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Divorce Mediation

6 Essentials for Preparing for Divorce Mediation

Deciding to divorce is hard, and there are many big and little choices behind the ultimate decision. But there’s one question that many don’t grapple with: how do I want to divorce? This question is often left unaddressed because many believe that they’re doomed to have a litigious divorce. When most people think about divorce, they imagine the war-like scenario so often portrayed in popular culture. In this, one party is victorious, and the other is the loser. This image often involves mudslinging and scandal. While this route is one path to divorce, it’s not the only one. Moreover, it’s often not the best way to navigate an already difficult process. Divorce mediation offers an alternative solution.

What is Mediation?

One approach that’s continuing to grow in popularity—and is typically more cost-efficient—is mediation. In mediation, the parties meet with a neutral third party who guides them through the decisions that form their separation agreement. Mediation is an interest-based approach where the parties, together with the mediator, work to understand each other’s underlying motivations. Together, they generate creative resolutions to resolve any impasse. For that reason, mediation is not focused on retribution for marital grievances; instead, it’s a future-focused process intended to set the parties up for the next chapter of their lives. And most importantly for many of my clients, mediation provides absolute control over the outcome to the parties. This is because they—not the mediator—make all final decisions.

Who Should Mediate?

I truly believe that everyone (with limited exceptions) should attempt mediation before engaging in a traditional divorce model. Mediation is intended for (and should be used by) all who desire a less combative divorce process. Mediation also allows for more control over the timeline, cost, and outcome of the process.

Ideally, parties should attempt mediation before asking for court intervention. However, mediation is flexible and can be implemented at any stage of the process.

Mediation also can be used to resolve any issues relating to the divorce or a limited set of disputes. It can also be used for one issue, like custody. Thus, even if you’ve already begun a different process, you can still mediate—it’s not too late.

It’s especially important for parties who have children to attempt mediation. As I always tell my clients, children bind you for life, and the coparenting relationship is one of the most important relationships you will have—it does not end when your child turns eighteen. You and your Ex will forever have celebrations and life events that require you both to be present (graduations, weddings, and the birth of grandchildren, to name a few) so it’s best for all involved to try to learn how to move forward and get along.

The Benefits of Divorce Mediation

In fact, even if you don’t succeed at resolving your disputes in mediation, the mere act of engaging in the process produces positive results in the long run. A 12-year study conducted by Dr. Robert Emery shows that just five hours of mediation prompted parents to settle their divorce outside of court—and had positive effects on the coparenting and parent-child relationships. In fact, after just 5 hours of mediation, non-residential parents were more likely to speak with their children on a weekly basis and see their children more frequently. Moreover, the primary residential parent “graded” the other parent more highly in every area of parenting, including discussions related to coparenting problems.

Who Should Not Mediate?

There are three factors that make mediation an unsuitable process for some people to divorce. Since you are probably a woman reading this blog post on SAS for Women, you’ll want to understand them.

First, mediation should not be used if there is a history of domestic abuse (including physical, emotional, verbal, cyber, or financial abuse). A truly voluntary (and thus, enforceable) agreement cannot be made under threat or fear of abuse.

Second, parties who are not willing to be open about their finances are not suited for mediation. Since mediation does not include a formal discovery process, each party must be willing to produce documents necessary to illustrate the full financial landscape. Again, this is because a truly voluntary agreement cannot be reached if one party is not privy to all relevant facts.

Finally, mediation will be unsuccessful if a party is unable or disinclined to express themselves without an advocate present.

SAS Note: So, if you feel bullied in your marriage, if you’ve not had access to the money, don’t understand how the finances worked in your marriage, and/or your husband will not/would not share financial information with you, mediation may not be right for you. This is because you are not coming to the table at the same level of power as your husband. You may need an advocate, like a lawyer.

You’ve Made the Decision to Mediate, Now What?

1. Interview Several Mediators

Do your research and speak with several divorce mediators, either independently or together with your Ex. If you are speaking with the mediator separately from your husband, understand that the mediator will not be able to discuss content with you, but can discuss the structure of mediation and answer general questions. How to choose? Remember, you will share some of the most intimate details of your life with your mediator so it’s important that you feel comfortable with them. Moreover, not all mediators are attorneys, so make sure you understand the mediator’s background and whether they’re the right fit.

