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Divorce Education Information



If you have come to this page, you may be struggling with your marriage and have no idea what to do. Marital abuse can be completely overwhelming and divorce is not an easy decision. However, having some practical information to guide you through the process can help in navigating this uncharted territory. Following is a checklist with questions specifically designed to facilitate your thought process. Then, there is a worksheet to help you organize your next steps. Also included is information on divorce definitions and a comparison of the divorce options available. Be sure to research the options where you live as these may differ from state to state.

 


PREPARATION CHECKLIST


 INITIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF

  • Is reconciliation or counseling possible?

  • Could marital counseling help?

  • Should I explore non- adversarial, non-court options?

  • Is it possible that my spouse would be willing to explore non-court options as well?

  • When everything has been completed, what do I hope the outcome will be?

  • Is my safety at risk?


EVALUATING YOUR DIVORCE PROCESS OPTIONS

  • Review Process Options below

  • Determine what your options might be for this decision

  • Google ‘Divorce Options’ & ‘Divorce Workshops’ in your area


DETERMINING WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU

  • Control over decisions

  • Children/Family Issues

  • Financial Interests

  • Fees 

  • Confidentiality/Privacy Mutually beneficial outcomes

  • Length of time – Filing to Judgement

 

HIRING A PROFESSIONAL

  • Family/Friend referrals

  • Professional contact referrals (counselor, financial professional, etc.)

  • Internet Search

  • Verify attorney standing through the State Bar 


SUGGESTIED CONSULTATION QUESTIONS

  • What are the benefits/risk/ advantages /disadvantages of: Litigation; Collaboration; Mediation; A hybrid model

  • What is your specialized area? How many years have you been practicing?

  • What documentation will you need from me?

  • What is the expected timeline and fee for completing this process?

  • What are the most common cost inflators? How can I minimize cost?


PREPARING FOR YOUR PROCESS (Detailed List Below)

  • Gather/organize financial records

  • Prioritize: Finances, cash flow, parenting/ co-parenting schedules,

  • Be proactive in divorce process and planning

  • Get emotional support with a focus on lowering anxiety

  • Focus on your children and don’t speak poorly of your spouse in front of them




FAMILY LAW DEFINITIONS

  • LITIGATION: The traditional court option where both spouses retain lawyers who present their case to a judge. The judge is the final decision maker. Litigation is an adversarial process.

 

  • PRIVATE MEDIATION: A neutral professional assists both spouses in settling their disputes in an effort to create a “win-win” situation. The spouses control the presentation and decision making in the case. Spouses commit to an open information gathering process.

 

  • COLLABORATION LAW: Combines the positive qualities of litigation and mediation in a non- court, non-adversarial process. Each spouse has the advice and counsel of their own lawyer. All commit to an open information gathering process and a commitment to settle without going to court.


  • ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ADR): Ways of making decisions and resolving disputes, other than litigation (contested hearings), including collaborative practice, mediation, parenting coordination, arbitration and neutral evaluation.

 

  • DISSOLUTION: Meaning “to end” or “dissolve.” Often used interchangeably with the word “divorce” as in “dissolution of marriage.”

 

  • DIVORCE COACH: A divorce coach is a skilled professional, trained to manage a wide variety of emotions and issues that arise during divorce. Divorce coaching is not legal advice and not therapy. Divorce coaching is not about placing blame, finding fault or dealing with the past.

 

  • FINANCIAL COUNSELOR: This professional acts as a neutral party who assists both spouses in gathering/understanding the couple’s financial information in a supportive environment.

 

  • MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT: A written document that outlines the divorcing spouses’ rights and agreements regarding property, support and children.

 

  • MEDIATOR: A neutral, impartial person trained in negotiation, conflict resolution and communication. The mediator does not represent any party or take sides, nor does (s)he function as an attorney, judge, coach or therapist. (S)He explains the mediation process to the parties, and assists couples to clarify issues, concerns, interests, needs and values. The mediator brings in and works with various professionals as needs arise.

 

  • PRO PER: Literally means “do it yourself.” This term is often used in mediation and collaborative law to indicate that individuals have determined to represent themselves.

