It's January, i.e. National Divorce Month

It's January, i.e. National Divorce Month

Every January, Google searches spike for "divorce."

Experts theorize it's because married couples made it through the holidays, for the sake of their families, but by January, have reaffirmed their feelings that the marriage won't last until the next set of holidays.

So although it's not a recognized holiday, we call January "National Divorce Month." 

Admitting you want to get divorced is one of the hardest steps.

Your next steps include:
  • decide whether you want to divorce or separate
  • decide whether mediation will work for you
  • finding a lawyer (you'll need one, even if it's amicable right now)
  • finding all important paperwork, including income statements, tax fililngs, wills, insurance plans and more
  • telling family and friends
Here's some more info on these next steps:

Decide whether a divorce or legal separation makes more sense for your situation. 

A divorce (also known as an absolute divorce) legally terminates a marriage. This changes both spouses statuses back to “single.” The court officially dissolves the marriage. 

Legal separation (or limited divorce) refers to a couple who is separated (living apart) but is still legally married. Legal separations can be temporary, unlike divorce which is a permanent act.

Legal separation may be a good option if you and your spouse are unsure about the marriage  and do not want to terminate the relationship completely. Legal separations still allow for child support payments, custody agreements, and other division of property and finances. 

Sometimes if you and your spouse still get along well or you are not ready to get divorced, legal separation may be a better option that is less costly. You and your spouse can live apart but still maintain some of the benefits associated with marriage, such as financial and insurance benefits. 

Legal separation can also be beneficial if you have minor children, as it makes the transition easier. The family can still be together which means more stability for the children. 

Some courts also allow couples to convert their legal separation into a divorce after the couple has been separated for a specified time period. 

However if you and your spouse are ready to terminate the marriage and live completely separate lives, divorce might be a better option.

Look into mediation as an option. 

Going to court and appearing in front of a judge in order to get your divore decree can be stressful and costly. Luckily, divorce can also be settled through the mediation process. 

This process can be done by hiring a mediator, a neutral, third-party that is there to help you and your spouse facilitate a discussion and resolution. Mediators do not make any decisions for you. They allow you and your spouse to decide the terms of the divorce. The mediator is simply there to aid the discussion and help the two of you communicate productively and effectively.

Because the couple is the one making the decisions, people tend to be happy with mediation outcomes and are likely to follow the terms of the divorce. 

One study found that mediation saved  divorcing couples between 2.5 and 3.5 months in time to resolution, and a modest amount of money. 

Some mediation meetings are started and resolved within 2-3 hours, whereas court proceedings can take weeks, months or even years. People also have greater flexibility as they help decide when mediation meetings occur. 
Just because you agree to mediation does not mean you have to resolve your issues there.

If you and your spouse cannot come to a mutual agreement, you can stop the mediation process at any time and go to court.

That's when you'll need a lawyer. The lawyers at LawChamps are experienced divorced attorneys who will work with you for a reasonable cost. 

Get your finances, assets, and other documents in order. 

Whether you decide to go through mediation or not, there will be costs associated with divorce. Legal fees can be expensive, especially the longer the divorce takes to finalize. Therefore it is a good idea to start saving or thinking of ways you can pay for the divorce while also supporting yourself. 

It is also important to keep track of any accounts and finances both you and your spouse have. This can help make the process faster and easier. Make copies and organize any documents relating to finances and assets that may be important during a divorce such as income statements, bank account statements, any documents relating to insurance etc.

A divorce lawyer will also tell you exactly what documents you will need. 

It is a good idea to make a list of any valuable property you or your spouse has including houses, real estate, jewelry, art, etc. Knowing about all these assets is important when it comes to deciding how these things will be split between you and your spouse. 

Knowing all your assets and property, as well as your spouses, will help you and your lawyer determine which items make the most sense for either you or your spouse to get. Knowing the assets and property of both spouses also allows you to get a fair settlement. 

Sometimes, a spouse may try and hide assets in order to keep more for themselves. But it is a legal requirement for each spouse to disclose all assets they have. Still, your spouse may not follow the law, so it is always good to try and figure out any assets they have. 

Because you are legally required to disclose all your assets, getting all these documents in order will make the process easier for you. 

Update wills or any plans that include your spouse. 

You may have executed a will, trust, joint bank account, retirement plan that names your spouse as the beneficiary, or any other item that may give your spouse benefits.

It is important to make a list of all of these items and figure out a plan to change them if you do not want your spouse to receive the benefits after the divorce. 

In most states, any property you left in your will to your spouse will be revoked if you get divorced. These provisions will only be revoked if the divorce is finalized by a divorce decree.

This means that whatever you left your spouse will go to your residuary estate, if you left one in the will or it will pass to your heirs (usually kids or another close family member) through intestacy (who would get it if you died without a will). 

So although you will not necessarily need to cut a spouse out of your will after your divroce is finalized, you may want to execute another will to give the property to someone else and make it clear you do not want this property to go to your soon to be former spouse. 

Other items, like a trust, joint account, or retirement plan, will still give your spouse money or property if they were named under the terms of the document. Unlike a will, divorce will not deprive them of any assets or money you wanted to give though these times. So you will need to go through and remove your spouse’s name from these items if you no longer want them to receive the benefits. 

Tell family and friends.

Divorce is hard on everyone - friends, family and especially on your children. Make sure to check in on them and try to remain civil with your spouse throughout the process so as to not put extra stress on your kids. 

Kristen Wynns, family psychologist, says, "Keep their lives as normal as possible, including their living arrangements and everyday schedules. Discuss all options with your spouse first in private to avoid further hurt and confusion – you never want to make them feel like an inconvenience.”

Divorce can be a complicated and sometimes hostile process. It is important to consult with an attorney to discuss your legal rights, options, and obligations throughout the process. If you are in the process of or thinking about getting a divorce and would like to work with a lawyer, we can match you with an experienced divorce attorney. 

Because you and your spouse may have different interests, it is a good idea to use different attorney’s so they are able to advocate for you and represent your own interests to the fullest and best of their ability. 

This article is intended to convey generally used information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, and not LawChamps. 

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