Facing the Facts About Divorce
The current cost of divorce lawyers causes many divorcing couples to consider a do-it-yourself divorce. The question they should ask themselves is whether this method of ending their marriage is in their best interests. Although it will certainly save money if you don’t use a divorce lawyer, there are many reasons that make it advantageous to engage the services of a lawyer.
The Advantages of Choosing a Divorce Lawyer
There is no doubt choosing a do-it-yourself divorce is far cheaper than hiring a lawyer, but is it really in your best interest? In most cases, there is more to divorce than simply filling out the paperwork to end the marriage. For many people the process of divorce involves filing ancillaries such as:
Some states forbid the use of do-it-yourself divorce packets except when the couple has no children or property even if they have a signed agreement.
The Role of a Divorce Lawyer
When you are trying to decide whether to hire a divorce lawyer or use the do-it-yourself packet, you may be wondering what a divorce lawyer can do as opposed to saving money by filing yourself. Certainly, a couple can prepare and file their own paperwork instead of paying for a lawyer. The problem with this method is they may agree to accept less than an equitable distribution of assets and find themselves back in court later. Some of the things a lawyer is in a better able to negotiate during divorce include:
- Equitable distribution of real property
- Reassignment of the deed to the marital home
- Child support
- Negotiating visitation for the non-custodial parent
- Spousal support and/or alimony
- Continuance of health insurance based on existing state laws
- Equitable distribution of all monetary assets and equal distribution of tangible property
- Equitable distribution of debts
While hiring a divorce lawyer may be expensive, it is a justifiable expense that will pay off in the long-run. A lawyer guarantees each party in the action receives only those things to which they are legally entitled—not something in which most individuals are versed. A lawyer also negotiates on behalf of his own client within the confines of the law.
Myths Concerning Divorce
There are many myths surrounding divorce, which makes it difficult for anyone considering divorce. This is especially true for those considering do-it-yourself divorce and a good reason to hire a lawyer. Some of the common myths are:
- One spouse will be awarded alimony until they remarry or for a lifetime.
Alimony is not always awarded for the long-term no matter how much or how little each party is awarded in the divorce. Each state has its own rules regarding alimony and requires the couple to have been married for a specific period—often more than 10 years—and more often than not, the order is only long enough to allow the spouse to become self-supporting.
- The spouse who brought more into the marriage or purchased more during the marriage will receive a higher percentage of the marital assets.
In most divorces where property is involved, the assets are divided 50/50 or as close as possible. This is true even in non-community property states. If there is abuse or one spouse brought a substantial amount of assets into the marriage, it’s possible the court will award a small percentage more to one spouse over the other. This is a case that will be presented to the judge by the lawyers.
- If adultery is involved, the court will award the wronged spouse the majority of marital assets.
While this may seem unfair to the wronged spouse, the truth is even adulterers are entitled to their share of marital assets. Adultery has nothing to do with the division of property. It only guarantees divorce will be granted in those states that do not recognize no-fault divorce or allow other reasons such as adultery.
Divorce and Credit
Credit is a big issue when it comes to divorce. Your spouse may have taken out credit cards without your knowledge, but since you are married, the creditor considered the assets of your spouse as well. This is not an unheard of practice when married couples apply for credit.
The best way to resolve this problem is to refinance each debt into individual names. This will then place the debt onto each individual and will be his or her sole responsibility for repayment of that account. This step is not always allowed because both parties do not always have credit scores high enough to allow this transfer of debt.
If refinancing is not an option, you and your spouse could fairly divide the debt and close that account. Closing the account before the divorce is the best solution because it prevents the possibility of you paying the balance down substantially, and the ex-spouse running up charges again.
Marital debt can be defined as home loans, auto loans, bank loans, and revolving credit. If you aren’t sure you can make the payments on these debts without the income of your spouse, it may be necessary to assign one of more of those accounts to the other party. If the debt involves a home or auto loan, you will be unable to use these items once the other party becomes solely responsible and places the loan in his or her name. You won’t lose everything; you are entitled to a portion of what would have been yours prior to the divorce.
Once those steps have been established, you need to obtain a copy of your credit score from all three credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian—and closely monitor your credit score. If you find any discrepancies, dispute those items immediately. Send any documentation necessary when you file the dispute and substantiate any changes in responsibility for any loans or other credit accounts.
Monitoring your credit will help you keep close watch on your credit and alert you to any changes that occur. You don’t want to be the only one left holding the bag when the marriage ends.
Understanding Property Division During Divorce
There are ups and downs in every divorce. This is a good reason for sitting down with a divorce lawyer and ironing things out. Sitting with your individual lawyers can assist in the process of agreeing to a fair property division. This helps avoid bickering over which of you is entitled to what property. When you are unable to come to an equitable agreement even with the help of an attorney, the courts become involved in the process.
Although 50/50 appears to be a fair distribution, the judge will review several factors. Some of the factors the judge will review include:
- Income of you and your spouse
- Age of each spouse
- Health of each of you
- Ownership of any separate property
- Individual careers
- Responsibility for the children
Division of Marital Property
In many cases marital property includes a home that served as a primary residence during the marriage. This becomes part of the property division during divorce. The court can choose to divide the marital home in several ways.
- The court can order the couple to sell the home, and once any liens are paid, split the profits between the two spouses.
- If there are children, the court may allow the custodial parent to remain in the home until the children graduate.
- The spouse that remains in the marital residence may be ordered to purchase the interest of the other spouse.
All assets in divorce will be split in much the same way. The rules may vary in different states and even in different cases. In community property states, the standard is to split all marital assets 50/50. The judge can make the final decision if the divorced couple is unable to do so in an agreeable manner.
Some states are classified as equitable distribution states. What this means is everything the couple acquired while they were married is subject to division between them. It makes no difference who acquired the asset; both of entitled to half the asset or half the value of the asset.
In addition to the distribution of assets, debt is also split among the spouses. This means both parties are held responsible for any debt incurred before the divorce without regard to which one applied for it.
Divorce Laws By State
It’s easy to find a list of Divorce laws for your state , just go to your state page however, here we have an outline of the common laws for a populated state for your reference. Our example state is Illinois: It is quite easy to get a divorce in Illinois. First, you only need to be established as a resident for 90 days. The courts in Illinois will approve and grant a divorce in Illinois even if you obtained the paperwork from the Internet.
Divorce kits for obtaining an Illinois divorce start at $29.95. and the divorce is final within a short period. The kits are user-friendly, which helps you avoid the high cost of a lawyer. However, you should direct any questions to a divorce lawyer.
If you and your spouse agree to the terms of the divorce, you can be divorced in Illinois in as little as a month. You can file all the paperwork from your home computer.
Illinois is classified as an equitable distribution state. This means there must be an agreement between you and your spouse regarding property division prior to using the Illinois do-it-yourself divorce kit. This relieves the court of having to make any decisions regarding division of property, custody, or alimony. If you and your spouse are unable to agree and still want to use the divorce kit, the court will not grant the divorce until you can reach a fair and agreeable decision on property division.
The following types of property are exempt from property division:
- Property you received as a gift
- Property that was obtained after a period of legal separation
- Property excluded from distribution due to an agreement between spouses
- Any property acquired prior to the marriage
Illinois does not consider marital misconduct when it comes to dividing assets. Therefore, you and your spouse must have your property division agreement ready if you want to obtain a divorce without the use of an attorney.