the children and the other spouse has physical custody, they are establishing that this parent is the primary caregiver for the children and the children’s best interests are served by continuing to reside with this parent. Thus, it is important to maintain the parenting time and parenting practices you are accustomed to.
Any substantial gaps in time with the children can become a major hurdle to overcome if you want to see your children more frequently than every other weekend and the occasional holiday. The children are not yo-yos and the courts will not deviate substantially from the status quo that was established during the marriage or relationship which gave rise to the child.
It is extremely important to continue to reside in the same household with the children as much as possible or to work out a parenting plan which recognizes the time you have spent with your child. The parenting plan should incorporate your usual practices, such as taking the children to school, attending their practices for various sports and activities and maintaining the time the children are accustomed to spending with each parent.
YOU NEED TO SPEND TIME WITH YOUR CHILDREN
It is essential that you continue to be an active participant in your children’s life. Stay involved (or get involved) with their daily activities, take them to school, help them with their homework and get to know their teachers and friends. The court will award parents who are actively involved with their children substantial parenting time. It is always in the best interest and welfare of the children to spend time with the parent who participates in their lives on a regular basis.
It is important to know that each parent has an equal right to access the children’s school, education, medical care and any other important documentation. This, however, requires you to take an active role in determining what is going on with the children. Some parents adopt the role of working full time and allowing the other parent to spend the majority of their time raising their children. While this may work in an integrated household, it is simply a lesson for disaster in the dissolution process. The parent who does not spend time with their children will not be awarded custody or substantial parenting time. You need to get involved and stay involved with your children as much as possible.
In determining child custody, the court’s primary concern is to act in the best interests and welfare of the children and to cause as little disruption to their daily lives and routines as possible. If you are already actively involved in your children’s daily lives, activities and routines, the court will want to maintain that relationship so long as it is healthy and positive for the children.
YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND SPOUSAL AND FAMILY SUPPORT
Maintaining the family household is the primary concern when it comes time to calculate spousal support. Many of our clients vacate the marital home and unintentionally establish the need and requirement of spousal or family support.
Before obtaining your own apartment or other residence, you need to have a firm understanding of the costs associated with maintaining the family household. You should itemize all hard costs associated with running the household including the rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, vehicle costs, food, medical expenses and all other expenses of the household. You can obtain an outline of the required information from a Uniform Support Declaration from this office. The court will then analyze the amount of income flowing into the marriage to determine what is necessary to maintain the family household and will then order an appropriate level of support.
It is important to be realistic when contemplating vacating the family residence and obtaining alternative housing. It is also important not to live unrealistically, such as on a friend’s couch or with your parents unless it is impossible to do otherwise. By maintaining a separate, substandard residence, you are establishing an ability to support two residences, regardless of the effect it is having on your personal life.
The calculation of an appropriate spousal support award is not just a crap shoot and requires the advice of a skilled spousal support attorney. Judges have a great deal of discretion in awarding spousal and family support. The results can be devastating if an accurate picture of the parties’ financial situation isn’t presented properly to the court.
The standard in all dissolution cases is the principle of what is just and proper under the circumstances. The court will not willingly place one party in substantial hardship over the other. Unlike child support, there is not a firmly established guideline for determining an award of spousal support. It is absolutely essential that you work with an experienced family law attorney to ensure an equitable amount of spousal support is awarded. Being unprepared can result in bankruptcy and financial ruin.
FOCUS ON YOUR FINANCES
Other than the children, the greatest concern of most parties facing divorce is protecting their finances. While you should anticipate that the marital assets will be divided by the court, there are, however, several different ways to keep your head above water through the dissolution process.
For many people, getting their finances in order is always a tricky business. Here, knowledge is key. Get to know your finances and the cost to run your household. Know the amount of money coming in and going out on a monthly basis. Know where there is fluff and where there is no room for cuts. Knowing what to expect on a monthly basis will substantially reduce the amount of anxiety you are feeling throughout the divorce.
Getting to a quick and easy financial solution will greatly reduce the costs of a divorce and the headaches associated with trying to maintain two separate households. It is essential to discuss your situation with a skilled divorce attorney who understands how divorce will affect your financial picture and will be able to give you specific advice on how to protect yourself and your assets to the greatest extent possible.
Establishing separate accounts and credit cards should be the starting point. Getting off credit is essential to saving the family finances. Paying off credit cards and loans in full and closing the accounts will limit your responsibility after the divorce.
The court will generally award a party any debt incurred after separation and will split marital debt on an equitable basis. So, get a grip on what you owe and a plan to get it paid as soon as possible. People who avoid taking control of their finances or who do not pay taxes for several years are asking for disaster. There is simply no excuse for not knowing the finances of the household.
Having your finances in order is essential if you are contemplating divorce. It is beneficial to open your own checking, savings, and retirement accounts. Further, it is essential that you act promptly when the issue of divorce becomes inevitable. When a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed, the court can enter a Restraining Order to prevent the dissipation of assets. Otherwise, once the money is gone from a checking account, it is gone for good and generally cannot be recovered.
Take steps to protect yourself and your family as soon as possible. Failure to act can have a devastating impact on the bottom line. This is one area where it is imperative that you have a clear understanding of your circumstances and how divorce will impact your financial lifestyle.
It is also important to get organized before filing for divorce. You need to obtain tax returns, pay stubs, retirement plans, wills and insurance. You need to obtain documentation regarding any real property the parties may own, such as the underlying sales file with the title company. A skilled family law attorney is essential in helping you organize yourself for the dissolution process. Having a solid understanding of your finances and the underlying documentation is an excellent way to reduce your stress level and keep the costs of the dissolution at a minimum.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA WITH CAUTION
Many people fail to realize that social media can have a substantial and devastating impact on the outcome of a divorce. Let’s face it – if you do not want what you have written to be placed on the chalkboard before the class, then don’t post it on social media.
The impact of social media is frequently overlooked by parties preparing for a divorce. Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler and other social media accounts are great platforms for providing evidence in your case.
The parties involved in the divorce process should simply disengage or close their social media accounts. Too many people use social media to vent about their spouse or problems in their lives. If you are going through a divorce, those photos and status updates can be used as evidence in your case. Never publish photographs of yourself partying with your friends or family during the divorce. Never make a post regarding drugs or alcohol usage.
Any person who believes that they can rely on the security settings for social media to protect them is simply a fool. Your friends and family can and will provide your Facebook posts to your spouse if they are detrimental to your children.
Keep your personal information private for the duration of your divorce; and, avoid the urge to comment on your soon-to-be ex on any social platform. Social media information is not private and will be ordered to be disclosed if it has relevance on custody or dissolution issues.
Keep texting to a minimum. Many of our clients make horrible errors in judgment when texting their spouses or significant others. Texts made while angry or upset should simply be deleted before they are sent. Again, use the principle that if you are not comfortable having your text blown up to the size of a poster, simply don’t send the text.
CONTACT PAUL F. SHERMAN FOR EXPERT ADVICE ON YOUR DIVORCE AND CUSTODY ISSUES
The dissolution process is never easy. Solid preparation for the divorce process is something that should not be overlooked or avoided. Going into a divorce with a plan and a strategy can save you substantial emotional and financial pain.
We know you have questions and we have answers. If you would like more information about what you should do to prepare for a dissolution or custody case, call the Law Offices of Paul F. Sherman at (503) 223-8441 or Contact Us for a free divorce and custody consultation.