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Getting Divorced

Not Just a Divorce Application

The divorce process has many steps. Many will vary depending on the particular characteristics and demand of the divorce. Some must be done sequentially, and some may be done in parallel. Issues such as marital property versus divorce property, custody of children and pets, post divorce living arrangements, and alimony will need to be addressed in a successful divorce proceeding.

Here we will offer guidance to help you lay out the divorce steps that must be taken to navigate through the entire process of getting divorced from the divorce application to the final divorce settlement. Here is a brief overview of the divorce steps however we will go into more detail later.

  • Find a divorce lawyer
  • Obtain copies of all financial records and forward to lawyer
  • Discuss terms of the divorce with your lawyer
  • Your lawyer negotiates the terms of the divorce with your spouse's lawyer.
  • If an agreement is reached, those terms will be included with a petition the lawyer files with the court.
  • If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, the petition and ancillaries will be filed with the court and left to the judge to decide.
  • The court will add your case to its docket and notify you of the date. In most cases the ancillaries (alimony/spousal support, child support, child custody/visitation, and property distribution) will be held at a later date. Several court dates may be needed.
  • Wait for the final decree

The Realities versus the Legalities of Divorce

The process of getting divorced is surprisingly filled with steps that are not legally defined or binding. The majority of the effort goes into preparing a divorce application with attached asset values and agreements between parties. The judge will then modify the agreement to suit the legal requirements of the area in which the case is filed, and modify the agreement at his or her discretion to make the terms of the agreement fair in his or her opinion. There is a great deal of work to do before the court is even approached.

Find a Divorce Lawyer

In all but the rarest cases, you and your spouse should chose and retain the services of divorce lawyers. Of course, it is very important to retain the services of a legal expert familiar with the requirements placed on the process by local law. However, there is another important reason to retain these services.

That is that divorce can be a very emotional process, and a key benefit provided by the divorce lawyer is to make sure that the outcome is to the direct benefit of their client and is not swayed or clouded by emotional concerns that may exist between the parties. With this in mind, it is considered unethical for the spouses to have the same divorce lawyer (and any ethical lawyer will refuse to serve in that capacity).

The Divorce Application

A divorce application, readily available from a number of sources, is the written framework that must be prepared and presented to the court. It must contain some key elements.

It must contain as complete a summary as possible, with as much supporting detail as possible, of the assets being divided. This includes real property, saving and retirement accounts, and potential for future value generation. Some values will be relatively straightforward to calculate, such as real estate. Others will be far more difficult, such as the value of a jointly owned at home business. This may require that estimations be made by qualified professionals.

Then there is the matter of liabilities that these assets carry with them. The outstanding unpaid part of a mortgage is the classic example. A very important one is that many of these assets provide the promise of future earnings, such as a highly paying job, and that the loss of their martially merited income is a severe burden on the other party. This will not only help to determine the amount of alimony needed to continue the lifestyle of the spouse, but also becomes a key factor in the support of children and other expenses that will continue after the marriage ends. These things must be taken into consideration because they were a direct result of the marriage.

Any agreements that can be made in advance of the legal filing and submitted as part of the divorce application will greatly enhance the chances that the matter will be resolved to the best possible benefit of both parties. The divorce attorneys should handle the crafting of these agreements after the parties have made their desires clear. Unfortunately, any issue that cannot be agreed on will result in counterproposals from each party being presented to the judge, who will make the final decisions.

Moving On

When all of this is accomplished, it is important to let go of any recriminations and move on with the process of starting your new life. It is time to rely on family and friends rather than lawyers and judges to help you totally finish the process of getting divorced. The use of social and support groups are common once a divorce is finalized. You may find it cliché at first, however helpful when the chaos subsides. After it is all over, don't forget to give yourself and your children, if you have any, a soft place to land and time to heal.

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