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Online Do It Yourself Divorce Services.
Legal Divorce Documents.
Divorce – like many other major lifeOnline Do It Yourself Divorce Services.
Legal Divorce Documents.
Divorce – like many other major life events can require many legal divorce documents. You may need or want to customize your divorce papers or have them reviewed by a divorce attorney. There are many online legal document platforms available on the Internet today. US-DivorceForms has joined forces with RocketLawyer to offer access to a vast library of divorce forms and documents. Their online divorce paperwork service can save you thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Starting your free trial today will benefit you mainly because most states require a waiting period before your divorce can be finalized, and in most cases you will be required to sign and submit several different divorce documents to the court. RocketLawyer makes creating, storing and sharing your divorce documents easy. You can try their service today form free and create as many documents as you need during your free trial.
Key Benefits Include.
Create Online Legal Documents in minuets by answering a few simple questions to create the document or documents you need. You can also get legal advice from an On-Call Attorney if you have questions about your documents or the legal procedures related to your specific circumstances. Save, store, print, share and e-sign all of your divorce documents to make them legal. Get support for your online documents via phone, chat or email. Click Here to learn more about RocketLawyer.
Click Here to review the most common divorce documents and a list of essential documents you may need after your divorce is final. Click Here to download our free online printable do it yourself divorce packet with step by step instructions now.
Court Approved Forms.
Essential Divorce Documents.
Divorce Settlement Agreement Basics.
This document is a very important document related to your divorce. You should work together during your divorce to come to an agreement on things such as child custody and visitation, child support payments, property and asset division, alimony payments, etc when creating this document. Once you and your spouse have agreed to all of the conditions in your divorce settlement agreement the court will approve it and issue your final decree of divorce. This is the most common document used to get an uncontested divorce in all 50 states. Click here to begin your divorce settlement agreement form now.
Divorce Worksheet Basics.
This worksheet is intended to organize personal and financial information about you and your spouse to assist you in preparing for a divorce. It can be prepared before or after you have an initial meeting with a lawyer who is assisting you with your divorce. Use the Divorce Worksheet document if: Your are contemplating a divorce and need to identify the basic information involved. You want to organize information about you and your family to provide the relevant data to your attorney, financial advisor or others who will be assisting you in obtaining or resisting a dissolution of your marriage. This worksheet is intended to organize personal and financial information about you and your spouse to assist you in preparing for a divorce.
Marriage Separation Agreement Basics.
When you and your spouse agree to legally separate, you can use a Marriage Separation Agreement to settle how your property, assets, debts and child custody are handled. We’ll walk you through creating a Marriage Separation Agreement so you can move ahead. Use a Marriage Separation Agreement if: You and your spouse have decided to legally separate and agree on how to divide your property and assets. You and your spouse are considering a divorce and would like to legally separate prior to a final decision on ending your marriage. You are contemplating a legal separation and would like to set preliminary terms for a division of your property. You plan to meet with an attorney regarding a legal separation and would like to be prepared with an outline for the division of property and assets. Other names for Marriage Separation Agreement: Separation Agreement, Marital Settlement Agreement. Marital Separation Agreement, Legal Separation Agreement Marriage Separation Agreement versus Filing for Divorce: Once a Divorce is finalized by the court (usually when the court issues a Divorce Decree) the marriage is terminated. However, with a Marriage Separation Agreement, even if it is legally binding, you will still be legally married. The following are common reasons for seeking a Separation instead of a Divorce: A couple may not be emotionally ready for a Divorce; A couple may not want to live together but do not want a Divorce; A couple may want to retain medical insurance, governmental or tax benefits that may continue because the couple is still considered to be married although living separate lives; A couple resides in a state that requires a separation period before the couple may file for Divorce; If you are going to pay spousal support during separation, having a Legal Marriage Separation Agreement is required in order to deduct these payments on your tax return; A couple wants to finalize separation of property and finances and other terms before starting a divorce proceeding. Please note that choosing to have a legally binding Marriage Separation Agreement is not necessarily faster or less expensive than filing for a Divorce. You may want to consult with an attorney to help you assess your options. Scope of a Marriage Separation Agreement: A Marriage Separation Agreement includes many of the same terms as a Divorce Decree, including the following: Who will retain possession and use of marital home; How will expenses of the marital home—rent or mortgage, utilities, maintenance, etc.—be divided during legal separation; If legal separation is converted to a Divorce who will pay for the expenses of the marital home; How will assets acquired during the marriage be divided during the Separation including rental property, financial and retirement accounts, vehicles, insurance, property, debts, and business or corporate interests. Any terms of spousal support. Alimony is common in marriages lasting 10 or more years. Oftentimes, the courts seek to have both spouses maintain a similar lifestyle to what they were accustomed to before the Legal Separation. All sources of income should be listed. This includes employment, retirement, rental, disability, and government income. Whether or not spousal benefits, such as medical insurance, will continue during the Separation and who will pay for them; The terms of child support, custody and visitation rights. Signing the Marital Separation Agreement: Both parties must sign the Agreement in front of a notary public. Each spouse should retain a copy of the signed agreement. You may access a copy of the unsigned copy of your Agreement on RocketLawyer indefinitely. If you would like to have a copy of the signed Agreement on RocketLawyer simply scan and upload it. Legal Enforceability of Marriage Separation Agreement: Whether a Marriage Separation Agreement is legally binding depends on the laws of the state in which you lived during the marriage. Most states recognize Legal Separation Agreements. However, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Texas do not recognize legal separation. But even though these states do not recognize legal separation, a separation agreement can still help organize what you and your spouse agree upon in terms of how assets and liabilities will be allocated, how child support and support claims will be arranged, and how property will be divided. Although there are additional steps to take to divorce, the Marriage Separation Agreement can function as a legally binding contract between the spouses. Some states require that you file your Marriage Separation Agreement with the court seeking legal approval of its terms in order for the Agreement to be enforceable. For example, in Community Property states, Community Property rights cannot be severed or divided unless adjudicated by a court. In other words, your Agreement is not enforceable until the judge issues a Court Order. Other states, do not do not require that you file your Agreement with the court; instead, the Agreement is a binding contract between the parties.
Parenting Plan Basics.
The topic of children during a divorce or legal separation can be a complicated one. A Parenting Plan lays out the agreement between two parents about physical and legal custody, child support, a visitation schedule, and health insurance, among other issues. Use the Parenting Plan document if: You and your spouse are divorcing and need a plan for each other’s involvement in the child’s life after the divorce. You and your spouse are filing for a legal separation and want to determine child custody and support. You have a child with someone to whom you are not married and want to enforce a plan for parenting time and visitation. Parents of minor children can use the Parenting Plan to put their agreement about their children in writing. The Parenting Plan may be filed with a court if required as part of a child custody agreement, or may be an informal agreement between parents. Other names for this document: Custody Agreement, Parenting Plan Form.
Child Visitation Letter Basics.
When you split up with a partner, but want to spend time with your children, visitation becomes necessary. If you either have custody of the children, or visitation rights, you can use a Child Visitation Letter to establish the specific details of the time to be spent with the kids. Once a divorce decree has been issued, custody will be awarded to one parent, with the other typically granted visitation rights (which might also be granted to grandparents, too). A Child Visitation Letter helps you establish how visitation will proceed. Use the Child Visitation Letter document if: You have visitation rights and want to plan a get together. The other parent isn’t following the visitation rules and you need to formally let them know. With a Child Visitation Letter, you can advise the other parent of the what, how, and when of a child’s visit. As well as detailing the time and location of the pickup and return of the kids, a Child Visitation Letter enables you to describe special activities related to the visit which the other parent should know about. With this document you can help protect your relationship with your children so that the time you spend with them is fun and happy; a Child Visitation Letter outlines the activities so that the other parent knows what to expect, so you can concentrate on what really matters: your kids. Other names for this document: Child Visitation Agreement Letter.
Demand for Alimony Payment Basics.
If you have been awarded alimony in a divorce or separation, you can use a Demand for Alimony Payment to help remind your former spouse of their obligations. This document can be used to alert him or her to the court decree or separation agreement, and function as proof that you have made this reminder. A Demand for Alimony Payment can help you get the money you’ve been awarded. Use the Demand for Alimony Payment document if: You want to remind a separated or divorced spouse of alimony obligations. You’re owed alimony and your former spouse isn’t paying. Your former spouse is responsible for certain bills, but isn’t paying them. A Demand for Alimony Payment can help you be treated fairly, if you were awarded alimony. As alimony is not limited solely to cash payments, and may also include medical or dental expenses, house payments, or other expenses, it’s important that your former spouse fulfills their obligation to pay the alimony. You can remind them firmly – and legally – and maybe avoid a legal dispute. And if they don’t follow through on their obligation, you will probably need proof that you reminded them. A Demand for Alimony Payment can help you get payments that you’re owed. Other names for this document: Demand for Alimony Payment Letter.
Demand for Child Support Payment Basics.
This letter is used to remind a parent of his or her child support obligations and request that the past due payments be made. If such payments are not made in a timely manner, this letter documents your attempt to resolve the matter. Use the Demand for Child Support Payment document if: You want to remind a parent of child support obligations. You want to demand payment on past due obligations. You want to demand payment on bills for which the parent is responsible. Other names for this document: Request for Child Support Payment, Demand for Child Support Payment Letter.
Name Change Notification Letter Basics.
A Name Change Notification Letter provides notice to personal and business contacts that you’ve changed your name. If you’ve gotten married, divorced, or just decided you wanted to go by another name a Name Change Notification Letter can help you inform everyone you need to. Use the Name Change Notification Letter document if: You have changed your name by marriage, divorce, or court order. When you change your name a Name Change Notification Letter lets others know. You can probably let your close friends know through social media or by directly calling them, but there are many other important parties that you should probably inform. Credit cards and bank statements all have your previous name, as does your lease and social security card. Not to mention all the medical documents at your doctor’s office or your employee records at work. There’s likely a lot of people and places that need to be updated on your new name, a Name Change Notification Letter helps you get the word out quickly and professionally. Other names for this document: Notice of Name Change.
Essential Documents After Divorce.
Change of Beneficiary Letter Basics.
If you want to change who your primary beneficiary is on your life insurance policy make sure it happens with a Change of Beneficiary Letter. Maybe you want to add another beneficiary or perhaps you want to remove one? Keep your paperwork is up to date. A Change of Beneficiary Letter helps ensure everything is in order. Use the Change of Beneficiary Letter document if: You want to change the primary beneficiary of an insurance policy. You’d like to remove or add someone as a beneficiary. You want to inform an insurance company of a beneficiary’s name change. There will probably come a time when you need a Change of Beneficiary Letter. Maybe you got married – or divorced. Maybe you had a baby or maybe you’re a brand new grandparent. The people we care about can change and grow, but when that happens, is your paperwork keeping up? Do you know exactly who’s listed on your life insurance policy. When new people enter your life it’s important that any change to your personal wishes are reflected in your official documents. After all, that’s why you have the policy in the first place. It doesn’t take much time or effort to add, change, or remove beneficiaries. Oftentimes, all you need is a Change of Beneficiary Letter to keep your documents as current as your relationships. Other names for this document: Request to Change Policy Beneficiary, Change Beneficiary Form.
College Education Trust Basics.
You love your kids and grandkids more than anything, and want the best for them. Setting up a College Education Trust is a great way to provide for the future, make a big impact in a young person’s life, and pass on your legacy. Get started with our step-by-step College Education Trust document to create an education fund for your child or grandchild. Use the College Education Trust document if: You want to accumulate funds for the education of a child (or grandchild). You want to have more control over the gifted funds than custodial account arrangements. You want to shift income taxes on the savings to the trust and/or the child. Using a College Education Trust creates a legal trust that accumulates savings for a child’s college education. It’s specially structured to meet the requirements of Section 2503(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. By meeting the IRS requirements, a donor has more control of the gifted money and avoids being taxed on the funds they put into the Trust. For the donor, a gift to the trust of less than $13,000 per year will not trigger gift tax liability. The donor also can retain control over the use of the funds. At the same time, any tax on trust income is shifted from the donor to the trust and/or the child. To qualify for a College Education Trust under Section 2503(c), the IRS has several requirements about when a child will have access to the funds, usually when they turn 21. The College Education Trust is most effective when its used to accumulate $30,000 to $120,000 that’s going to be used primarily for educational expenses. Note that this fund may not be right for you if you want to save funds for expenses beyond college, so talk to an attorney if you have any questions. Other names for this document: College Trust, Education Trust.
Learn more about Power of Attorney What is a Power of Attorney.
