There is more that goes into the divorce process than merely ending a marriage. The process involves discussing and coming to an agreement around shared assets and debts, child custody, visitation, spousal and child support, and more.
While reaching a decision to divorce may be difficult, the legal road that follows can be challenging to navigate. As you move forward with your decision to divorce, it is important to include the following, if applicable, in your marital settlement agreement:
1. Division of Assets
Absent an agreement, all marital assets are generally divided equally. When dividing the equity of your home, many hire a property appraiser who will provide you with your home’s fair market value. This step can be used as a starting point for negotiating whether to sell the house, defer the sale of the house, or have one spouse buy out the other spouse’s interest.
Here are the options you have when it comes to splitting real estate property.
Many couples choose to sell the home and split the proceeds. This allows each of you to put money towards a new house and ensure you are both financially prepared for the next chapter of your lives.
Sometimes, especially when minor children are involved, one spouse will choose to defer the sale and compensate the other for their share of the house, so that they can continue to live there. Or they may exchange some of the other marital assets. This is a decision that should consider the children’s stability, as well as financial ability to stay in the residence.
In most cases, selling the house is an essential part of dividing the equity in the home, paying debts by one or both spouses, or fulfilling other financial obligations. In the event that one spouse wants to keep the marital property, but cannot properly compensate the other spouse, the case may go to court and a court order to sell the house may be issued.
2. Child Custody and Parenting Plans
When contemplating divorce or beginning the process, you may feel most overwhelmed about the decision making around child custody and parenting plans. The thought of having less control over parenting decisions and subjecting your children to a split schedule can be stressful. However, when both parents are able to reach a shared agreement that benefits their children, the outcome can be relieving.
The following is what you should discuss with your spouse, and what many couples often overlook:
As primary caretakers, you and your spouse must be open to discussing parental responsibilities. Part of those responsibilities should include the amount of time each of you share with your children and the ways in which you plan to be present. This not only benefits the children by having both parents involved in their lives, but ultimately benefits each of you by allowing you to share in the responsibilities.
Regarding a schedule, these are the typical options co-parents choose:
- Each parent has one week on, one week off;
- Each parent has two weeks on, two weeks off;
- Each parent has children every other weekend, with one parent every Monday and Tuesday, and the other parent every Wednesday and Thursday.
- Each parent has two days on, two days off, and then three day on and three days off. (more common with smaller kids)
School breaks, holidays and summers should also be up for discussion to make sure that children get to share the holidays with each parent. It is best to plan for this time in advance, but also to be flexible in knowing that plans can arise or change quickly. When this happens, we recommend you consider the best interest of your children.
If you plan to travel abroad with your children, the conditions should be established in your divorce settlement. Decide early on what the expectations are for traveling, what accomodations can be made to your co-parenting schedule, and how each of you will ensure one another gets to spend a fair amount of time with your children. How will time be compensated when it comes to longer vacations or trips abroad?
Included in your co-parenting responsibilities should be a clear outline of the roles each of you will have in your children’s lives, and the tools you can adopt to help make the transition easier. For example, co-parenting classes, and open communication via apps such as Talking Parents should be considered when discussing how you want to communicate.
Calendar and Schedules
Have a shared co-parenting calendar or scheduler app to keep track of your co-parenting schedules. These co-parenting calendars can be updated as both parties agree to changes. Calendars can also be shared with babysitters, grandparents, nannies, and even the kids themselves—so everyone is on board.
When discussing money during a divorce, many couples focus solely on assets and debts, which are often equally divided. However, it is also important to discuss ongoing expenses, which can include:
- Taxes and personal loans
- Lawsuits, including bankruptcies
- Long-term care
- Student Loans
- Vehicle loans and insurance
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
The more topics you can discuss with your family law attorney or a mediator at the beginning of your divorce, the better chance you both have of moving forward in peace.
4. Things Commonly Overlooked When Agreeing To A Divorce
When experiencing divorce and emotions are high, it is easy to overlook some important topics that should be discussed early on. Here are what many people leave out of their divorce settlement.
- Life insurance as security and support
- Detailed parenting-time schedule
- Retirement accounts
- Detailed plans around selling shared properties
Best Practices for a Smoother Divorce Settlement Agreement
If you are contemplating divorce, or are currently going through the process, here are some steps we recommend for making the process less painful—and increasing the chance for an amicable relationship after.
- Find peace with your spouse and show them respect throughout the process. This will improve your own well-being, and help to ease the pain your children may experience.
- Continue to learn about the divorce process and how to make it as smooth as possible. Consult an experienced family law attorney who could guide you.
- Attend to your emotional wellbeing by speaking to a therapist and finding other healthy ways of coping with the dissolution of your marriage.
- Wait to introduce other people to your children until your marriage has ended. This will help to keep you and your spouse focused on ending your marital journey with respect and good communication, and starting a healthy new co-parenting chapter for your children.
Know The Right Questions to Ask Your Attorney
When choosing to hire a family law attorney, these are the questions you’ll want to ask.
- How are assets divided?
- How are debts divided?
- What will happen to my credit card points in a divorce?
- What steps do I need to take when negotiating a divorce agreement?
- Is there anything I do before I file for divorce?
Do you have questions about the settlement process? Book a consultation with Alaimo Boyer, APC to answer any questions you still have.