SAS Note: We recommend that the mediator you hire be a licensed divorce attorney. The truth is you want someone who really understands divorce law to help you complete this document. If your mediator is not a licensed attorney, you will pay extra to have it edited by a lawyer to make sure the document is legally tight before it gets sent off to court.

2. Gather Necessary Information

Create a file of your most recent financial statements (including statements related to bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, and mortgages). Your mediator may request documents dating further back, but having your most recent statements will be sufficient for your first session. If you are unable to gather all of your documents, a list of assets and liabilities will often give your mediator enough background to get started.

3. Make a List of Monthly Income and Expenses

Recreate your marital monthly income and expenses based on historical data. At a minimum, these amounts should be based on an average of three months’ worth of data. Being knowledgeable about the family income and expenses will help you and your Ex have realistic conversations and expectations relating to spousal maintenance and child support.

4. Meet with a Financial Advisor or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst

If you feel unprepared to speak about finances, you should speak privately with a financial expert. This person should be experienced with understanding how your money will be impacted by the divorce. This is the case no matter what model of divorce you and your spouse choose. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (“CDFA”) will help you understand the marital finances and prepare you for the finance-related conversations that will occur during mediation.

5. Consult with an Attorney

At any point in the mediation process, you can consult with OR retain independent counsel. This helps ensure that any tentative agreements you’ve made or are considering make financial and practical sense for you long term.

This attorney will help you understand your rights and obligations under the law, before or during mediation. The attorney can even review the proposed separation agreement on your behalf. You should note, though, that not all attorneys favor the mediation process; it’s important to retain an attorney who is committed to your goal of succeeding in mediation. On the upside, more and more attorneys are willing to frame their mediation services as “unbundled services,” which are different than the traditional divorce retainer.

6. Adapt the Healthy Frame of Mind

There is no winning when it comes to divorce–even if you go to court. The sooner everyone comes to understand this, the better. When coming to mediation, be prepared to compromise and to come to an agreement. To help you do this, you’ll need to set aside your personal feelings. You’ll need to prepare to go to the “mind side of the wall” and prepare to work rationally. Your spouse may need to be reminded of this too.

Because making the decision to pursue a divorce is so challenging, it’s easy to forget that you have choices. For an increasing number of people, mediation offers a better path forward than traditional divorce models. As such, mediation has helped many families begin the next stage of their lives.

Notes:

Bryana founded Turner Divorce Mediation, P.C. after seeing firsthand the detrimental effects that litigation can have on a divorcing couple and their children. Through her mediation practice, she provides clients with a friendlier approach to divorce so that they are better equipped for a positive future. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about mediation, you are invited to email Bryana or you can visit her website.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Financial consultation for a divorce

Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce

When considering divorce, or before responding to a spouse’s request for divorce, most women know it is smart to consult with a divorce attorney to learn about their rights and entitlements. But few women realize it is equally important to pursue a financial consultation for divorce with an experienced financial advisor. Who is a good financial advisor? It’s not the one you and your spouse have been using (unless s/he is more in your pocket than your spouse’s.) This new advisor should be someone who really listens to you and your concerns as a woman, has at least 10 years of experience, and (most importantly) understands how divorce impacts your money. For this reason, you may wish to cut to the chase and consult with an advisor who holds the certified divorce financial analyst® (CDFA®) designation.

Marital finances are often complicated. If any of the following situations apply to you, you may want to consult with a CDFA even before you consult with an attorney:

  • You wonder if the income that supported one household could stretch to support two;
  • You or your spouse purchased the family home before marriage;
  • The marital estate includes multiple assets such as real estate, stocks/bonds/funds, retirement accounts, pensions, cryptocurrency or private equity;
  • You or your spouse receives equity compensation such as restricted stock units (RSUs) or stock options; or
  • You or your spouse is self-employed or owns a business.

Women Not Confident in Their Financial Knowledge Often Pay More in Legal Fees

We don’t need Sherlock Holmes to discover for us that many experienced divorce attorneys charge high hourly rates. Martindale-Nolo surveyed attorneys and consumers in both 2015 and 2019 and concluded that the cost of divorce was influenced primarily by the attorney’s hourly rate and the number of hours the attorney spent on the divorce case. According to the survey, on average, divorce attorneys charge between $300 and $365 per hour in California and $305 and $380 in New York. 