When you need help making big decisions, a Power of Attorney form (also known as a POA) allows you to give permission to another person or entity (your agent) to act on your behalf. This person can be anyone you choose, and their power is defined entirely by you. A Power of Attorney can be general, granting broad authority over all of your medical and financial affairs, or it may be limited, giving your agent a defined set of responsibilities only in certain situations. You can choose to create a Durable Power of Attorney form, meaning that your agent’s powers remain in effect if you become incompetent, or you can create a Springing Power of Attorney form or Conditional POA, meaning that your agent is only granted authority once a certain event happens, such as military deployment or disability. Whether you’re going to be unavailable, or you want to prepare for unexpected illness, our simple Power of Attorney template can help you to ensure that someone you trust will manage your finances and health care with your best interest in mind. Use a Power of Attorney Form if: You want to authorize someone to handle your medical and financial affairs in the event that you are absent or away from home. You want to authorize someone to handle your medical and financial affairs in the event that you are mentally incapacitated. You want to authorize someone to act on your behalf in another specific situation. How to Get Power of Attorney (POA) The process for getting power of attorney varies depending on your situation and whether or not you are the grantor of the rights or the grantee. Read more below to learn how to give, obtain or revoke power of attorney. Give Power of Attorney The first step in giving power of attorney is to choose an agent, the person who can act on your behalf. You may prefer for your agent to be a family member, a longtime friend, or a trusted professional, such as your lawyer, doctor or accountant. This person must be at least eighteen years old. If you would prefer to have multiple co-agents work as a team (as with a Dual Power of Attorney), or if you would like to name a successor in the event that your primary attorney-in-fact is unable or unwilling, now is a good time to select those people, as well. Before starting your free Power of Attorney form, have a conversation with the agents you’ve chosen to discuss why you’re giving them power of attorney and how it will work, including the duration of their responsibilities and any compensation. These terms will be included in your POA form, but having this conversation before completing the template can help to prevent misunderstandings. To fill out the durable Power of Attorney template, you should have the addresses and phone numbers of your agents on hand. You may also consider reviewing the following documents to ensure that you’ve got all of your legal matters covered: Existing Will, Trust or other Power of Attorney forms Financial paperwork: Bank statements and stock/bond information Property deeds Once you’ve completed your printable Power of Attorney template, you’ll need to download it and have it signed. Signing requirements vary from state to state—we’ll make sure you know what’s required after you’ve created your durable Power of Attorney document. In some states, you must have the form signed by a notary public and/or witnesses to your signature. Do not sign the POA form until you have the required individuals present to observe your signature. Note that you also need to have the addresses and phone numbers of the witnesses to the document, if any. Also, some notaries charge a fee for signing, stamping or sealing a document. Once the Power of Attorney form is signed, be sure to give a copy to your agents and let them know where you plan to keep the original. Obtain Power of Attorney for a Parent or Relative For you to become an agent or attorney-in-fact, your parent or relative must knowingly and willingly sign a durable Power of Attorney form in the presence of a notary and/or witnesses (depending on your state.) If they reside in a different state, be sure that the durable Power of Attorney form is made for their state of residence, not yours. If your parent is hospitalized or in a nursing home or hospice care, you may be able to find a notary on staff to witness the signing. Otherwise, you should hire a mobile notarization service. If your parent suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may be required to present a letter from a physician stating that they can still understand what’s being signed in order for the POA to be valid. If your parent is deemed unable to make their own decisions, then they are not legally able to sign a Power of Attorney form. If this is the case, you may be able to become a conservator (or adult guardian) instead. Conservators also have the authority to handle medical and financial matters, however the process of becoming one involves going before a judge. If you would like to proceed as a conservator, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. If your parent passes away, then the durable Power of Attorney form is no longer valid and other estate planning documents, such as a Last Will and Testament, take precedence. Get a Power of Attorney for a Child Parents or legal guardians of minor children can give temporary authority to another adult relative or caretaker using a Power of Attorney for a Child form. It is important to note that you can only grant parental rights for a defined period of time—no more than six months in many states. Revoke Power of Attorney or Change Your Attorney-in-Fact You can cancel or revoke a signed Power of Attorney form at any time, regardless of the reason. The revocation should be made in writing using a Revocation of Power of Attorney form, and you must provide notice to your attorney-in-fact under the POA that you are revoking. Once you have revoked the original POA, you can update your Power of Attorney template or create a new one. When changing your Power of Attorney form, it is important to revoke the original, as it may still be considered valid unless it is explicitly revoked in writing. Types of Power of Attorney Durable Power of Attorney vs. Springing Power of Attorney In estate planning, it’s often smart to make your Power of Attorney form “durable.” A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is effective even if you’re incapacitated or become mentally incompetent. The DPOA is sometimes called an Enduring Power of Attorney. On the other hand, a Springing Power of Attorney form, such as a Military Power of Attorney or a Mental Health Care Power of Attorney, only goes into effect after a certain condition is met, often as a result of travel abroad or illness. General Power of Attorney vs. Limited Power of Attorney While a general Power of Attorney form gives your agents broad authority over your financial or medical affairs, a limited or special Power of Attorney form allows you to define their responsibilities within a narrow scope. For example, if you would prefer to have your spouse manage your personal financial decisions and your business partner manage business decisions, you can use separate Limited Power of Attorney templates to handle this. If you are looking to appoint a trusted decision maker specifically for health care, you can also use our customizable Medical Power of Attorney form. Unlike a Living Will, which only addresses deathbed concerns, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care covers all medical decisions and can include provisions for deathbed treatment. If you have questions about what POA forms are right for handling your financial and medical matters, you can always ask a lawyer. To learn more about estate planning, check out our guide to Estate Planning Basics or review our selection of Estate Planning documents.
Last Will and Testament Basics.
A Last Will and Testament allows you to communicate your wishes and make things easier for the people you care about. Creating a Last Will and Testament as a part of your estate plan will ensure all you leave behind—including the care of your children—will be taken care of according to your wishes. Use a Last Will and Testament if: You’d like your property, including Digital Assets, distributed according to your wishes after your death. You’d like to list the people or organizations that will receive your property after your death. You’d like to list the person or group who will carry out the terms of the Last Will. You’d like to name who’s responsible for minor children if their other parent is unable to take care of them. Note: If the value of what you own is going to be larger than the federal estate tax exemption amount, currently $5,340,000, it’s a good idea to get an attorney. Digital assets: A last will and testament can help you pass along many computer and Internet-related property, including online accounts or digital files. Other examples of digital assets include email accounts, blogs, social-networking websites, online backup services, photo and document sharing websites, business accounts, domain names, virtual property and computer files. Other names for a Last Will and Testament: Last Will, Will and Testament, Will How to write a Last Will and Testament: Writing a last will doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. In fact, a last will is simply a written way for you to state your desires for what happens to your property and children after your death and avoid any confusion or familial disputes. Our online interview helps you write your last will simply and easily—all you have to do is answer questions about your situation and wishes, and your answers are used to complete your personalized will. Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you write your will: Choose Beneficiaries When you’re writing your last will, you’ll first need to designate your beneficiaries. Your beneficiaries are the people that will receive your property. These are normally your spouse, children, other relatives, and close friends. You can also make any special bequests regarding any digital assets you own. You’ll indicate who will receive your estate and specified possessions. Appoint an Executor Choosing an executor is an important part of writing your last will. Your executor will carry out your wishes concerning the legal and financial matters of your estate. With that kind of power, it’s a good idea to pick someone who is good with numbers and organized. It’s probably better to look for those qualities rather than the person who is closest to you. We have a more detailed article about how to appoint a will executor, with information about multiple executors, the type of person you should look for, and some other important factors you should keep in mind. Pick a Guardian for Your Children You’ll also want to make sure your children are taken care of when writing your Will, which means picking a guardian. In most cases, your spouse will receive most of your assets and will provide financially for your children, but you may want to separate the provisions for your children, in case something were to happen to your spouse. Sign Your Will with Witnesses In order for your last will to be valid, it must be signed, and you must be of legal age and mentally competent. You also need witnesses’ signatures attesting that you knew what you were signing. Restrictions on who can witness a will—as well as if it will need to be notarized—vary across the country, so be sure to check with your state. What to do once you’ve written your Will Put Your Will in a Safe Place Having a last will won’t do you much good if no one can find it. Make sure you keep yours in a secure place, generally at home in a safe or in a jointly-owned safe deposit box. It’s also a great idea to create a couple copies and give them to people you trust, such as your children, spouse, and estate planning attorney. Finish Your Estate Plan Remember, a last will is part of your estate plan. not the whole thing. It’s important to create a power of attorney, a living will, and a living trust(s) for your loved ones. You can read more about creating a comprehensive estate plan in our “Wills v. Estate Plan” article. Certain important decisions—like who can make end of life decisions for you—cannot be included in your will. Review and Amend Your Will If you have a new granddaughter or purchase a car you know your son your son would like, you don’t have to redo your entire last will. That’s what codicils are for. Codicils allow you to make legal changes to your existing will like the ones we mentioned above. It’s especially important to do this after big life changes, like a marriage, a divorce, or the birth of a child. And of course, make sure you keep your codicils with your will.
Affidavit of Name Change Basics.
You may not be Donald Trump, but you may use names or aliases other than your legal name. An Affidavit of Name Change can help you prove you’re who you say when you’ve changed your name, but haven’t made it official. If you have been using more than one name, create Affidavit of Name Change to verify your identity. Use the Affidavit of Name Change document if: You have changed your name in the past and now a party you are dealing with wants assurances that the name change is proper and there is no chance of impropriety. If you need to apply for a passport, visa or a job, you’ll need to verify your citizenship. An Affidavit of Name Change is evidence of your identity. It will work for anyone who has used a name that has not been changed officially by a court or changed through marriage. For example, you can use this document if you have recently been married, divorced or formally changed your name, but need additional verification of your name change. Another person, preferably a blood-relative, who has personal knowledge of you using both your legal name and your chosen name, will fill out this Affidavit. Other names for this document: Affidavit of One and the Same, Affidavit of Same Name, Change of Name Affidavit.
Child Care Authorization Form Basics.
It feels good knowing you have a nanny you trust to watch your children. Using a Child Care Authorization puts that trust in writing and gives your nanny limited powers to make decisions in regards to your children. For example, you can authorize your nanny to notify school or day care that your child is ill or to pick up your child after school. Create a Child Care Authorization to define the terms when another person can make decisions about your child. Use the Child Care Authorization document if: You would like to authorize your child’s school to release your child to another individual You would like to give authorization for another individual to make decisions regarding your child in your unexpected absence. What if one day, your child’s school calls you because there’s an unknown woman who says she’s to pick up your child from school? In this situation, it would be helpful to have a Child Care Authorization in place. It’s a legal document that allows another individual or institution to take care of your child temporarily or to make decisions about your child. The Authorization limits the scope of decisions that can be made. For example, a child care center may require an Authorization to allow a nanny to pick up your child on your behalf. This document should only be used to give narrow authorization for decisions about your child. If you want to grant legal authority to make major decisions, you should use RocketLawyer ‘s Power of Attorney for Child. If you need a transfer of guardianship you should use RocketLawyer ‘s Find a Lawyer search engine to locate an attorney to help you in the guardianship process. Other names for this document: Child Care Authorization Form, Child Care Authorization Letter, Child Authorization Form.
Financial Affidavit Basics.
If you’ve been asked to make a sworn statement about your finances a Financial Affidavit can be a simple solution. A court may require you to provide information about your assets, expenses, and investments – this is common in divorce cases but can happen in many legal or business situations. Regardless of how the need arose, your Financial Affidavit is your formal financial statement. Use the Financial Affidavit document if: A court or business has request confirmation of your financial situation. You are addressing financial issues dealing with a divorce A court may ask you for a statement about your expenses, income, assets and liabilities; fortunately, it’s easy to create a Financial Affidavit. All you need is your financial information, a written statement, and a notary public. Just remember that you’re making a sworn statement, so there’s no room for exaggeration or modesty. While you might not be before a judge an affidavit carries a lot of weight. So gather your information, double check that it’s accurate, and a Financial Affidavit will help make it official. Other names for this document: Financial Affidavit Form, Financial Disclosure Affidavit, Financial Statement Affidavit.
Essential Documents Before Marriage.
Background Check Basics.
If you’re thinking about getting married or are engaged to be married, you may want to consider getting a background check on your soon-to-be spouse. Of course, it’s not being suggested that a background check be done by everyone. If you suspect something isn’t quite right, or if you just want to be sure that she’s everything she says she is, then you need to know what kind of information a background check can give you and how to go about getting one done. Kinds of Background Information whether he’s ever been charged with a crime; and whether he’s ever spent time in jail or prison In most instances, you’ll need a lot of personal information about your partner to make sure you get the right background information. Instant Criminal Background Check. Search for criminal records including felony, misdemeanor, sex offender county offense records. You’ll need their name, current and perhaps a prior address, birth date, and maybe even a Social Security number. Have a family law question? Get answers from local attorneys. It’s free and easy. Ask a Lawyer Name Do you have any reason to believe that your companion hasn’t told you his real name? Was he really born where he says he was born? This type of information can be found through birth certificates and other vital records. These also are usually kept in a county office, like a courthouse or a specific agency, like a “bureau of vital statistics.” These same offices might also house marriage and divorce records. Again, in many states, your access to records like birth certificates might be limited because of confidentiality issues. However, you might be able to get an unofficial copy of the record. Such a copy shows the information on file, but it doesn’t contain a guarantee of it’s accuracy by the state or county. In some areas, there might be rolls or registers listing names, birth dates, and birth locations. Getting the Information Of course, if you have an idea of where your partner was born, married or divorced, or had criminal troubles, then you can go to that place and search the records yourself. Today, many of the records can be searched by computers at the office or building, but sometimes the records are still on paper and filed on banks of shelves or in file cabinets. Many local governments, and especially courts, have Web sites and databases that you can search from your own computer at home. There are also dozens if not hundreds of Internet-based services that let you search their records for a fee. Some of these services have their own databases that are filled with information that they’ve gathered from across the country. There are other services that will do the actual searching for you and charge a fee for any information they find. For either type of service, you should have as much information as possible about your companion to make the search worth your time and money. Online Dating Online dating services have grown immensely over the years. Until recently, there was little or no regulation on who could access these online dating sites, which led to a lot of criminal activity. Identity theft and impersonation are common, as are more serious crimes, like sexual harassment, stalking, and even rape of persons using the site by others on the same site. Often, the offenders have criminal histories. A recent New Jersey law is an attempt to stop such crimes. The new law requires online dating services to notify New Jersey residents who use the service if criminal background checks have been completed for all persons using the service. Other states are considering enacting similar laws. “Mail-Order Brides” Until recently, international marriage brokers could set up, almost without restriction, marriages between American citizens, and particularly men, and women from all over the world. A new federal law, the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act places some restrictions on mail order marriages focusing on criminal activities. Particularly, an American citizen who wants to marry a foreign national must have marital and criminal background checks performed on him and he must sign and give a copy of the reports to his intended bride. The idea behind the law is to prevent foreign women from entering into abusive marriages. Search for anyone on PeopleFinders, then choose the Report + Trial option to start your FREE 3-day trial.
Birth Certificate Request Letter Basics.
This letter is used to request a copy of a birth certificate from a state’s vital statistics office. By answering a few simple questions, a properly formatted letter will be generated with the correct address where you will send your request. Note: We are not affiliated with any of the United States Vital Statistics Records Offices, thus we cannot actually provide you with an actual copy of your birth Certificate. You will need to send the request letter to the appropriate office located here once completed. Use the Birth Certificate Request Letter document if: You need to request a copy of a birth certificate for passport, social security, school, or other identification purposes. The first step to getting a certified copy of your birth certificate is a Birth Certificate Request Form. Just answer a few simple questions and you’ll have a professional request in minutes. Keep in mind that many states require a small fee to obtain an official copy of your birth certificate. Other names for this document: Letter to Request Birth Certificate.
Cohabitation Agreement Basics.
If you and your significant other are also roommates, a Cohabitation Agreement is a smart way for you both to protect yourselves and your assets when you live together. We’ll make it simple to create a Cohabitation Agreement. Use the Cohabitation Agreement document if: You live with your significant other, sharing expenses, a lease, and other items, and you would like to remain, and be considered by a court, as just cohabitants. You plan to live together with your significant other and would like to define the financial terms of that arrangement. A Cohabitation Agreement can be an outline to a successful partnership. Through this contract, you and your partner can identify how your property and assets are owned. A common purpose for the Agreement is to protect you from your partner’s debts. Alternatively, because you are not married, your partner may be shut out from inheriting your property. Use the Agreement to ensure that your partner has a right to inherit your property, if you choose. This Cohabitation Agreement clarifies how you and your partner own and use the property in your relationship. Other names for this document: Cohabitation Contract Agreement, Cohabitation Agreement for Unmarried Partners.
