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How To Navigate Your Divorce Settlement

How To Navigate Your Divorce Settlement

Everything seemed so simple at the start of your romance; you never expected divorce to be such a difficult process. Even in the best of circumstances, tempers may run high, and every decision can seem to be more stressful than the last. It is only human to find yourself reacting emotionally at certain stages of a divorce, but it is important to remember that your actions throughout the process can affect your familial, emotional, and financial situation for years to come.

The Divorce Process: What to Do

• Be reasonable and cooperate as much as possible with your soon-to-be-ex. Reasonable compromise yields quicker and easier results in divorce cases.

• Support your children through this process. It’s even tougher on them than on you. Don’t make them pick sides.

• Let your spouse know when and where you will spend time with your kids while you work out permanent custody arrangements. Your spouse might think you’ve made a run for the border and if your soon-to-be-ex has to ask the police to track you down, that won’t look good during custody or visitation hearings.

• Fully disclose all your assets and property. A court can throw out a divorce decree based on financial deception, putting you back in court years after you thought everything was final.

• Know your options. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for a non-divorce alternative like summary dissolution, annulment, or legal separation.

• Do your own research. With a little help, you can be well-informed regarding:
Where to file for divorce and what divorce forms you need;

• Child custody;

• Child support;

• Spousal support (alimony); and

• Divorce trials, alternative dispute resolution, and out-of-court settlements.

• Ask your attorney if anything doesn’t make sense. Your attorney works for you, and should help you understand every part of the divorce process.

The Divorce Process: What Not to Do

• Don’t lose your cool. No matter how frustrated you get, don’t make matters worse by lashing out at your ex or your children.

• Don’t make big plans to take a job in another state or move out of the country until your divorce is final. Your new life could interfere with getting your divorce finalized.

• Don’t violate any temporary custody or visitation arrangements. It could make it tougher for you to get the custody or visitation rights you prefer.

• Don’t “give away” property to friends or relatives and arrange to get it back later. Hiding property can mean your spouse can take you back to court to settle those assets.

• Don’t go it alone. Divorce is complicated, and an attorney can make sure that your interests are protected.

How To Settle Divorce Out Of Court

Going through a divorce is always stressful, but you can save money, time, and worry by entering into a settlement agreement instead of going to Court. Whether you have spousal maintenance (“alimony”), child support, parenting time, legal decision-making or marital property issues, you are allowed to work out an agreement with your spouse so that you do not have to spend weeks, months, or even years fighting it out in the legal system. You can enter into a divorce agreement at any time up until, or even at your final hearing, without any penalty or pressure from the Court. While the judge is willing to hear your divorce case and decide the issues for you, the Court will accept a reasonable divorce settlement agreement instead. In fact, the judge will be happy that you have saved judicial resources by taking care of matters yourselves.

Steps to Settling A Divorce Out of Court

You will need to complete some basic tasks in order to come up with a fair settlement agreement because you will need to figure out how to deal with property division, caring for your children, spousal maintenance, and other important factors. If you are patient and go through the divorce process one step at a time, you can get through your divorce case and move on with your life.

Step 1: Speak to a Divorce Lawyer

Even if your split is amicable, you should seek legal advice from the beginning of the divorce process. The Court will hold you responsible for following all the rules, whether or not you are using a divorce attorney for advice. You could be penalized or even have your case dismissed because you missed a deadline. Having an attorney on your side will also help keep you focused and feeling stronger during the divorce process. As far as basic legal tasks, you will still need to file a divorce petition and any other paperwork required by state law, such as a child support worksheet. Your attorney can help by preparing the paperwork and making sure it follows your wishes.

Step 2: Schedule Some Time to Talk to Your Spouse

Meet in a neutral place and have an honest, calm discussion about what you want from the divorce. There may be issues that are more important to you than your spouse, and vice versa. Finding a place to meet in the middle will give you a good place to start negotiating. Although, this may not be appropriate if there are instances of abuse. On another note, be careful of signing or otherwise entering into any agreements before you fully understand the impact of those agreements. It is perfectly acceptable to review the proposals with an attorney before reaching an agreement.

Step 3: Gather All Your Financial Information

You will need to have all of your financial information to consider child support, spousal maintenance, property division, and possibly other important matters. Your divorce attorney can assist you in finding all the documents you need and figuring out how to make a plan based on your personal financial information.

Step 4: Create a Parenting Plan

If you have children, they are probably your biggest priority. What should the parenting time schedule be? Can you get along well enough to co-parent? How much will child support be? Your divorce attorney or child support attorney can help you fill out the child support worksheet with the necessary information. There are several factors to consider when calculating child support. Family law attorneys are familiar with all the issues regarding divorce laws, and they can help to find a plan that will fit your family’s needs.