I work with women across the country, especially with clients in California, and many of them choose attorneys who are certified as family law specialists. These specialists charge between $350 and $575 per hour. Top family law litigators charge even more. 

Your lawyer serves a critical role, whether he or she is advising you as a consulting attorney during mediation with a neutral third party, or representing you from start to finish with respect to your case. But paying a lawyer by the hour to increase your knowledge on the financial aspects of divorce will result in unnecessarily high bills. This is not the best use of your money.

It makes a lot of sense to choose the right tool for the task, especially when that tool is less expensive. Most CDFAs charge rates that are 30% to 50% lower than the rates attorneys charge in their markets. So, if you want to learn how retirement accounts and pensions are divided, whether or not you can afford to stay in your house (or qualify to refinance the mortgage in your own name), how to negotiate a fair division of assets, and what you need to do to ensure long-term finances, then I recommend you arrange a consultation with a smart money person or a certified divorce financial planner.  

A CDFA Helps You Avoid Costly Mistakes

CDFAs are financial professionals who understand your budget. We look for ways to ensure we add value so your investment in time and money pays off. We help you evaluate settlement proposals before you get to the final, divorce financial settlement. Putting in the work in advance will help you avoid mistakes that could prove costly down the road. 

One of the most common mistakes women make is agreeing to a division of assets that might look fair today—but results in a less-than-equal division in the future because they did not consider after-tax values.

If child support and/or alimony (sometimes referred to as “spousal support” or “maintenance” depending on your state) occurs in your case, it is critical to work with a financial professional who can project your after-tax cash flow and assist you with preparing both a pre- and post-divorce budget. You do not want to commit to a lifestyle for you and your children that you cannot afford. And, conversely, you don’t want to pinch pennies and live in a state of anxiety if your CDFA concludes that running out of money later is unlikely.

How to Find a Good CDFA

You can find a CDFA in your area by entering your zip code on the Institute for Divorce Financial Analyst’s website. There you will find newly-minted CDFAs as well as experienced practitioners.  

Many CDFAs have Yelp or Google reviews so be sure to check those sites as well as ask for referrals. 

Ask your divorced friends for the names of attorneys, mediators, and CDFAs. I recently attended a birthday party for a former client and was pleasantly surprised to see two other former clients in attendance. I had only met with one of them via Zoom during the pandemic and it was wonderful to be able to give her an in-person hug. 

Everyone is using Zoom these days so you do not need to limit yourself to a CDFA in your local area. And, in my experience, Zoom is even better than in-person meetings when reviewing and commenting on documents and spreadsheets. As long as the CDFA is familiar with your state’s laws and has experience working with attorneys or mediators in your state, he or she should be able to provide value, but never legal advice (that is what your attorney does).

For example, since one of my specialties is determining the marital and separate property portions of equity compensation for employees of both publicly–traded and start-up companies, it is no surprise that many of my clients live in the San Francisco Bay Area when I’m physically located in San Diego. 

How to Prepare for a Financial Consultation for Divorce

Most financial advisors and CDFAs offer complimentary financial consultations for divorce. I offer consultations by phone and last between 15 and 30 minutes. I also provide 30-minute financial consultations for divorce to participants in SAS for Women’s Annie’s Group. Before your consultation, check out the advisor or CDFA’s website and read their resources. This is your opportunity to have a professional answer your basic questions before you ask specific questions relevant to your unique situation.

To make your consultation call most productive, it’s best to have…

  • a list of you and your spouse’s assets and debts and estimated values 
  • your last two years of tax returns. 

Some women handle the finances in their marriage, so this information is not hard for them to organize. But in reality, only some women have access to all that information so just do the best you can. Any information you can provide is helpful. You will also want to tell the CDFA how long you have been married, whether you are currently living with your spouse, and the ages of any minor children.

While the CDFA may be able to answer some of your questions, don’t expect him or her to answer all of them during a brief consultation. If you are the primary breadwinner in your family, and increasingly many women are, you’ll want to make sure you do everything to protect yourself and support your family. You’ll want to ask the advisor/CDFA how he or she works. Specifically, you’ll want to know whether the fee is hourly or flat-rate, and what you can expect to accomplish by working together. For example, I charge an hourly rate but also offer flat-fee packages for divorce financial planning and analysis before and during divorce like the “It Could Happen” and “Mediation Money Mentor” packages. 