Domestic Partnership Agreement Basics.
If you’re partners for life, it might be time to get it on paper and make things official. Use a Domestic Partnership Agreement if you’re in a committed heterosexual or same-sex relationship and would like to create financial and emotional security without marriage. Safeguard your relationship and secure your financial, property and healthcare rights. We’ll help you put together a Domestic Partnership Agreement for your needs. Use the Domestic Partnership Agreement document if: You are a couple who has decided to form a long-term committed relationship and want to solidify the relationship by outlining the responsibilities of each partner. You want the legal and emotional security that a legal document can provide in protecting your interests should something unexpected occur. You want a document that summarizes what will happen to you and your partner’s assets and income in the unfortunate event of separation or death. You want to reduce conflict and distress in case of a breakup by outlining both partners’ wishes. A Domestic Partnership Agreement is a legal agreement outlining the legal and financial details of your relationship. The Agreement sets out how you and your partner plan to share income, share assets, hold bank accounts, own property and more while in the relationship. The Agreement also address how assets and property are brought to the relationship by each partner are owned. Creating a Domestic Partnership Agreement protects your finances should the relationship end or your partner passes away. Because you are not married, you and your partner are not given rights under divorce or probate laws. Sorting out commingled finances and shared property can be costly and emotionally draining. A Domestic Partnership Agreement avoids legal battles setting out the nature of your relationship and how things stand should the relationship end. Other names for this document: Domestic partnership Agreement Form.
Divorce Records Request Letter Basics.
If you need to prove you’re divorced, but you no longer have the official records, you can send a Divorce Records Request Letter. If you’re reclaiming your maiden name on your social security card, credit cards, or passport, a Divorce Records Request Letter helps you get the records to prove your divorce. Use the Divorce Records Request Letter document if: You need to prove a divorce. You need to request a copy of a dissolution or annulment certificate. A Divorce Records Request Letter may be necessary even if your divorce was relatively straightforward. If you want to change your name post-divorce, you need proof. Bank accounts, school transcripts, and military IDs are just a few examples. You might need proof of a divorce when adopting a child or getting re-married. Copies of divorce records are typically held in the city, county, or other local office where the event occurred; to obtain the appropriate address, refer to a telephone book, or refer to the government web site for the locale where the event occurred. You would then use a Divorce Records Request Letter to help get a copy of the divorce decree. Other names for this document: Letter Requesting Divorce Records, Divorce Certificate Request Letter.
Learn more about Prenuptial Agreement What is a Prenup.
A Prenuptial Agreement, also called a prenup, premarital or ante nuptial agreement, is a legal contract made between spouses before the wedding in order to outline plans for the division of property and finances, if the marriage were to end in a divorce or death down the road. Not just meant for the wealthy, Prenuptial Agreements aren’t only about protecting yourself in the unfortunate event of a legal separation or divorce, they can also help couples decide whether certain debts are personal or shared, and they can even help to define the plans for managing household finances. Without a prenup to provide guidance, the state is left to divide property and finances after a death or divorceВ—meaning that you may not like the final decision. This makes the prenup agreement a very important legal document for every couple to have regardless of financial status. Use a Prenuptial Agreement if: You are engaged to be married and wish to lay out the rights and obligations of each person regarding property and finances. You own a business or property that you’d like to make plans for. You hold a significant amount of debt. You have previously been married or have children from a prior union. How to Get a Prenup Talking about money with a future spouse can be tough, however, being upfront and getting on the same page before getting married can help both of you to avoid conflict down the road. When you’re sitting down to write a Prenuptial Agreement, it’s often best to do so with your partner. If necessary, you may also consider asking a third party such as a mediator, counselor or religious advisor to facilitate the conversation. You should be sure that both parties engage in full disclosure during the discussion and that both parties sign voluntarily. Prenuptial Agreements may be challenged as invalid and considered coerced if they are signed less than 30 days before the wedding, so be sure that you and your significant other have ample time to discuss your financial planning decisions before you tie the knot. Here are some scenarios that you may want to review together: Previous marriage and children If you or your partner are obligated to pay spousal support or child support, be sure to note that responsibility. Further, if either of you have an inheritance or other savings set aside for your children’s college tuition, you may also consider keeping that separate. Finally, if you wish to pass certain property down to your kids, you can outline that decision in your ante nuptial plan, as well. Income and debts Life doesn’t begin at marriage. As such, you and your significant other will be starting your new life together with previously owned assets or existing financial obligations. What you will need to decide in your prenuptial contract is whether any of these are shared, or if you’ll be keeping them separate. It’s up to you, your spouse, and your attorney. Perhaps you’d prefer to share your income in a joint bank account, but keep your credit card debt and student loans separate to protect your spouse from creditors. With a Prenuptial Agreement form. you can define who holds what debt and also lay out a plan for splitting household bills and credit card charges. Property and Inheritance If you’ve already inherited or expect to inherit the family home or a family business, and you want to keep it among biological relatives, you can denote that in the premarital contract. If you own other property that you’d like to keep separate, it is important to note that in the Prenuptial Agreement, along with any plans for its’ distribution if you pass away or divorce. What Happens If You Divorce Obviously, no one sets out to be married and thinks of divorce. But in a Prenuptial Agreement, you can protect both parties in the event that the unwanted does happen. You or your spouse, for example, can choose to fore-go a claim on alimony (if that is allowed in your state), or decide who keeps certain assets. If you have questions about what the laws in your state allow, you can always ask a lawyer. What Happens If One Spouse Dies While you should consider creating a last will and testament or updating your estate plan when you’re getting married, you can set certain conditions about assets and offspring in your Prenuptial Agreement. Again, it’s likely that you and your partner will be sharing almost everything, but there are the occasional properties or assets that you may want to keep in your biological family or give to your kids from a previous marriage as opposed to your spouse upon your death. You can include those in provisions in your ante nuptial contract. Prenup Pros and Cons If you are on the fence about whether or not you should get a prenup, here are a few advantages and potential drawbacks to consider: Prenup Benefits Encourages open communication between spouses Protects per-marital assets including inheritances and business assets Protects the rights of children from a previous marriage Maintains separate property Reinforces your estate plan Helps couples to avoid future conflicts Establishes a procedure for future decisions Prenup Drawbacks Involves talking about money, a sensitive topic May feel pessimistic to prepare for divorce while planning a wedding May require negotiation or involvement of attorneys Prenup After Marriage Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to sign a marital contract after you tie the knot. Though not as common, a post nuptial agreement allows you and your spouse to outline your plans just as you would with a prenup. The only difference is that you are signing after your wedding date. Another myth about prenups is that you can’t change them after your wedding day. This is not true. If your financial situation has changed, you can alter or modify any terms as long as both parties agree and the updates are made in writing and signed. It is important to note however that unless the entire contract is revoked in writing, all other provisions will remain intact. You may also want to consider updating your prenup if you move to another state where the laws might be different or if you become parents. If you have questions about any of the provisions in your prenup, don’t hesitate to ask a lawyer.
Essential Documents After Marriage.
How Marital Status Affects Car Insurance Rates Marriage comes with a lot of important financial decisions, and one of the areas to consider with your spouse is your car insurance – many car insurance companies use marriage as a rating factor when determining your premium. Learn how changing your marital status and adding or removing a driver from your policy can affect your rates. Why Does Marriage Affect Car Insurance? When determining your car insurance rates, auto insurance companies go by the numbers, meaning they base the driver’s premium on their risk of making a claim/getting into an accident. For example, drivers who are under 25 years old, those who have poor driving records, or drivers with high-risk occupations will pay more. When it comes to marriage, someone who is married is LESS likely to be in an accident than someone who is not married. While this may seem like a presumption that could possibly be discriminatory, accident statistics do back up this theory. In fact, in a 2004 study of 10,525 adults, the National Institutes of Health found that drivers who have never been married had twice the risk of driver injury than drivers who were married. Combining Policies After Marriage When you get married, consider the best way to handle your car insurance. Married couples often assume it’s best to combine their policies. Understand, however, that combining policies doesn’t automatically lead to savings. The driving records of both you and your spouse will be factored into your new premium, so if your spouse has had a number of tickets or accidents, you could actually see your rates rise. Additionally, it may be better to keep separate policies if your spouse: Drives a car model that is pricier to insure. Drives a valuable classic car. Travels many more miles per day/month than you. If you have questions about how combining your policies can affect your rates, speak with your auto insurance agent. Car Insurance, Domestic Partnerships, and Roommates Domestic Partnerships Some car insurance companies offer specific domestic partnership policies. These often have similar terms as policies for married couples, and the rates can decrease because of the lower chance of domestic partners being in accidents compared to singles. Similarly, your rates are likely to decrease if your partner: Drives fewer miles than you. Has a driving record as good or better than yours. Has a car model that is not expensive to insure. Roommates If you move in with roommates who will be driving your car, you will need to list all the licensed drivers in your household. This means your rates may increase due to the added number of drivers on your policy. Note that you can choose to exclude drivers in your household.* Understand that by doing this, you are certifying that they won’t drive your car. If they do, you may be liable for all injuries and property damage if that driver has an accident in your vehicle. * Depending on your insurance company and your state, you might not be allowed to exclude drivers from your policy. Multiple Vehicle Discounts As you examine your options for auto insurance for couples, consider the possibility of multiple vehicle discounts if you have more than one car in your household. A multi-vehicle discount can end up providing the same coverage and being less expensive than insuring each of the household’s cars separately. To receive this discount if your company offers it, all vehicles need to be insured with the same company and with the same policyholder’s name. Car Insurance Rates After Divorce Your car insurance rates can change after divorce because of changes in your personal situation. If you’ve recently gotten divorced, first be sure to remove your ex from your policy if you shared a policy under your name. Then, consider the circumstances in your life that have changed and that can affect your insurance rates. Inform your insurance company of any relevant updates, such as the following. A change in address. A change in your financial situation. Changes in household members, such as children. Changes in mileage. Talk to Your Car Insurance Agent When you change your living situation by getting married or divorced, or even moving in with someone, it’s smart to reevaluate your car insurance. Your auto insurance agent should be able to walk you through how your life change can affect your premiums and whether it’s in your best interest to combine your policies. You can also explore an online quote to see how your policy may change.
Life Insurance Policy Changes Divorce. Document Details.
Most married couples without children think they don’t need life insurance, but many of them could benefit from it. family laying on grass Of all the things a couple is likely to think about in the run-up to or aftermath of a wedding, life insurance is sure to be pretty low on the list—if it appears on the list at all. Which makes sense, as newly married couples—especially ones that don’t already have kids or aren’t planning to have kids anytime soon–typically aren’t included in conversations focused on this form of life insurance. Despite often being ignored in favor of parents or parents-to-be, though, many young couples without children could benefit from buying some amount of life insurance. Other Dependents May Need Assistance Before we get to some of the specifics related to why that’s true, consider this: the main purpose of life insurance is to provide financial support to loved ones who are dependent on you should you pass away. This is why so many people point to parents as being the best candidates for this type of insurance. Although it’s true that children—especially those who have yet to graduate college or even high school—are especially likely to need the kind of financial assistance life insurance can provide, they’re hardly alone. Dependent parents or siblings are two other groups of people couples should seriously consider covering with life insurance, for instance. After all, how would they pay their bills or otherwise make ends meet if you or your spouse weren’t there to help take care of them? Life insurance is one way to answer that question without a whole lot of fuss. Why You or Your Partner May Need it, Too Life insurance also can help couples rest easy knowing that each spouse or partner will be taken care of should the other pass away. This is especially true when one partner works outside the home and the other doesn’t—or doesn’t work full time—for one reason or another. Maybe the non-working (or not-as-fully-employed) spouse is a student, or takes care of an aging or ailing parent, or simply has agreed or decided to be a homemaker. In such a situation, if something were to happen to the partner who effectively pays the bills, the other partner could find themselves in a disastrous financial position, especially if the couple had built up a good amount of debt (thanks to a mortgage or students loans, for example) before the breadwinner passed away. The same could be said of two-income households where one spouse earns a salary that is significantly larger than the salary earned by the other. What if Both of You Work? Is it possible that life insurance could be less of a need for couples that are made up of two people who both work, who bring home similar salaries, and who have plenty of savings? Yes, although it’s also possible even those couples could benefit from some form of life insurance. One reason for this is that it’s pretty likely these days—and it seems to be getting more and more likely every passing day—for two-income couples, even those who don’t have kids or aren’t planning to have kids, to have financial obligations that require both of their incomes. Maybe they took on a mortgage that they only can afford if both spouses are working full time. Or maybe they’ve built up an amount of credit card or student loan debt that only can be paid off if both continue to bring home their current salaries. In either case, it’s easy to see why even couples with two incomes should at least consider investing in life insurance—and it’s even easier to see this if the couples in question have little or no savings (something else that’s increasingly common these days). A Couple of Comments for Young Couples Finally, a few reasons young married couples, in particular–whether or not they have or are planning to have children—should think about purchasing life insurance: It could allow you to lock in rates when they’re at their lowest (although the obvious flip side here is that buying such a policy when you’re still relatively young means that you’ll be paying for it for many years to come, so it’s important to balance that with buying one later in life) It would help you protect yourselves from the possibility that either or both of you could become harder, or more expensive to insure as you get older Which Type of Life Insurance Should You Purchase? With all of that out of the way, you’re probably wondering which type of life insurance you and your partner should purchase. First, though, here’s a quick look at the differences between the two types—term and whole life–that are most likely to pop up or be discussed during any online or in-person research you do that’s related to life insurance. Term Life Insurance—As its name suggests, this kind of life insurance covers for you a set period (or “term”) of time. In most cases, this means 10 or 20 years, although some people buy term policies that are as short as one year and others buy ones that last 30 years or more. Anyway, these policies only pay out a benefit if you (assuming you’re the insured) pass away during the term. If you don’t, all of their value vanishes. Whole Life Insurance—This form of life insurance, on the other hand, is more of a long-term investment. In fact, many people continue to pay their whole life premiums until they pass away—after which, the value that has accumulated in their plans is paid out to beneficiaries. While you’re living, by the way, you can borrow from the amount that’s been built up in your whole life (also sometimes called permanent or “cash value”) insurance policy, much like you can with a 401(k). (To learn more about the various types of and options related to both term and whole life insurance, read “What are the Differences Between Term Life and Whole Life Insurance?”) Why Term Life Insurance Gets the Nod As for whether one of these products will serve you and your spouse better than the other, most financial experts are likely to point you toward term life insurance, and for a couple of reasons. One is that term policies tend to be a lot more affordable than whole life policies. Another is that the set period of time tied to term policies can be surprisingly advantageous for couples, especially younger ones. That’s because it allows you to, say, purchase a policy that will cover you for the remainder of your working life and, then, when you retire, you can terminate it due the fact that you and your partner probably are now financially secure enough to no longer need its protections. Should you end up following the advice of your average financial expert, by the way, you’ll probably want to buy a term life plan that’s worth somewhere between five and ten times your annual income. In other words, if you make $40,000 a year, the coverage you pay for should total $200,000 (which is five times your salary) to $400,000 (ten times your salary). If you’re engaged, a newlywed, or have been married for some time but don’t have a life insurance policy, compare rates on life insurance from top companies now to find an affordable plan that protects you and your spouse.
