We've been married for 10 yrs and have a 6-year old child. My husband has an affair and we decided to divorce. We are on friendly terms and would like to stay that way. We have two properties in two different states and most of our assets are in a trust fund with our child being the beneficiary. How do we best work out a divorce plan and what details are important?
It is possible in many instances to have an uncontested divorce that does the job. An "uncontested divorce" means that ALL issue and documents necessary for the divorce to be properly finalized are signed and ready to go at the time the divorce action is filed with the court.
In your situation, that is a bad idea. The property in two states and the "trust fund" issues you mention indicate that, without the advice of your own lawyer, (1) the paperwork will get messed up, and (2) you will not get things that you may be entitled to under the law.
Also, since your spouse "cheated", there are options available to you that he does not want you to know about. Your own lawyer will give you the information to make an informed decision.
Ideally, 2 lawyers is the most ethical. However, if the divorce is truly uncontested in all respects, and both of you are able to work out everything, using a single attorney (with it being clear that they represent only one of the parties, and that the other party can seek independent legal advice at any time) may be fine, economical, and nonetheless remain ethical.
For the property division as between yourself and your husband, I suggest just dividing up the property (real and personal) however the two of you see fit.
For the parenting plan, I suggest taking a look at the following website (this is the Fulton Co. Superior Court's Family Law Division website that has sample forms for domestic cases):
The above website link should provide you with a sample parenting plan that you can take a look at and get ideas. There are generally standard terms re: holiday and regular parenting time, child support, etc., that are included in most divorce decrees involving minor children, so what you see on the Fulton website is not likely to differ much regardless of the county you initiate the divorce in.
When it comes time to actually do the divorce and draft all the applicable documents, I strongly advise hiring at least one attorney, so everything is done according to law, and if either party needs legal advice or to clarify issues, that will be the person to ask. Good luck, considering the circumstances.
With property and a child, I would advise that you should always consult with a family law attorney to assist you with a divorce, even if you believe the case will be "uncontested." Just because you are willing to agree to a particular resolution does not mean that resolution is fair and equitable. If you agree to a division of debts and assets that you later regret it will be difficult or impossible to change it once it is made the order of the court. In addition, many non-lawyers neglect to address important issues only to realize their mistake after the divorce is final. In such cases, if any relief is possible at all, the cost to seek redress will probably exceed the cost obtaining representation in the initial divorce action.
This is especially true as it relates to your child. The biggest mistake that is made by divorcing parents who choose to represent themselves is to assume you will always agree on parenting time with the child. When the parties are getting along well prior to the divorce (which is a good thing, obviously), they often fail to work out a detailed parenting plan to address issues that will inevitably come up. Then a year or two after the divorce, one or both parties have moved on to other relationships and there will inevitably be a conflict. Without a through and thoughtful parenting plan, one side may realize that his or her rights are much more limited than he or she imagined, or the plan may be so vague that it can't resolve the dispute. At that point it would be much more difficult to reach an agreement about the "right" thing to do which often leads to costly litigation and unnecessary tension between the parents.
As previously mentioned, I would suggest each party having their own attorney even if only to review paper work. My firm has handled uncontested divorces in my practice and I was the only attorney but the parties had prior agreements and there were not any complicated issues such as the issues you present in your question. I would encourage you all to attempt to create an agreement to provide insight on whether or not the divorce is truly uncontested. Best of luck to you!
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