Divorce Basics

Divorce: A Simple Guide 2023

Divorce is never easy. It’s a difficult, emotional, and often confusing process for all involved. If you are currently going through a divorce, know that you are not alone. It’s estimated that 39% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. The good news is that while it may feel like the end of the world, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The key is to educate yourself on the basics of the divorce process and to focus on creating a bright future for yourself.

In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about navigating a divorce, from the initial phases to the legal aspects and the emotional fallout. We will also provide tips on how to move forward and create a fulfilling life after divorce. So, take a deep breath, grab a notepad, and let’s get started on this journey together.

Types of Divorce

There are generally three types of divorce: contested divorce, uncontested divorce, and collaborative divorce.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is when both parties cannot agree on certain matters of their divorce agreement and require outside assistance to reach an agreement. These matters can include child custody, division of assets, alimony payments, and more. In a contested divorce, each party will usually have their own attorney to advocate on their behalf in court. The process of a contested divorce may take months or even years to finalize, depending upon the amount of disagreement between the two parties.

Uncontested Divorce

If both parties are in agreement regarding all aspects of the divorce, an uncontested divorce may be appropriate. An uncontested divorce can involve either a no-fault divorce or a mutual consent divorce. A no-fault divorce is when legal grounds for the divorce are not required, while a mutual consent divorce requires both parties to agree that they want the divorce. This type of divorce is much simpler and quicker than a contested divorce since it does not require the services of attorneys or judges to settle any disputes.

Collaborative Divorce

A collaborative divorce is an option for couples who are open to resolving their disputes through alternative means such as mediation and negotiation. In this type of divorce, both parties hire independent divorce attorneys to represent them in their case. Then, these attorneys work together in good faith to reach a mutually agreeable end without involving courts or judges. Collaborative divorces are often faster and less costly than other types of divorces, and they allow the parties involved to maintain some control over the outcome of their case.

Collaborative Law Divorce

Understanding the legal requirements for divorce is essential. Laws and regulations regarding divorce can vary from one jurisdiction to another, so it is vital to consult with a qualified family law attorney who specializes in divorce cases. They can provide guidance on the specific requirements in your area, including residency requirements, grounds for divorce, and any mandatory waiting periods.

How To File for Divorce in 2023

Divorce can be an emotionally taxing process, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you take the necessary steps ahead of time. By following these simple guidelines and consulting with knowledgeable attorneys, you can ensure that your rights and interests are fully protected in regard to filing for a divorce in 2023.

Step 1: Gather Essential Information

Before beginning the procedure, it’s important to assemble all relevant documents. These can include financial statements, tax returns, insurance policies, any titles or deeds that are jointly owned, and any prenuptial agreement. You should also create an inventory of all marital assets and debts to ensure a fair division of the property.

Step 2: Determine Legal Standing

Now that you have the necessary information, it’s time to consider how the law applies to your situation. This includes determining whether or not you meet the state’s legal residency requirements and choosing between a no-fault or fault divorce depending on your relief requests.

Step 3: Select a Venue for Filing

Divorces are normally filed either in the court located in the jurisdiction where either spouse lives or if both parties agree, elsewhere. It’s important to research various venues when picking a court so that you can make the best decision for yourself and your family.

Step 4: Fill Out Forms & File Complaint

After selecting a venue for the divorce, you’ll need to complete and submit appropriate forms in order to start the process. This includes filling out a petition for dissolution of marriage, which outlines why you are seeking a divorce from your spouse. Once you have completed the forms, file them in the chosen court along with applicable filing fees. The court will then issue a summons whereby you must serve your spouse with official notice of the divorce proceedings.

Step 5: Participate in Negotiations

In some cases, divorcing spouses may need to attend mediation or other negotiations. During these sessions, the couple must come to an agreement regarding the terms of the divorce, such as dividing assets, child custody arrangements, and alimony payments.

Step 6: Attend Final Hearing & Receive Judgment

Once all negotiations have been completed satisfactorily, a final hearing date will be set by the court. At this hearing, both parties must present their case before the judge makes a ruling on all matters related to the dissolution of marriage. Once a judgment is issued, it’s important to adhere to its terms and conditions to avoid possible legal consequences.