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Last Will and Testament Basics.
A Last Will and Testament allows you to communicate your wishes and make things easier for the people you care about. Creating a Last Will and Testament as a part of your estate plan will ensure all you leave behind—including the care of your children—will be taken care of according to your wishes. Use a Last Will and Testament if: You’d like your property, including Digital Assets, distributed according to your wishes after your death. You’d like to list the people or organizations that will receive your property after your death. You’d like to list the person or group who will carry out the terms of the Last Will. You’d like to name who’s responsible for minor children if their other parent is unable to take care of them. Note: If the value of what you own is going to be larger than the federal estate tax exemption amount, currently $5,340,000, it’s a good idea to get an attorney. Digital assets: A last will and testament can help you pass along many computer and Internet-related property, including online accounts or digital files. Other examples of digital assets include email accounts, blogs, social-networking websites, online backup services, photo and document sharing websites, business accounts, domain names, virtual property and computer files. Other names for a Last Will and Testament: Last Will, Will and Testament, Will How to write a Last Will and Testament. Writing a last will doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. In fact, a last will is simply a written way for you to state your desires for what happens to your property and children after your death and avoid any confusion or familial disputes. Our online interview helps you write your last will simply and easily—all you have to do is answer questions about your situation and wishes, and your answers are used to complete your personalized will. Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you write your will: Choose Beneficiaries When you’re writing your last will, you’ll first need to designate your beneficiaries. Your beneficiaries are the people that will receive your property. These are normally your spouse, children, other relatives, and close friends. You can also make any special bequests regarding any digital assets you own. You’ll indicate who will receive your estate and specified possessions. Appoint an Executor Choosing an executor is an important part of writing your last will. Your executor will carry out your wishes concerning the legal and financial matters of your estate. With that kind of power, it’s a good idea to pick someone who is good with numbers and organized. It’s probably better to look for those qualities rather than the person who is closest to you. We have a more detailed article about how to appoint a will executor, with information about multiple executors, the type of person you should look for, and some other important factors you should keep in mind. Pick a Guardian for Your Children You’ll also want to make sure your children are taken care of when writing your Will, which means picking a guardian. In most cases, your spouse will receive most of your assets and will provide financially for your children, but you may want to separate the provisions for your children, in case something were to happen to your spouse. Sign Your Will with Witnesses In order for your last will to be valid, it must be signed, and you must be of legal age and mentally competent. You also need witnesses’ signatures attesting that you knew what you were signing. Restrictions on who can witness a will—as well as if it will need to be notarized—vary across the country, so be sure to check with your state. What to do once you’ve written your Will Put Your Will in a Safe Place Having a last will won’t do you much good if no one can find it. Make sure you keep yours in a secure place, generally at home in a safe or in a jointly-owned safe deposit box. It’s also a great idea to create a couple copies and give them to people you trust, such as your children, spouse, and estate planning attorney. Finish Your Estate Plan Remember, a last will is part of your estate plan, not the whole thing. It’s important to create a power of attorney, a living will, and a living trust(s) for your loved ones. You can read more about creating a comprehensive estate plan in our “Wills v. Estate Plan” article. Certain important decisions—like who can make end of life decisions for you—cannot be included in your will. Review and Amend Your Will If you have a new granddaughter or purchase a car you know your son your son would like, you don’t have to redo your entire last will. That’s what codicils are for. Codicils allow you to make legal changes to your existing will like the ones we mentioned above. It’s especially important to do this after big life changes, like a marriage, a divorce, or the birth of a child. And of course, make sure you keep your codicils with your will.
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Divorce Settlement Agreement Basics.
Divorce is never easy, but you and your spouse have both agreed to this divorce and you’ve reached an agreement on how to divide your property, accounts, debts, and/or child custody. You can create a Divorce Settlement Agreement to clearly define the terms of the settlement with your spouse. Use the Divorce Settlement Agreement document if: You know where your spouse is and you are in contact with him/her You and your spouse have decided to divorce and you agree on how to divide your property and assets You and your spouse are currently negotiating the terms of your divorce and would like to create a plan for the division You and your spouse plan to meet with a divorce attorney together and would like to be prepared with an outline for the division of property and assets Because you and your spouse have both agreed to the divorce, and because you agree about how to divide your property and assets, you can legally divorce using this document. A Divorce Settlement Agreement needs to be prepared together by two spouses who are in agreement about how their property, assets, debts and other marital issues will be divided or handled. The Agreement may also be used to define child custody, visitation and child support if the parties have minor children under age 18. You may only use this Divorce Settlement Agreement together with your spouse. Do your research, because each state may call this Agreement by a different title. It might be known in your state as a Marital Settlement Agreement or a Marital Separation Agreement. The appropriate title for your state will be in the Agreement. Other names for this document: Marital Settlement Agreement. Divorce Settlement Agreement Form. Here’s what you and your spouse will have to agree on to file for uncontested divorce. Financial terms It’s important that you and your spouse figure out who receives your joint assets. Note that in many states, the property you enter the marriage with is sometimes seen as separate and might not be distributed during the divorce. Property purchased during your marriage (or gifts you received) must be divided. This division doesn’t necessary have to be a 50-50 split, however. It does have to be fair. Child Custody If you have children, this is the most important point for you and your spouse to agree upon. Since uncontested divorces are usually more amicable than contested ones, hopefully you’ll have worked out who will maintain primary custody of your child(ren) and how often the other spouse will have visitation or custody privileges. Child Support The spouse who is not the primary caregiver for your child(ren) will likely provide some kind of child support for your offspring. Spousal Support Spousal support may or may not be appropriate, depending on your situation. For example, if you and your spouse make the same wage, or if your spouse has a large trust that they brought to the marriage, then spousal support may not make sense for your uncontested divorce. Additional Factors You’ll of course need to know your spouse’s address and be in contact with them to qualify for an uncontested divorce. Furthermore, in some states, there is an issue of fault vs. no-fault divorces. Generally, no-fault divorces can qualify to be uncontested divorce s Information in your state If you think that you and your spouse qualify for uncontested divorce. head to our uncontested divorce by state page. There, you can simply find your state and learn about the criteria you’ll have to satisfy to file for uncontested divorce.
Frequently asked divorce questions.
What is an Uncontested Divorce.
An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties negotiate their own settlement rather than going to trial and letting a judge decide the divorce issues for them. Many people find that an uncontested divorce or no fault divorce will benefit them for several reasons. The divorce process seems to be faster and less expensive. The parties maintain control over their future by reaching their own decisions. The Court does not impose a judgment on them after a trial. The parties are also better able to maintain (or establish) a civil relationship if they are not involved in protracted litigation with all of the positioning and leverage that a contested divorce may invoke. The reduced hostility makes it easier for divorced parents to raise children together.
How to Get a Divorce.
Now that every US state is a no-fault divorce state. you don t have to have a specific reason to want to get a divorce. Having a cause for divorce however does make things easier to an extent. there are still some things you need to know to get through the divorce process as smoothly as possible and to protect yourself from a legal perspective.
1. Find out what the Marital Property laws are in Your State.
Find out whether your state is a community property state or a separate property state. If your state is a community property state, then everything you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse own together is presumed to be divided 50-50. If your state is a separate property state, then only those assets acquired during the course of the marriage are presumed to be divided 50-50. Any assets that you brought into the marriage will not be included in the division of property and assets. Your lawyer can best explain all of the exclusions from the divided marital property in a separate property state. Keep in mind that you must show good reason to go around these requirements.
If you have to Hire a lawyer, make sure that you hire an attorney that routinely handles divorce cases. While you can represent yourself in most cases, divorces have their own risks and attorneys know how to navigate them. There are filing deadlines and conferences with judges that must be handled. Having a lawyer with you is the best way to make the process go smoothly and to ensure things come out in your favor.
3. Prepare for the Possibility of Alimony, Spousal Support, and Child Support.
Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support, is paid to the former spouse to supplement the income he or she received from you by being part of the marriage. To determine the amount of support paid, a judge will typically look at the difference between how much you both make. The judge may also consider the income potential of your soon-to-be ex-spouse, which includes education and ability to work, to determine the proper amount. Child support is completely separate from alimony, and is based only on what s best for the child. The parent who will be responsible for the majority of the child s day-to-day care will receive what the judge determines is a fair amount based on the child s need, both parents’ earning potential, and the child’s age. Support may be terminated if the spouse remarries, but child support will only be terminated once the child reaches the age of majority, even if the primary care giving spouse remarries. Be aware of these possible court-ordered payments as you go through the divorce process.
4. Settle Out of Court if You Can.
Prepare to settle as much as you can out of court. Judges don t like to have to oversee every disagreement. The more you can settle between you and your ex-spouse, the more care and consideration the judge can give the big issues that really need to be worked out. Your lawyer can help you enter into negotiations with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate everything for the final divorce without ever needing to appear in front of the judge, except for the final petition.
5. Fill Out All Paperwork Accurately.
Do Not Take Shortcuts Fill out all necessary divorce forms, including the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage. as accurately as possible. Marriages are created by the state, so only the state government can release the marriage. Follow all the requirements for getting a divorce even if they seem like a hassle. This is especially important if there is another relationship already underway. Adultery can still be used to modify alimony or child support payments between the parties. You should expect the negotiations to inform most of the final decision, but you may need to appear in front of a judge with both your and your spouse’s requests, allowing the judge to make the final decision. Avoid appearing contentious, regardless of how you feel. Remain professional and allow your lawyer to represent you in the best possible light.
What is an Annulment of Marriage.
An Annulment is a way of terminating a marriage that is different from divorce and separation. Annulment is the process of nullifying of a marriage where the court declares that the marriage never took place. In order to annul a marriage, the person seeking the legal action must have sufficient grounds for annulment. What follows is a list of a few of the requirements or grounds for annulment which must be presented to the courts to terminate a marriage in this way. Grounds for annulment typically involve one party’s lack of capacity for marriage or some type of fraud. One ground for annulment is if one party had another living husband or wife at the time of marriage. This is valid even if the spouse knew about the other spouse prior to marriage. In some cases a person may have been legally denied the right to remarry, in which case this is sufficient grounds for annulment.
Do I need a lawyer.
NO. You do not need to hire a divorce lawyer. but it is a good idea to retain one if you and your spouse do not agree on the terms defined in your Petition For Divorce or if your spouse has a lawyer. If you are afraid for your safety or your children’s safety, or if you want help with your divorce even if you started the divorce without a lawyer.
Every divorce case is different, and specific laws vary from state to state, but divorce cases generally follow one of two paths. The parties may reach an agreement, submit that agreement to the court in the form of a marriage settlement agreement for approval, and receive a final divorce decree ending their marriage and setting forth the terms of the divorce or dissolution of marriage they ve agreed upon. If the parties can not reach an agreement, the case will be scheduled for a contested divorce hearing, where a judge will consider evidence like financial records, witness testimony, and expert reports on issues like valuation of property and custody arrangements.
Where can I find and download free online divorce forms.
Register with for free and get instant access to download online state specific divorce form papers and instructions. Each do it yourself divorce forms packet and kit includes easy to understand instructions. The online divorce paperwork and informational packets found in our online uncontested divorce forms library are court approved and updated regularly.
What does Uncontested Divorce mean.
Uncontested Divorce means your spouse has agreed with what you have asked for in your Petition For Divorce. or your spouse is not fighting your Petition For Divorce, or your spouse does not answer your Petition For Divorce before your court date.
How much will it cost to file for a divorce.
When you bring your Original Petition For Divorce to the court clerks office for filing, you should expect to pay between $150.00 to $300.00 depending on your state and your county. You will also need to have several forms notarized. A notary public will charge between $5.00 and $10.00 to notarize a document. When children are involved, other additional court expenses may arise if the court orders DNA tests or drug screens. These tests typically cost $125.00 for drug screens and $500.00 for DNA tests. If the court orders you or your spouse to submit to these tests, in most cases they will require you to take them the same day you appear for your initial hearing. Also, most often when children are involved in the divorce, the court will appoint an attorney for the children. This is done to have a neutral opinion on the children’s best interests. The typical fee for the Ad Litem attorney is around $500.00. You are expected to pay this fee and any other court ordered expenses promptly to avoid the possibility of putting your case in jeopardy. The court may not allow you to wait until you get paid. Some judges may want to test to see if you have a support group with enough resources to act on behalf of the children in an emergency type situation. This will be the case even if you are able to get the judge to agree to an inability to pay affidavit. This affidavit is only for paying the court cost for filing your petition and not the judges special orders. You will be required to pay for court ordered drug tests, DNA tests, parenting classes, Ad Litem legal fees, etc. if ordered to do so.
Can I get legal advice from this web site or employees of the court.
NO. Only lawyers can give you legal advice. No one at this site or at court can tell you what to do about your divorce case. This means you cannot ask us, the judge, court clerks or other court staff for advice about your divorce case. If you do not use a lawyer, make sure that you learn about your rights and follow the steps outlined in your divorce instructions. Getting a divorce can be very complicated. Even if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you should try to speak with a lawyer in your area about what to put in your Petition For Divorce. Some lawyers will give you advice as you need it. This is called unbundled services . Other lawyers are only available if you retain their services.
What Does Grounds For Divorce mean.
Grounds for divorce is the term used to describe the reason(s) you are seeking a divorce. You can ask the court to grant you a divorce based on adultery, cruelty, abandonment, your spouse has been convicted of a felony offense and has been incarcerated. You have been living apart, or your spouse has been committed to a mental institution with little or no hope of recovery. These reasons are not all inclusive. If you are uncertain as to what grounds for divorce you wish to claim then you will want to consult with a licensed attorney or your local legal aid office.
What if I do not know where my spouse is living or how to contact them.
You do not need to know where your spouse is in order to get divorced. However you will need to complete a few special divorce forms which will prove to the court that you have done everything within reason to try and locate your spouse.
What can I do if my spouse is hurting or threatening me, my children or family.