 

  • UNCONTESTED DIVORCE: A divorce in which all issues have been agreed upon by the parties.

 


COMPARISON OF DIVORCE PROCESS OPTIONS



Private Mediation

1 Mediator

Collaboration

Team of Attys

Litigation

Opposing Attys

Who Controls Process

Mediator facilitates, parties make decisions

Professionals organize process, parties make final decisions

Judge controls process/final decision maker

Degree of Adversity

Mediator assists cooperation

Parties commit to non-adversarial process

Court process inherently adversarial

Cost

Manageable and most cost effective process

Manageable, usually less than litigation

Costs unpredictable and can escalate rapidly

Timetable

Parties create timetable; average 6-8 mos.

Parties create timetable; average 12-18 mos.

Judge sets timetable; often delayed; average 2-5 years

Attorney involvement

Mediator serves as facilitator; parties may hire attys at some point

Team guides parties to agreement

Attys fight to "win."

Communication

Parties communicate directly w/assistance

Parties communicate directly with team attys

Parties negotiate through attys

Privacy

Details are privileged by law

Details are private among team/parties

Details become public record

Voluntary vs. Mandatory

Voluntary, non-court based

Voluntary, non-court based

Mandatory, court based

Outside Experts

May be retained by mutual decision

Jointly retained by mutual decision

Attys hire experts at will separately.


PREPARING FOR DIVORCE

Before You File

  • Open a new checking/savings account in your name only. Change any individual direct deposits to this account

  • Open a credit card in your name only to use for emergencies only

  • Decide your desires when it comes to your shared home. Have a plan in place should you need to move out


Privacy

  • Consider a P.O. Box if you need to receive mail confidentially

  • Change your passwords – on every account you own. However, do not change passwords on joint accounts. Change your phone password. Use random passwords not related to anything in your life

  • Make your social media accounts private. Don't delete info, this way you control who sees them


Financial Information

  • Make a list of joint monthly bills

  • Make sure you know you and your spouse's net worth, income and expenses

  • Make a list of all joint financial accounts with current and past 12-month balances

  • Make a list of all credit cards in both your names

  • Make a list and find documentation on retirement accounts, IRS's, 401k's, pensions


Information about your Children

  • Update contact info with their school

  • Know your child's class schedule, extracurricular activities with dates, times, etc.

  • Plan ahead for custody issues and child care


Copies of Documents

  • Credit Report

  • Recent pay stubs for you and your spouse

  • Tax returns for at least the last 3 years

  • Bank statements credit card statements and any other financial accounts

  • If you/your spouse own a business, copies of certificates, company agreements, shareholder agreements, profit/loss statements and any other information reflecting financial condition of the company

  • Trust agreements. Real estate documents like deeds and mortgage documents

  • Car titles and loan information

  • Make a list of all personal property (furniture, art, jewelry, etc.)

  • Marriage Certificate. Copy the document and also include any pre-nup or post-nup agreements.

  • Government IDs. Have a copy of driver's licenses, passports, birth certificate, SS cards, and all the same for your children if needed.

  • Legal Documents. Copy living trusts, insurance documents, etc.

  • Professional Licenses. Copy work permits, visas, and green card as applicable.

  • Employment Agreements. This involves jobs that includes commissions and bonuses.

  • Medical/Dental Insurance. Have copies of all insurance information along with list of prescriptions, etc.


Asset List

  • Registration and Proof of Ownership. Take original or copy information on automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, etc.

  • Real Estate. Take copy of deed and all financial information about properties.

  • Businesses. Copy three years of tax returns for any companies owned.

  • Gifts. Gifts belong to you whether it is a gift card, inheritance, even your engagement and wedding ring.

  • Credit Reporting Agencies. Talk to your attorney about locking your credit with these companies.

  • Record of Belongings. If there is time and you don't risk getting caught, make a recording of all the belongings in your home. Use a friend's phone and then save it on someone else’s computer.

 

Take Pictures

  • Take pictures of items of value

  • Take pictures of each room of your home and its contents

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