Conclusion

No matter how you choose to divorce (mediation using a neutral third-party, traditional approach of you each hiring a lawyer, litigation, or DIY via an online platform), connecting with a financial advisor is just plain smart to ensure your best future. A CDFA can add value by reducing legal expenses and/or the time it takes to divorce. Once you become educated on your financial options and what is possible, you can more effectively and healthily advocate for yourself during the divorce process. You’ll avoid the possibility of making financial mistakes that will be detrimental to your future. I cannot tell you how many times I have introduced myself at a networking event where the woman will say to me, “I wish I had known about you when I was going through my divorce.”  

Notes

Laurie Itkin, “The Options Lady,” is a financial advisor and certified divorce financial analyst® and has worked on more than 250 divorce cases, primarily in California, either as a financial neutral or advocate to one spouse. Laurie has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Diego Union Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, U.S. News and World Reports, Parade, Redbook, and Forbes. She is a member of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners, the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and the National Association of Women Business Owners and provides pro-bono financial advice to clients of the San Diego Financial Literacy Center and Savvy Ladies. You can request a consultation or sign up for Laurie’s monthly newsletter here

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women. We partner with you through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and rebuilding your life afterward. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and we’ll give you clear feedback, resources, and suggestions for your next steps.

Divorce Financial Settlement

What is a Divorce Financial Settlement?

A divorce financial settlement is the agreement or order directing how assets and debts are to be divided between the parties in a divorce. As such, it is part of the larger divorce settlement agreement. Most divorce financial settlements will involve dividing the entire estate equally 50/50; however, there are certain times when it is more equitable to have one spouse receive more assets or less debt depending on childcare, current salaries, and other factors. Generally, being informed and having open communication with your soon to be Ex will lessen the tension and hopefully lead to an amicable settlement across the board.

However, reaching an agreement can be complicated, with hundreds of questions about attorneys, consultation, and the tornado of paperwork that separating brings. How do you ensure that your financial settlement benefits you? How do you know that your lawyer is really working in your best interests? With all of these concerns, it’s no wonder why Psychology Today links divorce stress to physical health problems.

As a woman, your primary focus should be ensuring that you achieve the best business transaction for you–that you and your children are set up for healthy living after the split. To that end, here are some answers and general advice about how best to go about a divorce financial settlement.

Should You Settle Before or After the Parenting Agreement?

Ideally, it is best to figure out your budget first, parenting time second, and then settle the financial agreement third. To do this, sit down with a financial advisor and outline your monthly budget to determine what you need to make sure you can live as comfortably as possible. Understand that you will have to compromise. Most likely, you will not have the same standard of living you experienced while married. At the very least, you’ll need to make sure you have enough to cover your bills and essentials.

From there, calculate how much it would cost to clothe, feed, and house each of your children. You will need to factor in how much you will be receiving or paying in child support.

When determining your budget, remember to factor in hidden costs. Ask your financial advisor about inflation and taxes to make sure every expense is accounted for.

Answering these questions first will make it much easier when discussing the parenting agreement or the financial agreement. By having all your answers ready ahead of time, you will be prepared for every question thrown at you. It will also ensure you are not agreeing to things that may cost you more down the road.

How to Make Sure Your Divorce Financial Settlement is in Your Interest

It can be hard to divide finances evenly when there is an obvious bias between you and your Ex. Maybe you’re a Stay-at-Home-Mom or the primary breadwinner in your marriage. Hiring an attorney to negotiate helps ensure you get what is rightfully owed to you, or that you are not overpaying.

You need to be honest about everything financial. Armed with the budget you outlined before, be prepared to express your needs and be open about what you can compromise on. Sharing this with your lawyer will help you and your lawyer to come to the table with all the facts laid out; this is the best way to ensure you have financial security after the separation.

If you are concerned your partner is not telling the truth about their finances (he* wouldn’t be the first!) then a divorce lawyer can help. Leave the investigating to them. You need to focus on yourself and your needs right now.

When offered a document, it’s important to remember this rule of thumb as your creed: you will have to compromise. If it sounds like you are not compromising, then it is too good to be true.

Whom to Consult Before Submitting A Settlement to the Other Side

After consulting with the financial advisor to determine your budget, you need to sit down with a divorce lawyer to figure out your best course of action. Make sure to bring your budget calculations, tax returns, pay stubs, any prenuptial or separation agreements.