Every state has laws designed to protect victims of family violence whether they are getting a divorce or not. If you have already filed for a divorce, the court may grant you emergency orders to protect you and the children involved in your divorce. If you have not started the divorce process, you can apply for a protective order if you fear that you or your children are in danger. Your local woman’s shelter, county attorney’s office, district attorney’s office or your local legal aid office can assist you in applying for a protective order. To locate the office nearest you and to obtain information on the various services they can offer please contact the National Hot-line For Domestic Violence at 1-800-799-SAFE.
What is a protective order.
It is a court order which protects you from someone who has been violent or has threatened to be violent. The court takes this subject very seriously.
How can a protective order help me.
A protective order can order the person for whom you are seeking protection from.
Not to hurt or threaten to hurt you, your children or your family.
Not to contact you or go near you, your children, other family members, your home, where you work, or your children’s schools.
Not to have a gun or a license to carry a gun.
The police can arrest you or your spouse for violating protection orders.
How much will it cost to file for a protective order.
Usually nothing. There is not usually a fee for filing the application for protection.
How do I ask for a protective order.
Fill out the protective order application forms available from our library. Take two (2) copies of them to the county courthouse in which you or the other person resides. If you have already filed for divorce or you have a custody case pending against the other person, you should file these forms in the same county where you live or the court where you have filed your divorce or custody case.
What happens with my health or life insurance benefits.
Health or Life Insurance coverage may become an issue for you or your children during or after a divorce. If you are concerned about your health or life insurance coverage or you want to see what it will cost you for reasonable insurance coverage, you will want to look into the options available by shopping for insurance coverage. Internet insurance quote engines provide you the ability to compare multiple insurance rates from trusted insurance providers by filling out one short form. This makes the process of finding quality insurance much faster and at the same time providing you with many policies and coverage options to choose from. Most people can get a quality insurance plan for less than they think. It is even possible to save money over the rate you would have to pay for health or life insurance through your employer. Health insurance for yourself or your children could cost as little as $65.00 per month. Quality life insurance coverage may cost even less. Usually around $25.00 per month for $100,000 worth of coverage.
You can find out exactly what quality insurance coverage will cost you by visiting and requesting a free online quote.
Informational Purposes Only.
This web site is designed to give you general information. The information on this web site is in no way intended to be legal advice. Legal advice can only be obtained by a licensed attorney who has the appropriate legal skills and knowledge related to your specific circumstances.
From time to time this web site may advertise the services of attorneys in your state. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on the advertisements listed on this or any other web site. The lawyers advertising on our site have paid us for the listings we provide. Any listing on this site does not constitute a recommendation of the attorney. Before hiring an attorney you should investigate their reputation and qualifications yourself.
An overview of divorce in the United States.
In the United States divorce, like marriage, is the province of the state governments, not the federal government. Divorce Laws vary from state to state, but no-fault divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences is now available in all states. However, in recent years many states, including North Carolina and New York requires a one-year legal and physical separation prior to a formal divorce decree. This legal requirement has led to the creation of a separate, somewhat ambiguous category of relationships – separated . Once a more informal term used by individuals, it has now become a legal category designating someone who is neither married nor divorced.
Each state divorce papers kit includes step by step instructions on how to fill out and file your divorce paperwork.
Family Court Self Help Forms Resources.
Divorce in the U.S. is a matter of state rather than federal law. In recent years, however, more federal legislation has been enacted affecting the rights and responsibilities of divorcing spouses. For example, federal welfare reform mandated the creation of child support guidelines in all 50 states in the 1980s. ERISA includes provisions for the division of qualified retirement accounts between divorcing spouses. The IRS established rules on the deductibility of alimony, and federal bankruptcy laws prohibit discharging in bankruptcy of alimony and child support obligations. COBRA allows a divorced spouse to obtain and maintain Health Insurance. The laws of the state(s) of residence at the time of divorce govern, not those of the location where the couple was married. All states recognize divorces granted by any other state. All states impose a minimum time of residence, Nevada currently being the shortest at 6 weeks.
Prior to the latter decades of the 20th century, a spouse seeking divorce had to show a cause such as cruelty, incurable mental illness, or adultery. Even in such cases, a divorce was barred in cases such as the suing spouse’s procurement or connivance (contributing to the fault, such as by arranging for adultery), condonation (forgiving the fault either explicitly or by continuing to cohabit after knowing of it), or recrimination (the suing spouse also being guilty). By the 1960s, however, the use of collusive or deceptive practices to bypass the fault system had become ubiquitous, and there was widespread agreement that something had to change. The no-fault divorce revolution began in 1969 in California. and was completed in 1985 (the last to fall was North Dakota and New York is the last holdout). However, New York does impose a mandatory separation period before a divorce can be granted.
Typically, a county court s family division judges review petitions for dissolution of marriages. The National Association of Women Lawyers was instrumental in convincing the American Bar Association to help create a Family Law section in many state courts, and pushed strongly for No-Fault Divorce Law around 1960. In some states fault grounds remain, but all states except New York now provide other grounds as well, variously termed irreconcilable differences, irremediable breakdown, loss of affection, or similar. For such grounds no fault need be proven and little defense is possible. However, most states require some waiting period, typically a 1 to 2 year separation. Some have argued that the lack of means to contest a no-fault divorce makes a marriage contract the easiest of all contracts to dissolve, and in very recent years some have begun to favor moderate divorce reforms such as requiring mutual consent for no-fault divorce. However, no such laws have been passed as of this writing.
Fault grounds, when available, are sometimes still sought. This may be done where it reduces the waiting period otherwise required, or possibly in hopes of affecting decisions related to a divorce, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and so on. States vary in the admissibility of such evidence for those decisions. In any case, a no-fault divorce can be arranged far more easily, although the terms of the divorce can be and often are contested with respect to child-related matters and finances. Ultimately most cases are settled by the parties before trial.
Mediation is a growing way of resolving divorce issues. It tends to be less adversarial (particularly important for any children), allows the parties greater control and privacy, saves money, and generally achieves similar outcomes to the normal adversarial process. Also, courts will often approve a mediated settlement quickly.
Similar in concept, but with more support than mediation, is Collaborative Law, where both sides are represented by attorneys but commit to negotiating a settlement without engaging in litigation. Because of the additional support of attorneys and expert neutrals (such as financial specialists and coaches), the success rate of a collaborative divorce is very high. In the rare event that the collaborative divorce process ends without the parties reaching a settlement, the collaborative lawyers become disqualified, and are replaced by new counsel. The reasoning is that the collaborative lawyers’ sole interest will be to settle the case; and lawyers who specialize in collaborative divorce will often have additional training and skills to assist parties to settle.
Non-court based dispute resolution approaches such as a simple uncontested divorce may reduce the trauma of the divorce for all parties. Some believe that mediation may not be appropriate for all relationships, especially those that included physical or emotional abuse, or an imbalance of power and knowledge about the parties’ finances, for example. Collaborative divorce, because of its additional support for parties, is better equipped to handle relationships with a history of abuse.
Hostile litigated or contested divorces, in contrast, are expensive both financially and emotionally, and can tend to poison any future relationship the parents may have, which may be important for future co-parenting. Fault grounds can be unpleasant enough when true, and may sometimes be falsely alleged, as may anything else that an unethical spouse can think of. In the 1990s, heated debate arose over accusations of domestic violence and of child sexual abuse arising in the course of hostile divorces. Some found a rapid increase in such charges and in the percentage of them eventually that were found baseless; others found there to be no such problems. It is unlikely the truth will ever be fully known.
States vary in their rules for division of assets in a divorce. Some states are community property states, others are equitable distribution states, and others have elements of both. Most community property states start with the presumption that community assets will be divided equally, whereas equitable distribution states presume fairness may dictate more or less than half of the assets will be awarded to one spouse or the other. Attempt is made to assure the welfare of any minor children generally through their dependency. Thus, the spouse given custody (or the spouse with the greater share of residence time in the case of joint custody), may receive assets to compensate their greater child-care expenses. Commonly, assets acquired before marriage are considered individual, and assets acquired after, marital. Depending on the state, an equitable or equal division of assets is then sought.
Alimony, also known as ‘maintenance’ or ‘spousal support’ is still being granted in many cases, especially in longer term marriages. Connecticut, for instance grants alimony in over 25% of cases. Alimony is also likely in cases where a spouse has remedial needs that must be met in order for the spouse to become fully employable, for example that one spouse gave up career opportunities or development in order to devote themselves to the family. Permanent alimony becomes likelier in marriages that exceed 12 years.
A decree of divorce will generally not be granted until all questions regarding child care and child visitations and custody. division of property and assets, and ongoing financial support are resolved. Since the mid 1990s, a few states have enacted covenant marriage laws, which allow couples to voluntarily make a divorce more difficult for themselves to obtain than in the typical no-fault divorce action. For example, couples who choose to undertake a covenant marriage may be required to undergo counseling before a divorce can be granted, or to submit their conflicts to mediation. In states lacking such provisions, some couples sign contracts undertaking the same obligations.
In recent years, a few high-profile court cases have involved children divorcing their parents, or being legally declared emancipated minors. Perhaps the best known are those of actor Macaulay Culkin and Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu. However, these are not properly divorce cases, and different laws apply.
Divorces obtained by US couples in a different country or jurisdiction.
Due to the complex divorce procedures required in many places, especially including many states of the United States, some people seek divorces from other jurisdictions that have easier and quicker processes. Most of these places are commonly referred to negatively as divorce mills.
There are four main reasons that people look to another jurisdiction for a divorce.
New York does not have a no-fault divorce, such as irreconcilable differences as a legal cause for divorce, and fault is required (often with strict legal requirements) or a separation agreement in force for a year, such as New York State, thus requiring one year from the time the legal separation went into effect unless fault can be proven (possible in some cases just by affidavit however, but the other spouse must not contest the charges otherwise an often lengthy contested divorce is required.
Some jurisdictions have complex and long residency requirements as well as paperwork. Many jurisdictions take a long time to issue a finalized divorce, anywhere from 3 months to a year or even several in unique circumstances.
Finally, some people are simply out to get around the financial hardship of a divorce, and get a divorce from a jurisdiction that allows fast uncontested divorces that offer little or no spousal support to the defendant.
Divorces granted by other countries are generally recognized by the United States as long as no person’s rights were infringed upon. The most notable in this situation is the notion of due process , which is required by the Constitution of the United States and thus is not flexible. This means that the spouse who is the defendant in the case must be notified of the proceedings and be given a certain time frame to respond to the allegations and state their case. This is only the case in a contested divorce, as in an uncontested divorce both spouses agree to the terms and sign off on the divorce; although in almost any if not all of these jurisdiction only one spouse is required to physically visit the country. While a contested divorce where due process was not observed is likely to be ruled invalid by a court in the United States if challenged, it is not illegal, as matrimonial law is private law and not criminal law, and is valid by default unless or until it is challenged (usually in the state or country of residency of either spouse.
Thus, getting a contested divorce in another country is not likely to achieve the goals of the spouse requesting it, and is possible to even create a larger problem than before. An uncontested divorce is likely to be upheld in a court of law however, regardless of the general validity of contested divorces from these jurisdictions. While a quick contested divorce is likely if challenged to be declared invalid, it is, by case law, not considered bigamy if you remarry as long as the obtainer believed the divorce to be valid.
There are 5 major jurisdictions people look towards for a divorce in another state or country.
The State of Nevada Haiti Mexico The Dominican Republic Guam.
Haiti, Mexico, and The Dominican Republic are fairly similar in this regard. These countries people typically go to get an overnight/long weekend divorce, or to get a quick and relatively painless contested divorce (which are not valid unless due process has been observed.
Quick Divorce in the Dominican Republic is available to foreigners or Dominican citizens residing abroad, when both spouses agree to file this divorce before Dominican Courts. This procedure is very simple and only requires the attendance of one of the spouses during the hearing which takes usually less than half an hour and you can leave Dominican Republic the same day in the afternoon. It takes ten to fifteen days to obtain a divorce decree.
The parties should sign a settlement agreement revised by an attorney in their jurisdiction in order to confirm it complies with spouses local laws. This document should include spouses complete data, a list of property, or statement of non-property, the statement regarding minor children and support agreement, your desire of divorcing before a Dominican Court and the authorization of one of the spouses to the other to attend to hearing on her/his behalf. The settlement agreement can be drafted by an attorney in your jurisdiction. Both these documents settlement agreement and power) must be signed by the parties before the Dominican Consulate nearest to your jurisdiction. A detailed instruction on legalization is to be provided to you when instructions to proceed are received.
The State of Nevada is commonly used for a few reasons. It only requires a 6-week stay to meet the residency requirements, the lowest in the United States. One easy way to demonstrate that you have met this requirement is by having another resident of Nevada simply sign an affidavit testifying to your residency there. Nevada allows for irreconcilable differences as a cause for divorce, the importance of which are mentioned above. Also, it has an extensive and straightforward system for marriage annulment, and attracts people who would prefer an annulment (which declares the marriage wasn’t valid in the first place) than a divorce. One major reason this attracts people is it allows for an easy bypassing of the mandatory 50/50 split in community property states, most notably the adjoining State of California. Nevada, however, is also a community property state and hence will follow similar rules in a divorce proceeding.
Guam had (and still has some) very attractive reasons for obtaining a divorce there. Guam is a territory of the United States. Because Guam is a territory of the United States, its courts are United States jurisdictional courts and the divorces it issues are valid in all of the states in the US. Prior to January 1, 2006, Guam allowed for an uncontested divorce without either spouse visiting the territory at all. After being charged as a divorce mill , including by many in its own government, an agreement was made with the lawyers and other lobbyists who did not want to change the law to now require a 7-day stay in Guam (as opposed to the much longer ones proposed) to obtain a divorce. Guam allows for irreconcilable differences as a cause for divorce, and Guam is much quicker to award a finalized divorce than many US states, taking a few weeks at most. Before the law was changed, it was a very attractive alternative for many Americans, as it was also quite affordable. However, due to its location in Southeast Asia, a trip there would be very expensive and not a viable alternative for most Americans.
In the case of disputed custody, almost all lawyers would strongly advise you stay to the jurisdiction applicable to the dispute, i.e. the country or state of you or your spouse’s residence. Even if not disputed, the spouse could later dispute it and potentially invalidate another jurisdiction’s ruling.
The Divorce Process.
A divorce starts with a divorce petition. The petition is written by one spouse (the petitioner) and served on the other spouse. The petition is then filed in a state court in the county where one of the spouses resides. It does not matter where the marriage occurred. The petition includes important information regarding the marriage. It names the husband, wife and any children and states if there is any separate property or community property, child custody, and child or spousalВ support.
Serving the DivorceВ Petition.