Divorce Checklist

This is a basic checklist of things to consider when you are contemplating a divorce. Discuss these issues with your attorney. The list is not meant to be exhaustive and your attorney may raise other issues not listed here, and which you may not have considered. That is why it’s usually a good idea to consult an attorney when you are facing a divorce or separation from your spouse.

  1. Custodial arrangements for the children.
  2. Visitation/parenting time.
  3. Child support.
  4. Medical, dental, hospital, pharmaceutical, and psychological expenses for the children.
  5. COBRA or medical insurance for a former spouse for up to 3 years from the entry of the divorce judgment where applicable.
  6. Income tax exemptions regarding the children — who will claim them?
  7. Alimony/spousal support.
  8. Property division.
  9. Division of real estate, transfers, and deeds.
  10. Making sure that all investments are covered including limited partnerships, stocks, bonds, and savings.
  11. The handling of debts.
  12. Pensions, IRA accounts, 401K transfers, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders.
  13. Personal property including furniture, furnishings, art, and collectibles.
  14. Motor vehicles, including trailers and boats.
  15. Income taxes – whether there can be joint filings and liabilities for payment of taxes.
  16. Bankruptcy issues, protection in case one spouse does go bankrupt.
  17. Proper security and protection regarding property division.
  18. Clauses to hold the other spouse harmless and indemnification in case someone fails to live up to his or her obligations
  19. How to handle the discovery of hidden assets.
  20. Spouse abuse and restraining orders.
  21. Restoration of a prior maiden name.
  22. Life insurance policies as protection for child support payments, alimony/spousal support payments, and/or property payments in the event of death.
  23. Attorney fees and/or mediator, accountant, and other expert fees and payment of same.
  24. College education for children and/or spouse.
  25. Provisions for review in certain circumstances such as with regard to child support and/or spousal support.
  26. Clauses such as payment for summer camps and/or religious training and/or upbringing or other special situations involving children.

Divorce Rates in the US

Divorce rates in the United States have been steadily increasing over the last few decades. This trend has created a need to better understand why marriages are ending at such high rates. By analyzing recent divorce statistics, we can gain insight into the current state of marriage and divorce in the US.

Marriage Rate Trends

In 2019, the marriage rate in the US reached an all-time low of 6.1 per 1000 people. This number is down significantly from the 1970s when it reached its peak of 10.7 per 1000 people. In 2020, this trend appeared to be continuing as the marriage rate dropped even further to 5.1 per 1000. In 2021, the rate rose once again to 6.

USA - Marriage rate Statista
Marriage rate in the US from 1990 to 2021 via statista

Divorce Rate Trends

The divorce rate in the US has also been declining since its peak in 1980 at 5.3 divorces per 1000 married couples. The latest figure, which was recorded in 2019, shows that there were 2.9 divorces per 1000 married couples. While this is still relatively high, it does show that the rate has remained relatively stable for the past few years.

144 years of US marriages and divorces; image via washingtonpost.com

Factors Contributing to Divorce Rates

Experts believe that the decreasing marriage rate is one of the main factors contributing to the decline in divorce rates. When fewer people are getting married, they are less likely to get divorced as well.

  • 55% cite infidelity
  • 46% cite married too young
  • 45% cite unrealistic expectations
  • 44% cite a lack of equality in the relationship

Additionally, with increasing acceptance of non-traditional relationships, people may be less inclined to rush into marriage and instead opt for a more gradual approach to commitment. This could help explain why divorce rates seem to be steadily declining even as the marriage rate continues to fall.

Divorce Issues

Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally charged process, and various issues may arise during the proceedings. While each divorce is unique, some common issues that frequently come up in divorce cases include:

Division of Marital Property

Dividing assets and property can be one of the most challenging aspects of going through a divorce. It is essential to approach this process with fairness and equity in mind, ensuring that both parties receive their fair share and can move forward with a solid foundation for their future.

