A divorce action plan should include many things but most of all it should be well thought through.
Divorce Action plan One: Determine if your marriage is really over. This is the time to take heart with your spouse to ask have both of you done all you can do or all you are going to do to save or work on your marriage. Are you in marriage counseling or have you tried marriage counseling? Once the decision is made make it clear to your spouse that this is what needs to take place. An open communication about your intent to move forward will make the path much smoother.
Divorce Action Plan Two: Begin to gather information for the divorce about your assets, debts, income and expenses. Compile all your bank statements, credit card statements, retirement statements and any other financial asset and debt information that is available to you. As you gather these statements take time to review and determine if either of you received or have any separate assets (such as separate inheritances, debts etc.). To determine if you are still entitled to a separate interest will most likely require help from a family law attorney. Make a note that when you seek a consultation with a family law divorce attorney to ask for their advice on the issue of separate versus community interest in assets.
Divorce Action Plan Three: Determine the divorcing options available to you. Are the two of you candidates for Divorce Mediation? Or better suited for a Collaborative Divorce? Is the conflict such that the two of you need separate family law attorneys? Ask for referrals for a good divorce family law attorney or mediator. Referrals are the best source for obtaining a family law attorney. Ask friends you know have been divorced about who they used.
Divorce Action Plan Four: Filing the first divorce papers with the court. This starts with filing of a Petition for the Divorce. The first divorce papers are primarily to open the case in the court and obtain a case number from family court. It is important to understand that the statements made in the petition for divorce are not an agreement but can cause conflict if not done properly. This is why having the right divorce attorney to help you begin this process is so important. A good family law attorney will be able to help you complete these forms without increasing the conflict.
Divorce Action Plan Five: Completion of Declaration of Disclosure including a Schedule of Assets and Debts and an Income and Expense Declaration. Much of the financial and historical information you gathered in the divorce action #two will be used for this next step. It is important to make a complete and full disclosure to your spouse and ask that your spouse make a full and complete disclosure to you. The family court has created forms for the two of you to make your Declaration of Disclosure. The obligation in a divorce to make a full disclosure has serious legal significance and it is well worth the investment to seek the advice of a divorce attorney to help you complete them or to review your work.
Divorce Action Plan Six: Building the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). It is best to seek the help of an experienced family law attorney to prepare your Marital Settlement Agreement also known as MSA. This agreement will include how you intend to share your children’s time including your child custody: physical child custody and legal child custody provisions. (See our blog on Legal Child Custody versus Physical Child Custody to learn more about the meaning and impact of custody determinations). The MSA agreement will also state how you want to divide your assets and debts. If there is a retirement account you may need to use a a Qualified Domestic Relations Order QDRO to divide it. A QDRO will allow you to divide the retirement account without having to pay any taxes on the transfer or have to pull the money out of retirement to reach an equal division of property. The MSA will also include any support agreement for both spousal support and child support if you have children. To be sure that you have a legal binding agreement and have covered all the marital issues in the MSA you need to seek the help of a divorce or family law attorney with preparation and processing of the MSA.
Divorce Action Plan Seven: Processing the MSA and the other necessary final family court documents is the last step. It seems only reasonable that after completing an MSA you could just send it to the court. This is not so. In order to send an MSA to the court it must be accompanied by other court required documents including but not limited to; Judgment; Notice of Entry of Judgment; Declaration re: Service of the Declaration of Disclosure; an Appearance Stipulation and Waiver; and a Declaration of Uncontested Divorce. These documents need to be prepared based on local rules. I recommend that you seek the advice of a family law attorney and to be sure this is done correctly.
At Family Law Center we can provide you with the legal help to process your divorce papers in an inexpensive and efficient manner. We will do our best to make the divorce process as seamless, easy and low conflict as we can for you. Call us at Family Law Center for a consultation with one of our divorce family law attorneys.