The petition (or the divorce papers) must be served on the other spouse. This phase of the process is called “service of process.” If both spouses agree to the divorce, the other spouse only needs to sign an acknowledgment of the receipt of service. However, if the other spouse refuses to sign or is difficult to locate, you can hire a professional process server to personally deliver theВ papers.
Completing service of process starts the clock running on your state’s waiting period. It also sets automatic restraining orders on the spouses and helps establish the date of separation. At this point, the spouses are not permitted to take any children out of state, sell any property, borrow against property, or borrow or sell insurance held for the otherВ spouse.
Divorce PetitionВ Response.
The other spouse is known as the “respondent.” Although it’s not required, the respondent can file a response to the petition saying he or she agrees. Filing a response shows both parties agree to the divorce. This makes it more likely the case will proceed without a court hearing, which could delay the process and cost more. Generally, if a response is not filed within 30 days, the petitioner can request that a default be entered by the court. The responding spouse can also use the response to disagree with information presented in theВ petition.
Final Steps of a Divorce.
Both spouses are required to disclose information regarding their assets, liabilities, income and expenses. If the divorce is uncontested and the spouses can agree on the terms of the divorce, there is only a bit more paperwork to file. Once the court enters the judgment, the divorce is final. However, the marriage is not formally dissolved and the spouses cannot remarry until the end of the state’s waiting period. If there are disputes that cannot be resolved, court hearings and maybe even a trial will beВ required.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorces.
Every divorce case has four key issues.
1. Division of community and/or marital property 2. Division of debt 3. Custody of any children 4. Payment of child and/or spousal supportВ.
No divorce is truly uncontested, meaning that there are no disagreements, these disputes do not always have to be resolved in court. That’s what we mean by an uncontested divorce – one where the spouses can reach a decision as to the terms of the divorce without going to trial. Uncontested divorces move more quickly through the courts and are less expensive than contestedВ divorces.
Every couple involved in a divorce should first attempt to work out all of the terms for the divorce settlement agreement without going to court. If the spouses cannot resolve all disputes on their own, many people use arbitration and mediation, with or without attorney representation. This saves time and money by bypassing the lengthy litigation and trial process. An uncontested divorce typically reduces hostility, allowing both parties to resume their lives more quickly.В.
Complex issues, high financial stakes and technical legal procedures are the marks of contested divorces. While an uncontested divorce can often be performed without an attorney, litigation often makes experienced counsel necessary for a contested divorce. If one spouse is represented by an attorney or there are difficult financial issues, seeking an attorney may beВ wise.
Community property issues can arise in divorce proceedings and after the death of a spouse. When spouses divorce or die, spouses are often left with the daunting task of splitting up property and proceeds that were acquired during the marriage. This can include items of value such as cars, furniture, paintings, and family homes, but may also include intangible assets (such as stocks, bonds, and legal title), and also debt.
In some states, property acquired during the marriage is considered part of the community and is often split 50/50 in cases of divorce. How the states treat community property , also known as marital property, will determine what happens to debt or assets upon divorce.
Community property is governed by state laws, and not all states have such laws on the books. Nine states (and Puerto Rico) have community property laws that determine how debt and property are divided in a divorce. These states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Such states typically divide property equally, whereas all other states follow equitable distribution, meaning that a judge decides what is equitable, or fair. Alaska is unique in that it allows divorcing couples to choose.
While each state determines how property is divided after a divorce, the laws may differ slightly on how it is divided. For example, some states, like California, divide debt and property equally (50/50), while other states, like Texas, will divide debts and assets equitably.
There are several factors a court will consider in states that apply the equitable distribution doctrine. Therefore, certain factors will often warrant uneven distribution of property or debt, even in community property states.
Because community property laws affect property and other valuable assets, theyВ can have a profound effect on a spouse s future when they are forced to share part of an asset which was thought to be separate property. Absent a prenuptial agreement between the parties, the state law in which the couple was married will dictate how property will be distributed.
What Constitutes Community Property.
Generally, property acquired during a marriage belongs to both spouses. This is especially true in states that have community property laws on the books. While not every state hasВ such laws, property acquired during the duration of a marriage is distributed equally upon dissolution of the marriage.
Examples of community property may include.
Wages earned by either spouse during the marriage.
Home and furniture purchased during the marriage with marital earnings.
Interest income earned by business investments and operations.
Mortgages and the family home.
Examples of separate property may include.
Anything that was owned prior to the marriage.
Anything that was inherited or received as a gift during the marriage, and.
Anything either spouse earned after the date of separation.
Examples of separate property may include.
Bank accounts which are held separately.
Inheritances acquired during a marriage, if held separately.
Gifts to either spouse.
Personal injury proceeds.
Any property acquired after the dissolution of a marriage.
Courts have also defined some property as partial or quasi community property. This includes property assets that would have been defined as separate property at the beginning or during the marriage, but that has becomeВ marital property because of co-mingling and other circumstances within the marriage.
Factors a Judge May Use to Determine the Division of Community Property.
There are several factors a judge may use to determine how to divide property acquired during the marriage. The three main factors a judge will factor include 1) the earning capacity of each spouse, 2) which parent is the legal caretaker of the children (if any), and 3) whether fault grounds such as adultery or cruelty exist.
Therefore, even in community property states, property may not always be divided 50/50. Instead, courts will look at the following factors to determine situations where a disproportionate division of property is necessary.
Marital Fault: One spouse may receive more of the marital property if fault grounds for divorce were present (such as adultery, cruelty, etc.
Loss of Continuing Benefit . Whether one spouse will suffer the loss of compensation that they would have received by continuation of the marriage.
Disparity of Earning Capacities . Whether gaps exist between incomes, earning capabilities, and business opportunities that may affect the division of property.
Health and Physical Conditions . Whether the physical health or condition of the spouses may affect the division of property.
Age Differences . Whether there is disparity in ages of the spouses which may affect one s ability to work, or receive retirement benefits.
Size of Estate . The size of the estate can affect the division of property. Generally, the larger the estate, the more the court may reward a 50/50 division.
Anticipated Inheritances . Whether one of the spouses stands to receive a large inheritance.
Gifts to a Spouse . Gifts are usually converted to separate property after a divorce.
Custody of Children . A spouse who gains primary custody of children under 18 may affect the division of property.
If you are going through a divorce, and need to learn what may happen to your marital or separate property, contact a local divorce attorney to see how the laws of your state will apply to your specific situation.
Division of Debts Upon Divorce.
Equitable distribution requires the court to divide not only the assets of the parties, but also their debts. Given the common nature of debt in modern society, it is surprising how little statutory guidance exists as to how debt should be divided. When establishing rules for the division of assets, most statutes contain carefully drafted rules which set forth the process of classification and division in some detail. Yet often these statutes devote only a sentence or two to the classification and division of debts. Necessarily, therefore, much of the nationwide law on the division of debts has been established by the courts themselves.
Existence of a Debt Upon Divorce.
The first step in dividing an asset is to determine whether the asset meets the definition of “property.” Some interests, such as professional degrees and future gifts and inheritances, are too speculative to constitute property.
By the same logic, the first step in dividing the parties marital debts is to determine whether a debt actually exists or not. Just as some parties seek a more favorable division by concealing assets, other parties will seek a more favorable division by manufacturing debts.
As a general rule, a debt exists only where there is an enforceable legal obligation to pay money to another. One common battleground involving the definition of a debt is transfers from close family members. The spouse whose family provided the funds often claims that the transfer was a loan which must be repaid. The other spouse often claims that the transfer was a gift.
In most states, a marital debt is any debt incurred during the marriage for the joint benefit of the parties or for a valid marital purpose.
It is important to understand that the notions of joint benefit and marital purpose do not require that every debt benefit both spouses. In every marriage, both parties spend marital funds and incur marital debts for their own sole benefit. For example, the wife may buy a dress which only she will wear; the husband may buy new golf clubs which only he will use. Nevertheless, in the great majority of situations, both of these debts will be marital. What has happened is that the parties have agreed, implicitly if not expressly, that each of them will be permitted to use a certain amount of marital funds for his or her sole benefit. So long as these expenditures are consistent with one another and with the general marital standard of living, no one would contend that they are improper. For purposes of classifying debts, an obligation which is consistent with the established marital standard of living is incurred for joint benefit, even if it technically benefits only one spouse alone.
Volumes of cases have been written on the subject of which debts are and are not incurred for a marital purpose. This article will cover only a few highlights from the recent cases.
Debts incurred in the process of producing marital property are always marital debts. When a marital business enterprise succeeds and earns income, the income is clearly marital. But those who share the gain must also share the pain. The debts of a marital business are therefore marital debts.
This result is true even if the business fails and produces nothing but debt, so long as the business was operated in good faith and failed despite the best efforts of the operating spouse.
Custody of Minor Children in a Divorce.
Both parents must decide on the custody of minor children under the age of 18. Divorce courts are concerned about the well-being of any children born naturally or adopted by the parents.
There are four basic types of child custody recognized under state laws:В.
Sole Physical Custody.
Sole physical custody means the children shall reside with and under the supervision of one parent. The court must approve the parent’s plan for the other parent’s visitation rights.
Joint Physical Custody.
Joint physical custody means each of the parents will have significant periods of physical custody. In other words, both parents will have more or less continuing contact with the children.
Sole Legal Custody.
Sole legal custody means one parent shall have the right and responsibility to make decisions about the health, education and welfare of the children. The other parent retains visitation rights. Although the courts favor joint legal custody, sole legal custody is the most common custody arrangement.
Joint Legal Custody.
Joint legal custody means both parents share the right and the responsibility to make decisions about the health, education and welfare of the children. The law presumes that joint legal custody is in the best interest of minor children when the parents can make it work and submit a workable “parenting plan.” However, joint legal custody is not always easy. It requires both parents to cooperate and lay aside all differences.
Visitation Rights in aВ Divorce.
In recent years, lawmakers have realized visitation rights do not translate easily into laws. The law does state that any person having an interest in the children’s welfare is entitled to reasonable visitation. What is reasonable in one circumstance is not necessarily reasonable in another. That’s why parents are left to define reasonable visitation standards for grandparents andВ others.
When a married couple gets a divorce, the court may award “alimony” or spousal support to one of the former spouses, based either on an agreement between the couple or a decision by the court itself. The following is a discussion of the basics of alimony and spousal support.
The purpose of alimony is to limit any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse. Part of the justification is that one spouse may have chosen to forego a career to support the family, and needs time to develop job skills to support his or herself. Another purpose may be to help a spouse continue the standard of living they had during marriage.
How is the Amount of Alimony Determined.
Unlike child support, which in most states is mandated according to very specific monetary guidelines, courts have broad discretion in determining whether to award alimony and, if so, how much and for how long. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, on which many states’ spousal support statutes are based, recommends that courts consider the following factors in making decisions about alimony awards.
The age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition of the former spouses.
The length of time the recipient would need for education or training to become self-sufficient.
The couple’s standard of living during the marriage.
The length of the marriage; and.
The ability of the payer spouse to support the recipient and still support himself or herself.
Alimony and Support Orders.
Although awards may be hard to estimate, whether the payer spouse will comply with a support order is even harder to gauge. Alimony enforcement is not like child-support enforcement, which has the “teeth” of wage garnishment, liens, and other enforcement mechanisms. The recipient could, however, return to court in a contempt proceeding to force payment. Because alimony can be awarded with a court order, the mechanisms available for enforcing any court order are available to a former spouse who is owed alimony.
How Long Must Alimony Be Paid.
Alimony is often deemed “rehabilitative,” that is, it is ordered for only so long as is necessary for the recipient spouse to receive training and become self-supporting. If the divorce decree does not specify a spousal support termination date, the payments must continue until the court orders otherwise. Most awards end if the recipient remarries. Termination upon the payer’s death is not necessarily automatic; in cases in which the recipient spouse is unlikely to obtain gainful employment, due perhaps to age or health considerations, the court may order that further support be provided from the payer’s estate or life insurance proceeds.
In the past, most alimony awards provided for payments to former wives by bread winning former husbands. As the culture has changed, so that now most marriages include two wage earners, women are viewed as less dependent, and men are more likely to be primary parents, the courts and spousal support awards have kept pace. More and more, the tradition of men paying and women receiving spousal support is being eroded, and orders of alimony payments from ex-wife to ex-husband are on the rise.
The issue of alimony will come up in many divorces, whether through out-of-court settlements, or in a divorce trial. If you would like to discuss the possibility of paying or receiving alimony, consider talking to a divorce attorney in your area who may be able to help.
Your marriage is over. You’ve signed all the divorce papers, and the relationship you entered into with your spouse is officially and legally dissolved.
Everyone’s divorce story is different. Maybe you had been married for decades, maybe just a year or so. Maybe you have children, maybe you don’t. Maybe the divorce was your idea and maybe it was your partner’s, or maybe you both agreed that separation was best. Maybe you’re relieved, maybe you’re heartbroken, or a bit of both.
But however you got here, the question now is where do you go from here? And how do you figure out who you are and what you want as a newly single person? What is your new life going to look like, and how do you start moving in that direction.
Here are some valuable tips for life after divorce.
1. Let yourself get over the shock of it all.
Nobody gets married thinking it will end in divorce. Even if, by the time you split, the divorce was something you wanted, a divorce still represents a loss.
Whatever your marriage and divorce experience has been, there will be emotions that have to do with grief.
You may feel remorse for what you did or didn’t do, or wonder what you did wrong. Don’t dwell on those feelings, but make room for them. Loss is loss. There is an empty space where something once filled it up, even if that something may not have been desirable.
2. Learn to deal with your feelings.
Don’t carry baggage from your previous relationship into your new life. Find a way to work through the emotions that stem from the end of your marriage.
That may mean talking out your feelings with a therapist or focusing your energy in a healthy activity you enjoy. It’s common to keep these emotions inside, but you have to learn to get through them or they’ll disrupt your life going forward.
If you find yourself resisting the idea of therapy, you might want to keep in mind that therapy doesn’t mean you have a problem or that you’re in crisis. It can be a way to work toward a better life, with someone who has no agenda but YOU.
Blame Yourself.
That may sound hard to do, but the fact is that many people feel a lot of self-rejection after a divorce.
You might think that there is something wrong with you if you couldn’t make this relationship work. You have to work on getting confidence and faith in yourself and the ability to believe in yourself again.
This is also something you could pursue in therapy, or through Tip No. 4.
4. Get back to doing the things you used to enjoy.
Especially if you were married for a long time, you may have given up a lot of the things you enjoyed as a single person because they didn’t fit in to your married lifestyle.
Maybe you loved to go out, but your spouse was a homebody. Maybe you always loved going to the theater but your husband hated it.
What were your hobbies and activities before the marriage? What did you defer in favor of the relationship? Exercising your interest in those again is important to rebuilding yourself.
