In a previous post we talked about how it’s important to set some goals for your divorce so you can have a productive conversation with your attorney. Walking in knowing what you hope to accomplish is even one of the best ways to save money on a divorce, as it allows us to avoid wasting a lot of time in the negotiation phase.
But it’s also important to know which goals you need to set. That’s what today’s handy checklist is for.
Keep in mind judges will want these items dealt with in equitable ways. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split, but often we can give you a good idea of what a judge and another lawyer might agree to before a case ever gets to court. We can help you set realistic goals if some of yours are off track.
Marital Property: Accounts
Consider how joint bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investment accounts should be divided between you and your spouse. Keep in mind the ways these accounts are divided can get labyrinthine in family law very fast.
Marital Property: The Family Home
Often, the family home isn’t worth keeping. You might want to let this go if you need a negotiating tool. There’s a good chance it will become more of a financial headache than it’s worth.
Of course, you could also opt to ask for a sale of the home so you can simply split the proceeds, rather than giving the home up to your spouse.
If you simply must keep the home, make sure your lawyer knows this is one of your goals.
Marital Property: Other Assets
What about the car? The furniture? The jewelry?
All of this is marital property, but you should be careful before you spend thousands of dollars fighting over it. Often the cost of the items is less than what you’d spend to argue over it.
If there are specific items you want to hold on to, let your attorney know. Otherwise, let it all go as not worth fighting over. This may give you an edge in the negotiations later.
One thing that might be worth trying to hold on to? Intellectual property rights, if you think you’re going to get significant income or royalties from your IP later.
It might sound great to shove all the marital debt off onto your spouse, but that’s not what’s likely to happen. Debts are subject to equitable distribution just like assets are.
Keep in mind creditors can still come after you for any debt your name is on, which means your ex can cause a ton of headaches simply by refusing to pay the debt. In some cases it might be better to hold on to it just so you can make sure your credit score doesn’t get trashed.
Children: Co-Parenting Arrangements
Unless there is some sort of an abusive situation in play most parents do not walk away with sole joint and legal custody. Chances are you’re going to have to share your child with your ex.
This means working out who stays with the child when, where they stay, and more. Whether you’re swapping off weekdays and weekends, nesting, or working some other arrangement it’s all going to have to be put in writing. Usually the child should get as close to 50% of his or her time with the parent he or she doesn’t live with as is realistically possible.
Children: Custody Arrangements
Which parent will be the parent with physical custody of the child? If there are serious issues like abuse or neglect, will you need to fight for sole custody after all?
These are great issues to discuss with your lawyer, and you should absolutely start thinking about them from the moment you know you’re going to get a divorce.
Payments: Child & Spousal Support
Keep in mind child support is set on a formula that doesn’t waver too much.
But what about spousal support? If you’re likely to receive it, how much are you hoping to receive, and on what grounds? If you’re likely to pay it, what are your goals for having to pay spousal support? To limit the amount? To limit how long spousal support is offered?
Are you looking to pay (or receive) a lump sum? A regular monthly payment?
Again, try to be realistic. A huge number of factors go into whether spousal support is awarded. We can help you if you’re struggling. Keep in mind changes in tax laws have somewhat changed the financial landscape both for alimony payers and alimony payees.
Don’t get too attached!
Setting your goals for the divorce is only a starting place for negotiations. We may have to shift your expectations a little bit if they’re not realistic. Your ex may have some counter offers. There might be some points of contention. For example, you might want the house.
It’s absolutely vital for you to have a qualified family law attorney on your side to navigate you through this process. Otherwise you could set all these goals only to spend way too much time and money fighting over concessions the court will never give you if the case goes to trial.
Don’t have an attorney yet? Contact Sadek and Cooper today for your free consultation. We look forward to helping you.