Questions About Divorce
Everyone hopes their marriage will last forever. But no one knows the future. Whether you’ve made the decision yourself or have been served with divorce papers, it’s important to stay calm and understand that you have rights. Divorce is never painless, but being well informed can help you deal with it. Here are some divorce FAQs to help you through this process.
If I file for divorce, do I have to prove my spouse has been unfaithful or abusive?
No. Laws permitting no-fault divorce have now been passed in all 50 states. You only have to state irreconcilable differences.
Should I get an attorney?
Many people represent themselves in divorce court. However, an attorney can be extremely helpful. It’s especially important to have a good lawyer if your spouse has hired one, plans to contest the divorce, or has threatened you with physical harm.
How do I find a good attorney?
Ask for recommendations from family and friends. Make a list of questions to ask each attorney: How much do you charge? Is it a flat fee or an hourly rate? Will you be handling most of the work yourself? Most attorneys offer a one-page agreement form. Some divorce experts recommend a full contract with details spelled out.
How should I prepare?
Make a list of all your assets and properties. Include bank accounts, stocks and bonds, retirement and investment accounts, insurance policies, cars, real estate and any businesses owned by you or your spouse, jointly or separately. Also list your income and your spouse’s, and provide paycheck stubs if you have them.
List your marital debts. Include jointly held credit card debt, mortgages, any outstanding loans and financing. List payment amounts, who is paying and how often. You will also need copies of your income tax returns.
How will our property be divided? Who gets what?
After looking at all the documentation and hearing both sides, the judge will make a decision. In most states, marital property is divided through equitable distribution. The court takes into account factors like who earned the most, both partners’ work history and prospective future employment, number of children, and so on.
A few states have community property, in which everything acquired by either or both partners during the marriage must be divided 50-50. Each community property state has its own set of regulations.
What is the difference between marital and non-marital property?
Marital property is property acquired during the marriage, whether it is titled in both names or just one. Gifts and inheritances are not counted as marital property. Non-marital property is anything owned by one partner before the marriage, or acquired after a legal separation. The court is only allowed to rule on the division of marital property.
How are child custody and visitation decided?
Custody is judged by “the best interests of the child.” This is a very subjective value, and must be decided on a case-by-case basis. The parent who can best provide materially for the child may also be incapable of being a good parent in other ways. The child’s own wishes are also taken into account.
How can I be sure I will have enough to live on and that my children will be provided for?
The laws of your state determine how alimony and child support are arranged. At the beginning of the divorce process, make a list of what you hope to get in terms of property, child support and alimony. An attorney can work with you to be certain you will not be left with nothing.