5. Discover new things about yourself.
The life-changing period of divorce, though often difficult and unwelcome, holds a silver lining: to shake things up and try on a new lifestyle.
Maybe it’s as simple as a pixie haircut after a lifetime of wearing long, flowing locks. Maybe it’s trying a new sport, considering a different place of worship, or going back to college. Maybe you realize that you’d like to move to a new city or even spend a year living in Paris.
Of course, you can’t just flit away and throw caution to the wind. Chances are, you have some very real considerations — kids (if you’re a parent), a job, and a budget (which may have been hurt by the divorce.
But chances also are that although you might not be able to do whatever your fantasy is, there may be other changes that ARE within your reach. So don’t reject the idea of any change, just because you can’t make every change.
As long as the changes you make are healthy and constructive, these are very appropriatei. Think about who you want to be and the person you were before the marriage, or maybe a new person? What are some of the things you can do differently.
Look for changes you can say yes to, instead of dwelling on what’s out of reach.
6. Learn to live on your own.
Being alone doesn’t mean being isolated and never seeing anyone. It just means not being coupled up, or in a rush to do so.
Society is much more accepting of singles than even a decade ago, when solo restaurant diners often got the hairy eyeball.
There are more than 30 million people living alone in this country today. That’s a lot of people, and there are a lot of opportunities for social connection. There are possibilities to pick up new friends and enter different kinds of groups that have to do with your interests. The social dimension after a divorce can be very rewarding.
7. Consider a transitional relationships.
This isn’t about rebounding. It’s about considering dating (once you feel ready) outside your comfort zone — someone who’s not your type — without thinking that it has to head toward a permanent relationship.
For example, maybe you’ve always dated people of a certain type. Perhaps you have always preferred sensitive musicians, the nerdy type or athletes, or the quiet, shy type. Turn your usual preferences inside out and open your dating prospects a bit.
charge of your new life.
Especially if you were married for a long time, your partner probably handled certain aspects of your married life while you managed others. Now it’s all up to you. And it’s not likely to go perfectly, but if that happens, just keep telling yourself things are going to be OK.
If your partner was always the one responsible for the money. Earning it, managing it, investing it and now you have a whole new set of tasks to learn and be responsible for. Dealing with those can give you a boost in confidence.
You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Look for help.
Even if you make mistakes, like paying too much for a vehicle, you can learn from that experience. Mistakes give you life skills and teach you that you can handle being alone.
Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents.
Making Joint Custody Work After a Separation or Divorce.
Co-parenting amicably with your ex can give your children stability and close relationships with both parents—but it’s rarely easy. Putting aside relationship issues to co-parent agreeably can be fraught with stress. Despite the many challenges, though, it is possible to develop a cordial working relationship with your ex for the sake of your children. With these tips, you can remain calm, stay consistent, and avoid or resolve conflict with your ex and make joint custody work.
Co-parenting after a separation or divorce.
Joint custody arrangements, especially after an acrimonious split, can be exhausting and infuriating. It can be extremely difficult to get past the painful history you may have with your ex and overcome any built-up resentment. Making shared decisions, interacting with each another at drop-offs, or just speaking to a person you d rather forget all about can seem like impossible tasks. But while it s true that co-parenting isn t an easy solution, it is the best way to ensure your children s needs are met and they are able to retain close relationships with both parents.
It may be helpful to start thinking of your relationship with your ex as a completely new one—one that is entirely about the well-being of your children, and not about either of you. Your marriage may be over, but your family is not; doing what is best for your kids is your most important priority. The first step to being a mature, responsible co-parent is to always put your children’s needs ahead of your own.В.
Co-parenting is the best option for your children.
Through your parenting partnership, your kids should recognize that they are more important than the conflict that ended the marriage—and understand that your love for them will prevail despite changing circumstances. Kids whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship.
Feel secure.
When confident of the love of both parents, kids adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and have better self-esteem.
Benefit from consistency.
Co-parenting fosters similar rules, discipline, and rewards between households, so children know what to expect, and what s expected of them.
Better understand problem solving.
Children who see their parents continuing to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems themselves.
Have a healthy example to follow.
By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a life pattern your children can carry into the future.
Co-parenting tips for divorced parents: Setting hurt and anger aside.
The key to co-parenting is to focus on your children—and your children only. Yes, this can be very difficult. It means that your own emotions—any anger, resentment, or hurt—must take a back seat to the needs of your children. Admittedly, setting aside such strong feelings may be the hardest part of learning to work cooperatively with your ex, but it s also perhaps the most vital. Co-parenting is not about your feelings, or those of your ex-spouse, but rather about your child s happiness, stability, and future well-being.
Separating feelings from behavior.
It s okay to be hurt and angry, but your feelings don t have to dictate your behavior. Instead, let what s best for your kids—you working cooperatively with the other parent—motivate your actions.
Get your feelings out somewhere else.
Never vent to your child. Friends, therapists, or even a loving pet can all make good listeners when you need to get negative feelings off your chest. Exercise can also be a healthy outlet for letting off steam.
Stay kid-focused.
If you feel angry or resentful, try to remember why you need to act with purpose and grace: your child s best interests are at stake. If your anger feels overwhelming, looking at a photograph of your child may help you calm down.
Use your body.
Consciously putting your shoulders down, breathing evenly and deeply, and standing erect can keep you distracted from your anger, and can have a relaxing effect.
Children in the middle.
You may never completely lose all of your resentment or bitterness about your break up, but what you can do is compartmentalize those feelings and remind yourself that they are your issues, not your child’s. Resolve to keep your issues with your ex away from your children.
Never use kids as messengers.
When you have your child tell the other parent something for you, it puts him or her in the center of your conflict. The goal is to keep your child out of your relationship issues, so call or email your ex yourself.
Keep your issues to yourself.
Never say negative things about your ex to your children, or make them feel like they have to choose. Your child has a right to a relationship with his or her other parent that is free of your influence.
Co-parenting tips for divorced parents: Communicating with your ex.
Relieving stress in the moment—no matter who you re dealing with.
It may seem impossible to stay calm when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse who s hurt you in the past or has a real knack for pushing your buttons. But by practicing quick stress relief techniques, you can learn to stay in control when the pressure builds.
Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting—even though it may seem absolutely impossible.
It all begins with your mindset. Think about communication with your ex as having the highest purpose: your child s well-being.
Before contact with your ex, ask yourself how your talk will affect your child, and resolve to conduct yourself with dignity. Make your child the focal point of every discussion you have with your ex-partner.
Communication with your ex is likely to be a tough task. Remember that it isn t always necessary to meet your ex in person—speaking over the phone or exchanging texts or emails is fine for the majority of conversations. The goal is to establish conflict-free communication, so see which type of contact works best for you. Whether talking via email, phone, or in person, the following methods can help you initiate and maintain effective communication.
Set a business-like tone.
Approach the relationship with your ex as a business partnership where your business is your children s well-being. Speak or write to your ex as you would a colleague—with cordiality, respect, and neutrality. Relax and talk slowly.
Make requests.
Instead of making statements, which can be misinterpreted as demands, try framing as much as you can as requests. Requests can begin “Would you be willing to…?” or Can we tryвЂ.
Communicating with maturity starts with listening. Even if you end up disagreeing with the other parent, you should at least be able to convey to your ex that you ve understood his or her point of view. And listening does not signify approval, so you won t lose anything by allowing your ex to voice his or her opinions.
Show restraint.
Keep in mind that communicating with one another is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s entire childhood—if not longer. You can train yourself to not overreact to your ex, and over time you can become numb to the buttons he or she tries to push.
Commit to meeting/talking consistently. Frequent communication with your ex will convey the message to your children that you and their other parent are a united front. This may be extremely difficult in the early stages of your divorce or separation.
Keep conversations kid-focused.
You can control the content of your communication. Never let a discussion with your ex-partner digress into a conversation about your needs or his/her needs; it should always be about your child’s needs only.
Improving the relationship with your ex.
If you are truly ready to rebuild trust after a separation or divorce, be sincere about your efforts. Remember your children s best interests as you move forward to improve your relationship.
Ask his or her opinion.
This fairly simple technique can effectively jump-start positive communications between you and your ex. Take an issue that you don’t feel strongly about, and ask for your ex’s input, showing that you value his or her input.
When you re sorry about something, take the time to apologize sincerely—even if the incident happened a long time ago. Apologizing can be very powerful in moving your relationship away from being adversaries.
If a special outing with your ex is going to cut into your time with your child by an hour, graciously let it be. Remember that it s all about what is best for your child; plus, when you show flexibility, your ex is more likely to be flexible with you.
Co-parenting tips for divorced parents: Parenting as a team.
Parenting is full of decisions you ll have to make with your ex, whether you like each another or not. Cooperating and communicating without blow-ups or bickering makes decision-making far easier on everybody. If you shoot for consistency, geniality, and teamwork with your ex, the details of child-rearing decisions tend to fall into place.
Aim for consistency.
It s healthy for children to be exposed to different perspectives and to learn to be flexible, but they also need to know they re living under the same basic set of expectations at each home. Aiming for consistency between your home and your ex s avoids confusion for your children.
Rules don t have to be exactly the same between two households, but if you and your ex-spouse establish generally consistent guidelines, your kids won t have to bounce back and forth between two radically different disciplinary environments. Important lifestyle rules like homework issues, curfews, and off-limit activities should be followed in both households.
Try to follow similar systems of consequences for broken rules, even if the infraction didn t happen under your roof. So, if your kids have lost TV privileges while at your ex s house, follow through with the restriction. The same can be done for rewarding good behavior.
Where you can, aim for some consistency in your children s schedules. Making meals, homework, and bedtimes similar can go a long way toward your child s adjustment to having two homes.
Important issues.
Major decisions need to be made by both you and your ex. Being open, honest, and straightforward about important issues is crucial to both your relationship with your ex and your children s well-being.
Medical needs.
Effective co-parenting can help parents focus on the best medical care for the child, and can help reduce anxiety for everyone. Whether you decide to designate one parent to communicate primarily with health care professionals or attend medical appointments together, keep one another in the loop.
School plays a major role in maintaining a stable environment for your kids, so be sure to let them know about changes in your child s living situation. Speak with your ex ahead of time about class schedules, extra-curricular activities, and parent-teacher conferences, and be polite to him or her at school or sports events.
Financial issues.
The cost of maintaining two separate households can strain your attempts to be effective co-parents. Set a realistic budget and keep accurate records for shared expenses. Be gracious if your ex provides opportunities for your children that you cannot provide.
As you co-parent, you and your ex are bound to disagree over certain issues. Keep the following in mind as you try to come to consensus with your ex.
Respect can go a long way.
Simple manners are often neglected between co-parents, even though they should be the foundation for co-parenting. Being considerate and respectful includes letting your ex know about school events, being flexible about your schedule when possible, and taking his or her opinion seriously.
Keep talking.
It might sound tedious, but if you disagree about something important, you will need to continue to communicate about the topic. Never discuss your differences of opinions with or in front of your child. If you still can t agree, you may need to talk to a third party, like a therapist or mediator.
Don t sweat the small stuff.
If you disagree about important issues like a medical surgery or choice of school for your child, by all means keep the discussion going. But if you want your child in bed by 7:30 and your ex says 8:00, try to let it go and save your energy for the bigger issues.
Yes, you will need to come around to your ex spouse s point of view as often as he or she comes around to yours. It may not always be your first choice, but compromise allows you both to win and makes both of you more likely to be flexible in the future.
Co-parenting tips for divorced parents.
Making transitions easier.
The actual move from one household to another, whether it happens every few days or just on weekends, can be a very hard time for children. Transitions represent a major change in your children’s reality. Every reunion with one parent is also a separation with the other; each hello is also a goodbye. In joint custody arrangements, transition time is inevitable, but there are many things you can do to help make exchanges and transitions easier, both when your children leave and return.
When your child leaves.
As kids prepare to leave your house for your ex s, try to stay positive and deliver them on time. You can use the following strategies to help make transitions easier.
Help children anticipate change.
Remind kids they ll be leaving for the other parent s house a day or two before the visit.
Pack in advance.
Depending on their age, help children pack their bags well before they leave so that they don t forget anything they ll miss. Encourage packing familiar reminders like a special stuffed toy or photograph.
Always drop off—never pick up the child on “switch day.
It s a good idea to avoid “taking” your child from the other parent so that you don t risk interrupting or curtailing a special moment. Drop off your child at the other parent s house instead.
When your child returns.
The beginning of your children s return to your home can be awkward or even rocky. You can try the following to help your child adjust.
Keep things low-key.
When children first enter your home, try to have some down time together—read a book or do some other quiet activity.
To make packing simpler and make kids feel more comfortable when they are at the other parent’s house, have kids keep certain basics—toothbrush, hairbrush, pajamas—at both houses.
Allow the child space.
Children often need a little time to adjust to the transition. If they seem to need some space, do something else nearby. In time, things will get back to normal.
Establish a special routine.
Play a game or serve the same special meal each time your child returns. Kids thrive on routine—if they know exactly what to expect when they return to you it can help the transition.
Dealing with visitation refusal.
Sometimes kids refuse to leave one parent to be with the other. Although this can be a difficult situation, it is also common for children in joint custody.
Find the cause.
The problem may be one that is easy to resolve, like paying more attention to your child, making a change in discipline style, or having more toys or other entertainment. Or it may be that an emotional reason is at hand, such as conflict or misunderstanding. Talk to your child about his or her refusal.
Go with the flow.
Whether you have detected the reason for the refusal or not, try to give your child the space and time that he or she obviously needs. It may have nothing to do with you at all. And take heart: most cases of visitation refusal are temporary.
Talk to your ex.
A heart-to-heart with your ex about the refusal may be challenging and emotional, but can help you figure out what the problem is. Try to be sensitive and understanding to your ex as you discuss this touchy subject.
Children and Divorce.
Helping Kids Cope with Separation and Divorce.
For children, divorce can be stressful, sad, and confusing. At any age, kids may feel uncertain or angry at the prospect of mom and dad splitting up. As a parent, you can make the process and its effects less painful for your children. Helping your kids cope with divorce means providing stability in your home and attending to your children’s needs with a reassuring, positive attitude. It won’t be a seamless process, but these tips can help your children cope.
Helping children cope with divorce: Supporting your child through a divorce.
As a parent, it s normal to feel uncertain about how to give your children the right support through your divorce or separation. It may be uncharted territory, but you can successfully navigate this unsettling time—and help your kids emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong.