Division of property and assets

Determining how to divide assets, such as the family home, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, and personal belongings, between the spouses.

  • Division of Debt. Allocating responsibility for joint debts acquired during the marriage, such as credit card debt, loans, and mortgages.
  • Business Ownership. If one or both spouses own a business, decide how the business will be valued and whether it will be sold, or if one spouse will retain ownership and compensate the other.
  • Retirement Accounts and Benefits. Determining how to divide retirement accounts, pensions, and other employment-related benefits.
  • Health Insurance. Addressing the issue of health insurance coverage for both spouses and any children after the divorce.
  • Tax Considerations. Understanding the tax implications of various settlement options, such as alimony payments, property division, and dependency exemptions for children.

Child custody and Co-parenting

When going through a divorce, one of the most critical aspects to consider is the well-being and best interests of your children. Child custody and co-parenting can be emotionally challenging, but it is crucial to prioritize your children’s needs during this time.

Mediation Child Custody

Establishing a custody arrangement that determines where the children will live and how visitation will be structured to ensure both parents maintain a relationship with the children.

  • Temporary Orders. Requesting temporary orders for support, custody, or visitation arrangements during the divorce process before a final settlement is reached.
  • Child-related Issues. Addressing matters such as education, extracurricular activities, religious upbringing, and healthcare decisions for the children.
  • Restraining Orders or Protective Orders. In cases of domestic violence or abuse, seeking protective orders to ensure the safety of one or both spouses and any children involved.
  • Parenting Plan. Creating a comprehensive plan outlining each parent’s responsibilities and parenting time, as well as decision-making authority regarding the children’s upbringing.

Child Support

Child support is another significant financial aspect to address during a divorce, especially if there are children involved. Child support is the financial contribution made by one parent to the other to ensure the well-being and needs of the children are met. The amount is typically determined based on the income of both parents, the number of children, and the custody arrangement. It is important to prioritize the best interests of the children and work towards a fair agreement that provides for their needs.

child support enforced

Determining the financial support that one parent must provide to the custodial parent for the children’s expenses, including education, healthcare, and general living costs.

Alimony or Spousal Support

One of the key aspects to consider is alimony, also known as spousal support. This is a payment made by one spouse to the other to provide financial support after the divorce. The amount and duration of alimony can vary depending on various factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s income and earning potential, and the standard of living during the marriage.

No-Fault Divorce Spousal support

Deciding whether one spouse will pay financial support to the other spouse after the divorce, and if so, how much and for how long.

Understanding the alimony laws in your jurisdiction and consulting with a qualified attorney can help you determine your rights and obligations in this regard.

Top 10 Things NOT to Do During Your Divorce

Divorce is not easy. There are many pitfalls and traps awaiting parties that have not educated themselves about the process. People often make bad decisions under stress or without the guidance of an experienced lawyer. Don’t be one of them. Divorce law isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t always intuitive. Avoid the following 10 divorce pitfalls to get a better result.

During your divorce, you should NOT:

Don’t Lie to your lawyer

We are here to help you. Your communication with us is privileged, meaning we can’t tell others about it, except in certain child abuse scenarios. The more we know, the more we can help. We need to know everything, the embarrassing, the ugly, and the secret. If you have a drug, alcohol, or gambling problem, tell us. You have two options: (1) Disclose and likely hear from your lawyer that your secret or problem is irrelevant to the court process, or (2) Fail to disclose and have your case hurt at trial because the other lawyer knows facts you haven’t told your lawyer.

Don’t Lie to the Court

If you have a trial, the result is directly affected by your credibility. Judges are generally experts at determining who is telling the truth, and who is lying. Not only is lying to the court a crime, but your lawyer may have a duty to stop the proceeding and tell the court if he or she knows you are misrepresenting facts! If you have areas of your case that are sensitive, work with your lawyer on what you are going to say, but don’t misrepresent.

