Navigating a divorce can be very difficult. Divorce is fraught with decisions and major life changes that affect the entire family. Add to that the fact that the parties involved may be making emotional decisions that may or may not be in their (or their children’s) best interests, and you have one of the most confusing and stressful situations that anyone is ever faced with.
Before you begin to make any serious life changes, its a good idea to have a plan, and divorce is no different. The first thing to do is to anticipate what kind of divorce you’re going to need. Divorces typically fall into one of several categories.
1. Simple Uncontested Divorce
Although no divorce is really simple, some have fewer issues to address than others. An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties agree on the issues and then put those issues in a written agreement. The first issue they have to agree upon, of course, is the actual divorce. While this may sound like a simple idea, frequently one of the parties in the marriage does not wish to get divorced at all.
If both parties are willing to file for divorce and there are no children or property to divide up (like checking accounts, houses, or retirement accounts for example), then an uncontested divorce is a matter of drawing up an agreement, filing it with the court, and waiting for the appropriate time limit in order to pull the divorce for it to be finalized by the judge.
Although it may sound like anyone can handle this, it is very important to consult with an attorney and to have them handle the legal paperwork. There are all sorts of land mines and issues that may be spotted by the attorney that the party may have no knowledge about. Once the divorce is finalized, you usually cannot revisit the issues in court. This is why it is so important to contact an attorney from the beginning to avoid problems later on.
2. Uncontested Divorce With Children
Even if you have minor children, parties can still reach an agreement and file for an uncontested divorce. The parties must agree upon several issues regarding the children. Who will have custody of the children (who the children will be living with primarily) or whether both parties will share time with the children (shared custody)? Who will be the primary decision maker for the children (or who will have the final decision regarding issues such as education, religion, medical decisions, and extracurricular activities for example)? Who will be paying child support and how much? How much and when will the visitation be?
If parties can agree upon those issues, then an uncontested divorce can be filed. While there will be some additional paperwork that needs to be filed and additional requirements (such as completion of a divorced parenting class), the divorce can still be obtained in approximately thirty days from the filing of the Petition and Agreement. Again, it is very important that you contact an attorney experienced with Family Law to handle the legal paperwork.
3. Uncontested Divorce With Property
Like an uncontested divorce with children, an agreement regarding property and an uncontested divorce with property can also be filed. In this circumstance, the parties will need to agree upon the division of assets and liabilities. For example, if there was a house purchased during the marriage, the parties will need to agree upon what to do with it. Who will live in the house and be responsible for payments? Or, will the parties sell the property and divide the proceeds. Will there be any offset for one party’s equity in the home through the other party’s retirement account? These are all issues which will need to be addressed.
As with all divorces, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to draw up the paperwork. Especially in the case of property division, it is important to know all of the issues because the court will almost never consider property division at a later time absent a showing of fraud, duress or the like. In other words, if you waive interest in your spouse’s retirement now, you can’t change your mind after the divorce and try to go after it then.
4. Uncontested Divorce With Children and Property
Obviously, the more issues you add to a divorce, the more difficult they can become. However even if the parties have children and need to divide property or debt or set alimony, they can still reach a Settlement Agreement which can be incorporated into the divorce.
All of the issues regarding child support, visitation and custody, alimony, property division and any debt division will need to be addressed in an uncontested divorce. These are very important decisions and issues which have to be decided by the parties and it is extremely important that the parties consult with an experienced attorney to handle these matters (see a pattern here?).
5. Uncontested Divorce Without Children or Property
So now we’ve talked about the kinds of divorces where the parties agree. Now we have to talk about the other kind of divorce….the ones that can get complicated. And expensive.
The first of these kinds of divorces is where there are no minor children and no property or debt to divide up, but one of the parties does not want the divorce. This can be a difficult situation: how to get divorced when the other party won’t agree to anything. Or maybe you’re the one who wants to work on the marriage but your spouse insists that its over? Maybe that spouse has already filed for divorce and has served you paperwork and a court date has been set?
While it would be great if everyone could always agree to a divorce, that is not always what happens. If you’re the one who wants the divorce and the other party won’t sign an agreement, you have no choice but to file for a contested divorce and serve your spouse with paperwork. Filing the divorce means you will eventually get a divorce, but it will take longer.
If you are the one who has been served with paperwork for a divorce from your spouse, even if you have no assets or children, it is imperative that you file a response or your spouse could get a default judgment against you (in other words, they can get everything they asked for in the Petition for Divorce). Understand that once your spouse has filed for divorce, it will eventually be granted by the court.
It is especially important in cases that are contested to have an attorney represent you in court. There are specific rules and requirements that you may not be aware of that can be detrimental to you if they are not followed. Contact us at AugustaLawyer.com as soon as possible if you’ve either been served divorce paperwork or you’re thinking about filing.
6. Contested Divorce With Children
Issues regarding child custody, visitation, and support are some of the most emotional and heartbreaking concerns in any divorce. While it is best to work with your spouse as much as possible on these issues for your children’s sakes (as well as your own sanity), sometimes this is not always possible.
Navigating a contested divorce with children is almost never a good idea to handle without experienced and compassionate legal representation. Add to that the fact that your spouse may have an attorney representing them, and it becomes even more important to have someone by your side who understands these important issues and how to represent you and your children.
7. Contested Divorce With Property
As with the uncontested divorce with property, a contested divorce with property has issues regarding things like debt and asset allocation and equitable division of things such as 401k accounts and other retirement income. Unlike the uncontested divorce with property, the parties cannot agree on a division of these issues and need someone to help guide them through these potentially difficult concerns.
8. Contested Divorce With Children and Property
As you can imagine, this is the kind of divorce that causes the most litigation and is the most expensive. More issues usually mean more problems and fewer agreements. While we strive at STONEY & LEVER to reach an agreement which will be beneficial and agreeable to our clients, sometimes the parties are too far apart to reach an agreement or there are serious issues that cannot be resolved without court intervention. These are the types of cases that parties should never handle alone, especially if the other spouse is represented.
At STONEY & LEVER, we are local attorneys who have many years of experience dealing with the challenges of divorce, custody and child support or alimony, and property division. We offer compassionate and knowledgeable representation for our clients and we are ready to start working on your case immediately.