There are many ways you can help your kids adjust to separation or divorce. Your patience, reassurance, and listening ear can minimize tension as children learn to cope with new circumstances. By providing routines kids can rely on, you remind children they can count on you for stability, structure, and care. And if you can maintain a working relationship with your ex, you can help kids avoid the stress that comes with watching parents in conflict. Such a transitional time can t be without some measure of hardship, but you can powerfully reduce your children s pain by making their well-being your top priority.
What I need from my mom and dad.
A child s list of wants.
I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Please write letters, make phone calls, and ask me lots of questions. When you don t stay involved, I feel like I m not important and that you don t really love me.
Please stop fighting and work hard to get along with each other. Try to agree on matters related to me. When you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.
I want to love you both and enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. Please support me and the time that I spend with each of you. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to take sides and love one parent more than the other.
Please communicate directly with my other parent so that I don t have to send messages back and forth.
When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side.
Please remember that I want both of you to be a part of my life. I count on my mom and dad to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems.
Helping children cope with divorce: What to tell your kids.
When it comes to telling your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up. Make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing significantly before you sit down to talk. If you can anticipate tough questions, deal with your own anxieties ahead of time, and plan carefully what you ll be telling them, you will be better equipped to help your children handle the news.
What to say and how to say it.
Difficult as it may be to do, try to strike an empathetic tone and address the most important points right up front. Give your children the benefit of an honest—but kid-friendly—explanation.
Tell the truth.
Your kids are entitled to know why you are getting a divorce, but long-winded reasons may only confuse them. Pick something simple and honest, like We can t get along anymore. You may need to remind your children that while sometimes parents and kids don’t always get along, parents and kids don’t stop loving each other or get divorced from each other.
Say I love you.
However simple it may sound, letting your children know that your love for them hasn t changed is a powerful message. Tell them you ll still be caring for them in every way, from fixing their breakfast to helping with homework.В.
Address changes.
Preempt your kids questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different now, and other things won t. Let them know that together you can deal with each detail as you go.
Avoid blaming.
It s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. This can be especially difficult when there have been hurtful events, such as infidelity, but with a little diplomacy, you can avoid playing the blame game.
Present a united front.
As much as you can, try to agree in advance on an explanation for your separation or divorce—and stick to it.
Plan your conversations.
Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in the living arrangements occur. And plan to talk when your spouse is present, if possible.
Show restraint.
Be respectful of your spouse when giving the reasons for the separation.В В.
How much information to give.
Especially at the beginning of your separation or divorce, you ll need to pick and choose how much to tell your children. Think carefully about how certain information will affect them.
Be age-aware.
In general, younger children need less detail and will do better with a simple explanation, while older kids may need more information.
Share logistical information.
Do tell kids about changes in their living arrangements, school, or activities, but don t overwhelm them with the details.
Keep it real.
No matter how much or how little you decide to tell your kids, remember that the information should be truthful above all else.
Helping children cope with divorce.
Listen and reassure.
Support your children by helping them express emotions, and commit to truly listening to these feelings without getting defensive. Your next job is reassurance—assuaging fears, straightening misunderstandings, and showing your unconditional love. The bottom line: kids need to know that your divorce isn t their fault.
Help kids express feelings.
For kids, divorce can feel like loss: the loss of a parent, the loss of the life they know. You can help your children grieve and adjust to new circumstances by supporting their feelings.
Encourage your child to share their feelings and really listen to them. They may be feeling sadness, loss or frustration about things you may not have expected.В.
Help them find words for their feelings.
It s normal for children to have difficulty expressing their feelings. You can help them by noticing their moods and encouraging them to talk.
Let them be honest.
Children might be reluctant to share their true feelings for fear of hurting you. Let them know that whatever they say is okay. If they aren t able to share their honest feelings, they will have a harder time working through them.
Acknowledge their feelings.
You may not be able to fix their problems or change their sadness to happiness, but it is important for you to acknowledge their feelings rather than dismissing them. You can also inspire trust by showing that you understand.
Clearing up misunderstandings.
Many kids believe that they had something to do with the divorce, recalling times they argued with their parents, received poor grades, or got in trouble. You can help your kids let go of this misconception.
Set the record straight.
Repeat why you decided to get a divorce. Sometimes hearing the real reason for your decision can help.
Kids may seem to get it one day and be unsure the next. Treat your child s confusion or misunderstandings with patience.
As often as you need to, remind your children that both parents will continue to love them and that they are not responsible for the divorce.
Give reassurance and love.
Children have a remarkable ability to heal when given the support and love they need. Your words, actions, and ability to remain consistent are all important tools to reassure your children of your unchanging love.
Both parents will be there.
Let your kids know that even though the physical circumstances of the family unit will change, they can continue to have healthy, loving relationships with both of their parents.
It ll be okay.
Tell kids that things won t always be easy, but that they will work out. Knowing it ll be all right can provide incentive for your kids to give a new situation a chance.
Physical closeness—in the form of hugs, pats on the shoulder, or simple proximity—has a powerful way of reassuring your child of your love.
When kids raise concerns or anxieties, respond truthfully. If you don t know the answer, say gently that you aren t sure right now, but you ll find out and it will be okay.
Helping children cope with divorce.
Provide stability and structure.
While it s good for kids to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new things at once can be very difficult. Help your kids adjust to change by providing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives.
Remember that establishing structure and continuity doesn t mean that you need rigid schedules or that mom and dad s routines need to be exactly the same. But creating some regular routines at each household and consistently communicating to your children what to expect will provide your kids with a sense of calm and stability.
The comfort of routines.
The benefit of schedules and organization for younger children is widely recognized, but many people don t realize that older children appreciate routine, as well. Kids feel safer and more secure when they know what to expect next. Knowing that, even when they switch homes, dinnertime is followed by a bath and then homework, for example, can set a child s mind at ease.
Maintaining routine also means continuing to observe rules, rewards, and discipline with your children. Resist the temptation to spoil kids during a divorce by not enforcing limits or allowing them to break rules.
Helping children cope with divorce: Take care of yourself.
The first safety instruction for an airplane emergency is to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child. The take-home message: take care of yourself so that you can be there for your kids.
Your own recovery.
If you are able to be calm and emotionally present, your kids will feel more at ease. The following are steps you can take toward improving your own well-being and outlook.
Exercise often and eat a healthy diet.
Exercise relieves the pent-up stress and frustration that are commonplace with divorce. And although cooking for one can be difficult, eating healthfully will make you feel better, inside and out—so skip the fast food.
See friends often.
It may be tempting to hole up and not see friends and family who will inevitably ask about the divorce—but the reality is that you need the distraction. Ask friends to avoid the topic; they ll understand.
Keep a journal.
Writing down your feelings, thoughts, and moods can help you release tension, sadness, and anger. As time passes, you can look back on just how far you ve come.
You ll need support.
At the very least, divorce is complicated and stressful—and can be devastating without support.
Lean on friends.
Talk to friends or a support group about your bitterness, anger, frustration—whatever the feeling may be—so you don t take it out on your kids.
Never vent negative feelings to your child. Whatever you do, do not use your child to talk it out like you would with a friend.
Keep laughing.
Try to inject humor and play into your life and the lives of your children as much as you can; it can relieve stress and give you all a break from sadness and anger.
See a therapist.
If you are feeling intense anger, fear, grief, shame, or guilt, find a professional to help you work through those feelings.
Helping children cope with divorce.
Work with your ex.
Struggling to make joint custody work.
Conflict between parents—separated or not—can be very damaging for kids. It s crucial to avoid putting your children in the middle of your fights, or making them feel like they have to choose between you.
Rules of thumb.
Remember that your goal is to avoid lasting stress and pain for your children. The following tips can save them a lot of heartache.
Take it somewhere else.
Never argue in front of your children, whether it s in person or over the phone. Ask your ex to talk another time, or drop the conversation altogether.
Refrain from talking with your children about details of their other parent s behavior. It s the oldest rule in the book: if you don t have anything nice to say, don t say anything at all.
Be polite in your interactions with your ex-spouse. This not only sets a good example for your kids but can also cause your ex to be gracious in response.
Look on the bright side.
Choose to focus on the strengths of all family members. Encourage children to do the same.
Make it a priority to develop an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse as soon as possible. Watching you be friendly can reassure children and teach problem-solving skills as well.В.
The big picture.
If you find yourself, time after time, locked in battle with your ex over the details of parenting, try to step back and remember the bigger purpose at hand.
Relationship with both parents.
What s best for your kids in the long run? Having a good relationship with both of their parents throughout their lives.
The long view.
If you can keep long-term goals—your children s physical and mental health, your independence—in mind, you may be able to avoid disagreements about daily details. Think ahead in order to stay calm.
Everyone s well-being.
The happiness of your children, yourself, and, yes, even your ex, should be the broad brushstrokes in the big picture of your new lives after divorce.
Helping children cope with divorce.
Know when to seek help.
Some children go through divorce with relatively few problems, while others have a very difficult time. It s normal for kids to feel a range of difficult emotions, but time, love, and reassurance should help them to heal. If your kids remain overwhelmed, though, you may need to seek professional help.
Normal reactions to separation and divorce.
Although strong feelings can be tough on kids, the following reactions can be considered normal for children.
Your kids may express their anger, rage, and resentment with you and your spouse for destroying their sense of normalcy.
It s natural for children to feel anxious when faced with big changes in their lives.
Mild depression.
Sadness about the family s new situation is normal, and sadness coupled with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness is likely to become a mild form of depression.
It will take some time for your kids to work through their issues about the separation or divorce, but you should see gradual improvement over time.
Red flags for more serious problems.
If things get worse rather than better after several months , it may be a sign that your child is stuck in depression, anxiety, or anger and could use some additional support. Watch for these warning signs of divorce-related depression or anxiety.
Self-injury, cutting, or Eating disorders.
Frequent angry or violent outbursts.
Withdrawal from loved ones.
Refusal of loved activities.
Discuss these or other divorce-related warning-signs with your child s doctor, teachers, or consult a child therapist for guidance on coping with specific problems.
Revising Your Estate Plan After Divorce.
If you don’t update your will, trust, and beneficiary designations, your ex could inherit everything.
If you re going through the emotional and financial turmoil of a divorce, estate planning may be the last thing on your mind. But after a divorce, you need to take steps to update your estate plan. If you don t, then at your death your assets could be distributed in ways that you neither expect nor want—including to your ex-spouse.
Here are three steps you can take to make sure your estate plan reflects your current life and wishes.
1. Revoke your will and make a new one.
Start by revoking your old will (literally tearing it up is the best way) and making a new one. If you don t already have a will, now s the time to make one. It isn’t difficult; you can make a simple will yourself, with a good software package or online resource, or hire a lawyer. The same is true if you made a living trust while you were married.
A will is where you.
Leave your property to the people of your choice.
Name an executor to wrap up your estate when the time comes.
Nominate a guardian to take care of young children if it s ever necessary.
All of these choices may be affected by divorce. Let s look at them one by one.
Leave property.
If you re like most people, if you made a will while you were married, you left everything to your spouse—probably not the result you want now. It s best to start fresh with a new will, naming new beneficiaries and alternate beneficiaries, who would inherit if your first choice didn t outlive you.
In most states, if you get divorced after making a will, any gifts that your will makes to your former spouse are automatically revoked. For example, California law states that dissolution (divorce) or annulment of a marriage revokes any bequests that your will made to your former spouse. (Cal. Probate Code В§ 6122.) The rest of the will is not affected.
But it s not a good idea rely on state law. Not every state has a law like California s, and laws can change. Also, the law doesn t take effect until you have a final decree of divorce—if you re still in the divorce process, gifts to your spouse are still valid.
In some states, gifts to relatives of your former spouse are also revoked by divorce. For example, Arizona law revokes gifts in a will made to anyone related to your former spouse by blood, adoption, or affinity (marriage). (Ariz. В Rev. Stat. В§ 14-2804.) If your state has such a law and your will leaves property to your former spouse s child (your former stepchild), divorce would revoke the gift to the child.
Relying on state law also can create some uncertainty about what happens to the property you left to your former spouse, if state law revokes that provision of your will. The general rule is that the property passes as though your former spouse had died before you did. So if your will named an alternate (contingent) beneficiary for that gift, that beneficiary inherits. If you didn t name an alternate beneficiary, but did name a residuary beneficiary, then that beneficiary inherits. Otherwise the property passes under state law, as if there were no will, to your closest surviving relatives.
Those potential complications underscore the importance of making a new will. That way, it will be clear about who you want to inherit, and you can name alternates as well.
Name an executor.
If you don t want your ex-spouse to inherit your property, you probably don t want him or her in charge of your estate, either. But if you named your spouse as your executor (called your personal representative in some states), it could happen unless you make a new will.
In many states, divorce revokes the appointment of a former spouse to serve as executor of the will or trustee of a trust. The alternate executor, if you named one in your will, would serve instead. Still, don t count on state law—in your new will, appoint a new executor and an alternate.
Name a guardian for your minor children.
A key reason that many parents of young children make wills is to name a guardian, who would raise their children in the unlikely event neither parent could. If you have kids under 18, that s probably one reason you want to make a will.
A court will appoint a guardian to care for a child only if both parents are deceased or unfit. (And courts find a parent unfit only if there is a serious and ongoing problem, such as a history of child abuse or addiction.) If you don t want your ex-spouse to raise your children in the event of your untimely death because you don t think he or she is a good person or a good parent, it s probably not something you can prevent.
In your will, however, you can name whomever you choose to serve as guardian, in case both you and the other parent aren t available. (It is, thankfully, rare for both parents to be unavailable.)В If you feel strongly that the other parent shouldn t have custody of your children, write down your reasons in a letter and attach it to your will. It will at least give the judge something to consider.
2. Update Beneficiary Designations.
As important as your will is, it might now cover some of your most valuable assets. Many assets pass outside of a will, to beneficiaries named on paperwork provided by a bank or insurance company. So be sure to update your beneficiary designations for.
Life insurance policies.
Retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s.
Pay-on-death bank accounts.
Transfer-on-death brokerage accounts.
To name a new person to inherit these assets, request new documents from your bank, brokerage company, or employer, and submit them as soon as possible.
Don t assume that state law (or even the terms of a divorce decree) will revoke any earlier designations you made naming your former spouse. Certain qualified plans, such as 401(k)s, pensions, and employer-provided life insurance policies, are governed by a federal law called ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act). And ERISA says that a plan administrator must turn funds over to the beneficiary named in the plan documents—no matter what state law says. So if your former spouse is still the named beneficiary, he or she will inherit unless you change the paperwork.
3. Make New Powers of Attorney.
Powers of attorney—documents that give someone authority to act for you if it s ever necessary—are a big part of an estate plan. You should have two powers of attorney: one for healthcare (medical decisions), and one for financial matters. If you already have powers of attorney that give your former spouse authority to make decisions on your behalf, revoke them and make new documents.