Don’t Involve the kids in the process

If your case involves a custody or parenting time dispute, nothing will draw the wrath of the court faster than involving your kids in the dispute. Don’t talk to them about the case. Don’t use them as pawns in the battle against your spouse. Don’t use them as your therapist, or treat them as your peers. Don’t put your spouse down in front of the kids. You are not only harming your case, you are harming your children.

Don’t Hide or fail to produce documents

You have an absolute right to see your spouse’s financial documents. Your spouse has an absolute right to see your financial documents. I have seen many cases that could have been simple turn complex and expensive when someone decides to not voluntarily produce records. The court can force you to produce records and order that you pay your spouse’s lawyer fees incurred in getting the records. Good clients and good lawyers produce documents quickly and voluntarily. I had a case where we asked for some email records from the other side. They did not produce them, and when we filed a motion to compel their production, they tried to tell the court that they had been destroyed. The stunt seriously impacted the opposing lawyer’s credibility with the court.

Don’t Refuse to cooperate with a court-appointed expert

In divorce and custody cases, experts called “custody evaluators” are routinely appointed to gather information about a family and make a recommendation regarding an appropriate parenting plan. If one is appointed in your case, cooperate. Be on time for appointments. Treat the expert with appropriate respect. Ignoring the requests of the evaluator can seriously harm your position and credibility with the court. An evaluator will likely make negative assumptions about you if you cannot comply with a court’s order to cooperate.

Don’t Settle without analyzing your case:

Divorce can be unpleasant and emotionally painful. One reaction is to try to get it over quickly. Do not give in to the urge to be done with the case before you have a full understanding of the assets and what a fair distribution looks like. You don’t want to be in a position where you are contemplating settlement and your spouse knows more about the assets than you. Prepare and go over a proposed distribution of assets and liabilities with your lawyer. Make sure you know the nature and extent of the assets, and get additional discovery if you don’t. Do not settle prematurely, before you know what is fair.

Don’t Settle Early

Don’t settle early without analysis, but also don’t fail to try to settle. Good lawyers and reasonable people settle most divorce cases without a trial. Many clients benefit from mediation, either through the county courthouse or through a private mediator. Our experience has been that many very difficult settle in mediation with the guidance of a trained expert mediator. You should always consult with your lawyer during the process to make sure you are getting a fair result. Settling also means you choose the outcome rather than have a judge impose an outcome on you. Parties that settle are generally happier long-term and have less ongoing conflict. Even if the other side is unreasonable, you should still make an offer to create a record of your position.

Don’t Take out your stress in unhealthy ways

This is the wrong time to up the drinking or other unhealthy behavior. Expect stress from the conflict and plan for it. Take out your stress in healthy ways, like at the gym, in sports, or in talking to friends or a counselor. Don’t take it out on your children, or your body through unhealthy behaviors.

Don’t Be economically irrational in negotiations

At some point in every case, it costs more to continue arguing than what is at stake. Approach your case with a business-like mind. Are you really winning if you spend $1000 on lawyers to argue over a $50 lamp? Some (bad) lawyers insist on arguing about every point, without regard to cost. Every issue is a new battlefront. A request to resolve one issue results in two more contested issues. In our opinion, these lawyers don’t serve their clients well. Pick your battles. If it costs $1000 to argue over something you can replace it at Target for $20, buy a new one, and focus on what is really important.

Don’t Be your own lawyer (if your case is contested)

Many judges dislike unrepresented parties. Even experienced divorce lawyers hire experienced divorce lawyers for an objective opinion. Many unrepresented people who think they have a great case find out otherwise after a judge rules against them because they can’t tell the judge everything they want to because of the rules of evidence. If you disagree over property or custody, and your spouse has a lawyer, seek representation.

Conclusion

We hope you found our blog post on navigating divorce insightful and helpful. Going through a divorce can be a challenging and emotional journey, but understanding the basics and taking steps to embrace a bright future can make the process more manageable. Remember to take care of yourself during this time and seek support from friends, family, or professionals who can guide you through the process. While divorce is never easy, it can also be an opportunity for personal growth and a chance to create a new and fulfilling future. Stay strong, and know that you are not alone in this journey.

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