Step 5: Work With a Mediator Or Other Alternative Dispute Resolution If You Need To

If you don’t agree with what your soon-to-be ex-spouse is proposing, you don’t have to sign the agreement. There are other steps you can take so you can still avoid a court divorce. If you simply can’t agree even after honest negotiations, you can agree to have a neutral third party help you work out the issues in a mediation process. There is more than one type of alternative dispute resolution, and your divorce attorney can help you figure out which one might help you the most.

Step 6: Submit Your Divorce Agreement to the Court

Once you have an agreement, you and your spouse can sign it with your attorneys and present it to the judge. The agreement is a contract, and once signed, you will likely be bound by it. The judge will then review the decree to ensure it meets all applicable state laws and then enter the agreement as a final court order.

Benefits Of Settling Out of Court

Not all divorcing couples are able to look past their anger and work out their issues. Even with a neutral third party to help negotiate the issues, some couples simply can’t reach common ground. Some of the hardest cases are ones where there has been infidelity or domestic violence. However, for those who are able to enter into a settlement agreement, there are multiple benefits and rarely a downside.

You Will Save Time By Entering Into an Agreement

When couples choose to fight in the courts to get what they want from the remnants of their marriage, the divorce process can drag on for months or even years. Parties on each side can end up in an endless loop of filing and responding to paperwork. Instead of getting to the end of the process, you may feel as though you are in an endless state of waiting.

You Will Save Money

Every time your attorney files or response to paperwork, you will pay the legal fees for that service. You will also pay for court hearings and any other work your attorney has to do on your behalf. When the process finally ends in a divorce trial, you may have spent several thousand dollars. Out-of-court settlements are much less expensive than court divorces.

A Mutual Agreement Will Cut Down On Stress

One of the biggest benefits of an uncontested divorce is that you will feel less pressure and stress. You can make a commitment at the beginning to work out your issues, and if you work through your issues in good faith, you will avoid many of the negative feelings people associate with divorce.

You Will Have the Satisfaction of Knowing You Worked Out Your Own Issues

Getting divorced can feel like giving up. When you work through your issues with your ex-spouse, you can feel the satisfaction of knowing that you have managed to handle issues that looked overwhelming in the beginning. You can start to reclaim the power you feel you lost when your marriage broke up.

Going to Court Can Be Unpredictable

Even if the issues seem cut and dry, you are always taking a chance when you go to Court. A judge can be unpredictable. If you have already negotiated a fair settlement, you will know what to expect.

Types of Divorce

Although most people don’t get the opportunity to thoughtfully decide which type of divorce they would like to have, there are options for those willing to work together. For example, in an uncontested divorce, both parties come to an agreement on all the terms of the divorce and file the papers with the court. There is usually no formal trial in this scenario. An uncontested divorce can be much less expensive than a contested divorce, saving you time, court costs and legal fees, as well as helping you avoid protracted disputes with your spouse.

Contested divorces are what stereotypically come to mind when we think of divorce. These are cases in which there’s a lot of disagreement over key areas such as property, children and spousal support. Each spouse is represented by an attorney, and a judge oversees the case until settlement. This type of divorce can be long, costly and potentially contentious.

Others types of divorce fall somewhere in the middle. Mediation, arbitration and collaborative options allow the couple to be independently represented by counsel without incurring the full costs of a trial. The option that will work best for any couple depends on the level of disagreements between the spouses and the willingness to work together toward a resolution.

Property Division

Property division is a big issue during a divorce. One of the most common questions is, “Who gets the house?” State law will usually dictates the divvying up of your property. It’s based on whether you reside in a separate property state or a community property state:

• Separate property belongs only to one spouse, such as something you owned before getting married, gifts or inheritances specifically given to you or the proceeds of a pension that vested before the marriage.

• Community property is everything that both of you earned and acquired during your marriage (e.g., the money from your job that you placed into a joint checking account and used to pay bills or debts during your marriage). Property like a house bought with a combination of separate and community funds is generally considered community property.

Dividing Up Property Yourselves

If you and your spouse are going to try to divide your property yourselves, here are some steps to get you started:

• List your belongings. Working together, makes a list of all of the items that you own jointly. Of course, you can omit items both of you agree are personal things of insignificant value.

• Value the property. Try to agree on the value of anything worth more than a specific agreed amount, say $100 or $500. If there is a house, a business or anything that’s difficult to value, get an opinion about that from some agreed-upon outside authority.

• Decide on the logical owner. Now go through your main list, item by item, and decide whether there is some good reason to have each piece of property go to one or the other of you. Start with the biggest value items and see how far you can get.

• Get the judge’s approval. If you and your spouse can agree on dividing the property you own together, the court will normally approve whatever agreement you’ve reached. The only exception is when a party who doesn’t have a lawyer seems to have agreed to take a lot less than half of the property.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506
Ascent Law LLC

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