The Beginner’s Guide to Divorce
It starts as a thought – are we heading toward divorce? Once those thoughts become more common and the reality that divorce could happen sets in, it is important for both parties to understand the process. Everyone’s case is different. Here are a few things to consider:
Get organized.You cannot begin to evaluate what things you will need to address until you start getting some information together. Collect your important paperwork - this includes a copy of the deed to your home, a current mortgage statement, the registration or title for the cars, the last car loan statement, bank statements, credit card statements, and any other important document that addresses financial things (IRA statements, 529 Plans, etc).
Review trusted resources about the divorce processDivorce varies from state to state and it is quite possible that your friend from Nebraska had a very different divorce than you will in Florida. Laws are different. The process is different. The Florida Supreme Court has resources to assist you in your Dissolution of Marriage (aka Divorce) case.
Determine what type of case you will have.Will your divorce be uncontested? "Uncontested" means that you agree on everything. You and your spouse can then file together and move towards the final judgment of divorce quickly.
Will your divorce be contested? This means that you do not agree on the terms of your divorce and that you may need a judge to make some decisions for you. This type of divorce will take some time for you to go through the divorce process. Contested divorce cases can take anywhere from four months to years.
Have you considered collaborative divorce? Collaborative divorce is an out of court process where you and your spouse address your issues with the help of a counselor, a financial neutral, and attorneys, in order to come to a resolution on your own. Collaborative divorce allows you and your spouse to address your issues, while being guided by professionals. Collaborative divorce allows the parties to resolve all of their issues in approximately five to seven meetings.
Review a Parenting Plan form.The Florida Supreme Court provides a form Parenting Plan, with instructions that you can view here. While many parents think that they know how to divide time, the reality of splitting holidays and birthdays and splitting extracurricular activities are concepts not yet thought about.
Determine how your stuff will be divided.Create a list of your assets. Since you've collected your paperwork above, you should be able to create a list of things that you own. Anything obtained during the course of the marriage belongs to the pot of marital assets and will need to be divided. Make sure to list all of your assets, as well as the value of each item.
Create a list of your debts. Since you've collected your paperwork above, you should be able to create a list of debts that you owe. Most debt incurred during the course of the marriage belongs to the pot of marital debt and will need to be divided. Make sure to list all of your debts, as well as the balance of each debt.
Create a proposal as to how these items will be split. In most divorce cases, a judge will seek to divide things equally. If you believe that there should be an unequal split, you should consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your options.
Decide if you want to seek alimony.In your divorce, this is the time to seek alimony if you would like to request it. You will not be able to seek it at a later date. Different states have different rules on whether you will be able to claim alimony. The rule of thumb in Florida is that any marriage shorter than seven years is a short term marriage and most likely will not qualify for alimony; any marriage longer than fifteen years is a long term marriage and most likely will qualify for alimony; and any marriage longer than seven years but shorter than fifteen years is in a grey area. Grey area marriages will need to identify what kind of alimony they need and why.