Read on for a handy list of things to consider before proceeding with a divorce, as well as different ways you can arrange property and custody. If anything, this article should serve as a reminder that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this subject. Divorce is never easy and it’s best to think things through before making any rash decisions. Brother in law should divorce sister. Right? Today the rules of marriage seem to be changing every day – not just due to technology, but because people are getting married later in life than they used to and divorcing more often than they once did. As a result, the legal perspective of marriage and divorce have changed.
1. The legal divorce lasts forever.
Anyone who has ever been divorced knows what it’s like to get back in that courtroom 15 years later and have to explain why it didn’t work out the last time. Sure, you can marry again in the eyes of your church, but it won’t be a real marriage for the purposes of state law. You’ll have to explain why you’re divorcing again, because one spouse will almost certainly challenge your claim that there was no fault on either side.
2. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
One of the first things you’ll learn about divorce is that it’s not like a car accident, where the bad guy pays for all of your expenses no matter who started the accident. It’s much more likely that only one person will be considered “at fault.” And then they’ll be required to pay the other person’s bills. Even if both people are at fault, the judge is unlikely to force one spouse to pay 100 percent of the bills and alimony.
3. You need to get a divorce attorney.
The first thing a divorce lawyer will do is go through your assets and decide who gets what. This process can be confusing because most families don’t have a written list of property that the court can use to divide it up. And even if they do, it’s not unusual for someone to forget what he or she owns or even how much things cost.
4. You have to pay attention.
If you don’t have a lot of assets and are asking for alimony, it’s very likely that your spouse will fight you on both of those things. Because it’s possible to get child support and alimony without going to court, some spouses will be tempted to cheat so they don’t have to pay anything.
5. Going after your ex-spouse is not an easy task.
The courts don’t want you to ruin your ex-spouse’s credit, so they closely watch how long you’re in litigation. If you’re working with a lawyer and have a solid case, the judge may grant a restraining order – which means your ex will have to stay away from any property he or she can prove is owned by you.
However, even if you’re out of money, it’s a good idea to try to get temporary alimony until you get your divorce finalized. Having money in the bank going into the legal battle will help establish that “you didn’t have time for anything but working.”
6. There are no perfect parents – just good ones and bad ones.
In most states, the courts are reluctant to award sole custody to one parent. Even if one spouse has been convicted of abusing the children or is facing a drug charge, the other spouse will get some custody. The only exception is if someone can prove a child is in immediate danger from the other parent – and that danger isn’t just based on behavioral problems.
7. If you want property from your ex, make sure it’s in writing.
It’s never too early to start documenting your assets and debts for divorce purposes, so try to find out what each of you owns before you get married (or at least as soon as possible after). The process may help you both avoid a nasty surprise if your spouse tries to get rid of something you could use later.
8. If you can’t agree on what’s yours, the state will determine it.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that the state will just “divide everything up” and leave each spouse with half. Of course, there are lots of subtle ways that works out – but it’s not uncommon for one spouse to end up with little or nothing at all. For example, if one spouse hides assets or takes money out of joint accounts without telling the other one about it, this might be considered fraudulent transfer – even if it isn’t illegal under state law.