How to... Divorce
Divorce and Legal Separation Resources
If you're thinking about a divorce or separation, or you're in the divorce process, it can be an overwhelming storm.
Divorce isn't something that most people hope or plan for.
If you are in the divorce process, or contemplating a divorce or legal separation, it's important to understand all the options and aspects so that you can move onto your new life after divorce as happily, well prepared, financially stable, and in control.
Divorce Vs. Legal Separation:
What is legal separation?
Legal separation is a court granted document that details the temporary arrangements of a couple's separation, while they remain legally married. Items that are usually covered in the separation agreement are: child custody, child support, and spousal support.
Legal separation does not automatically lead to divorce. Some couples choose to stay legally married but separated indefinitely for financial reasons.
Individuals legally separated may not remarry since they are still legally married.
We're legally separated, now what?
Legal separation is fundamentally having a court entered arrangement covering all the logistics about children and finances while still remaining legally married. There is nothing special you need to do once that is filed, unless you want to pursue a divorce.
If you want to pursue a divorce, you will need to start that process with a petition asking the courts for a divorce. If you move towards a divorce after legally being separated, you've gotten a lot of the details figured out, if not started. Sometimes legal separation can shorten the divorce negotiation process.
If you reconcile while you are legally separated, check your state laws on whether or not you need to withdraw that process or simply leave it hanging in limbo.
One note on legal separation - consult a financial adviser before agreeing to any financial terms. It's much easier to get what you need the first time around, versus having to go back and ask for adjustments.
Do I need to hire a lawyer to handle my legal separation?
Similar to divorce, you can handle this on your own. However, since the court entered document is a legally binding agreement regarding children and finances, it's best to consult both an attorney and a financial adviser. If you continue onto a divorce, this document can be used to establish a baseline and therefore difficult to change.
How to get a divorce:
What is the divorce process?
The legal process of divorce is a lot simpler than it ends up being. One person petitions the courts (formally asks) for a divorce. This petition is served on the other party. Negotiations ensue: child custody, child support, alimony, financial splits... Once that's completed, a Marital Settlement Agreement, Parenting Agreement and Plan, and Judgement are entered. These documents list out the final divorce orders.
The only things that are flexible, and therefore can be changed, are child custody agreements, child support payments, and parenting plans. However, most states require the party looking to change those orders to show "change in circumstances" or other legally valid reasons in order for the courts to modify those arrangements. Also, this process can be as long and ugly as the initial divorce.
This is reason to get your divorce right the first time.
I should know, I spent 2.5 years in court the second time around, years after my initial divorce was already finalized.
How to file for a divorce?
Check your state requirements for separation times. But once you've met that, it's as simple as filing a
How long does it take to get a divorce?
First determine whether or not your state has a waiting period, and what that waiting period is (states range from 0 days to 18 months). *The waiting period is the time before the initial petition filing and the issuing of the final divorce decree.
Then determine if and what is your state's mandatory separation period. This doesn't mean that you need to file a legal separation, it means that you've been living separate and apart for a minimum duration before the filing.
Next, what can you and your soon-to-be ex agree on? The more you can agree upon, the less the family courts need to intercede, the shorter the duration of the actual divorce process.
Our divorce took about 1.5 years or so. It was no fault. We worked most things out during mediation. But if you read my divorce, you also know that I would not do again the same way.
*While you usually do not need to file a legal separation in order to file for divorce, it is ill advised to not get an agreement in place that provides for child custody and financial arrangements. Nothing worse than being half responsible for credit card charges reflective of dinners and gifts for the new G'friend.
How long after divorce papers are signed is it final?
Once you've met any required separation time & waiting periods, done all the back and forth negotiation, and both signed the final divorce papers, the last step is the family court Judge's signature and entry of the Judgement and Order of Dissolution. The duration of that last step depends on when you, or your attorneys, have the court date scheduled.
How much does a divorce cost?
Different sources site an average cost of $15,000-20,000 for divorce. Of course you can do it cheaper, if you do DIY divorce. DIY divorce is really only for couples who DO NOT own property, assets, have children, or a long marriage.
Keep in mind that the $15,000-20,000 divorce cost number is for uncontested divorces that DO NOT proceed to trial.
If you cannot agree, the courts will decide. If the courts decide, it will cost a lot more.
But, that being said, DO NOT AGREE to things that will not work in the long run. And also, DO NOT FIGHT for things that are just emotional vengeance. No one wins in either of these situations and the attorneys fees can become a massive transfer of whatever wealth you and your spouse have accumulated - from you to them.
Just watch this DISGUSTING DISPLAY of DIVORCE DOLLARS as this divorce lawyer shows off his chrome ferrari in his pimpish fur coat. If this doesn't inspire you and your soon-to-be-ex to refrain from spite divorce, I don't know what will!
Just imagine how many years of college and child support he's pocketed over conflict. UGH!
How to cope with divorce?
This is as individual as each person - but here are some ideas that have been tried and tested by myself and other women in divorce.
- Work Out! - Do not let divorce suck the life out of you!
- Hang out with people you adore, who adore you.
- Take Kung Fu, kickboxing, Yoga.... channel your energy in a way that releases and uplifts.
- Join a support group - share with other moms and women. You are not alone!
- Use divorce as a way to reinvent yourself. You're now free to be you outside of a relationship. Eat chocolate in bed, watch late night movies, enjoy your kids!
- Go easy on yourself. Divorce is suck-ass. Try not to hate on yourself - or your ex (if possible).
- If you're going to hate on your ex, do it in a way that doesn't cost you or your kids. Do it for a very finite amount of time (10 minutes a day...) in private, with friends, to your diary, in therapy (although that costs $). *see how Holly Hunter in Broadcast News does it. She unplugs phone and has brief balling session before moving on. 🙂
How to prepare for divorce?
Organize yourself. (Download our free organizer in the sidebar)
- You need to get all your financials (household, business, investments...) together. There are different recommendations for how many years back you need to go, at least 2 years.
- Then you need to do some soul searching as to what and how your and your kids' lives will be like after divorce.
- What's best for your kids and you? What does that look like?
- Then you need to figure out the logistics of how to get there. Are there enough assets and income in the marriage to get you there? Do you need/want a job/new job? How does this mesh with your kids' schedules? What will all this cost/look like? This is the meat of what you want/need.
- Finally, are your expectations real? Why do you want/need what you do? Does the law in your state support that? Will your spouse agree/disagree? What can you give to get?
- What does research tell you? Lawyers? Financial Advisers? Other women in divorce? (this is the information gathering phase - free consults and phone calls)
What is a divorce settlement agreement?
A Divorce Settlement Agreement, also known as Marital Settlement Agreement, and other names depending on your state, is essentially the court entered final document that memorializes all that you have agreed upon, or the Judge has ordered, including child custody, child support, alimony/spousal support, division of marital property and debts.... It can also include forward looking elements that dictate how disputes between the ex's should be handled (mediation, litigation), who is responsible for those costs, how often visitation plans should be revisited...
Our original and finalized divorce papers include our Judgement for Dissolution, the Parenting Plan, and our MSA (Marital Settlement Agreement).
Divorce Lawyers :
How to hire a great divorce lawyer?
This is quite possibly the most important decision after deciding if you're getting a divorce. Having a good divorce lawyer is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to having a good divorce.
How to find a cheap divorce lawyer?