If you have any other legal documentation involving your children or Ex, such as a court case, bring that paperwork too. Your lawyer needs all the information they can get.

Once you bring everything to your lawyer, you need to see what exactly your lawyer can do for you. Their job is not to punish your Ex or go for revenge: they are advocating for you. You want a lawyer who is competent and experienced at their job, and you can ensure this by how they answer the following questions:

  • How many divorce cases have you handled?
  • How did you handle those divorce cases?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • What is the best method of communicating in the future?

If your lawyer stumbles, stutters, or does not have an answer to these questions, you may want to consult other legal counsel. (For more savvy questions to ask a divorce attorney, visit here.)

Divorce Financial Settlement Must-Knows

Just like how you have questions you need to ask your lawyer, you also have questions you need to ask yourself.

  • What do you own? See if you are listed as the owner of your car, home, and other assets. Noting what you brought into the marriage could keep your Ex from claiming it.
  • What do they own? If your spouse is eligible for social security benefits, insurance payouts, or a pension plan, you may have a claim to them.
  • What do you both own? You need to factor any jointly owned assets into the final agreement. Dividing 50/50 does not always mean fair.
  • What about taxes? If you have to choose one government agency not to mess with, choose the IRS. Consulting a tax accountant will save you lots of money.

Above all, try to be as objective as possible. This is an emotional time, but money does not cry. Finding a safe space for your emotional outlet (a therapist, a coach) will honor your heart and feelings while your brain must focus on the best business transaction for you. Encouraging your brain to stick to the facts will ensure that you come out the other side prepared for the single life.

Notes

Jeanette Soltys is a Partner and Divorce Attorney at Atlanta Divorce Law Group in Alpharetta, Georgia. A passion for wanting to help children and families seeking their happily ever after led her to pursue her Juris Doctorate from Wake Forest University School of Law. Visit Jeanette Soltys’ website to learn more about her, her law firm, and the services her team offers to families.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing aftermath. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity, however, we may refer to your spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Custody Battle - How to Avoid Custody Issues During a Divorce

What is a Custody Battle and How Do You Avoid One?

A custody battle occurs when divorcing or divorced parents disagree about who should retain legal or physical custody of their children. Unfortunately, this is a common cause of litigation in family court, second only to litigation over support payments.

Custody battles are costly, both emotionally and financially, and can wreak havoc in the lives of the children involved. It’s important to educate yourself about the common causes of custody battles, how to avoid one, how to defend your child’s best interests, and what to do if you must file one.

How is Child Custody Awarded?

Absent any evidence that a parent is unfit, family law judges in most states will apply some form of a “best interests of the child” analysis. They will also factor in the rights of each parent to maintain a relationship with their children.

In determining the best interests of a child, a judge will consider:

  • The child’s age (younger children need more hands-on care);
  • Any evidence of the parenting ability of each parent;
  • What parenting arrangement will maintain a consistent routine for the child;
  • How any proposed change will impact the child’s current routine or lifestyle;
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough;
  • What parenting arrangement best protects the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being.

Historically, family law judges automatically awarded custody to mothers, but this is not the case today. Unless there are compelling reasons not to, judges will award parents joint legal custody, and either joint physical custody or physical custody with one parent, the other to have liberal parenting time.

When one parent wants to change the custody arrangement for any reason, they may choose to go to court. If the other parent disagrees, this is what is called a “custody battle.”

What Happens in a Custody Battle?

In a custody battle, also called a “custody dispute,” one parent seeks to change the child custody arrangement by filing a motion in family court and seeking a court order. The reasons parents need to do this may vary and can be any of the following.

One parent is:

  • Unfit
  • Emotionally abusive or absent
  • Physically or sexually abusive
  • A drug or alcohol abuser
  • In a living environment that is unsafe for any reason
  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Unable to financially support the children
  • Attempting to alienate the children from the other parent

With the help of a good divorce attorney, the plaintiff parent must prove that for whatever reason, the children’s well-being is endangered by the defendant parent. “Well-being” includes physical safety as well as emotional and educational nurturing. Defendant parents often bring a counter-suit alleging that the plaintiff parent is unfit.

It’s important to know that the plaintiff parent faces an uphill battle to persuade the court that the defendant parent should not have custody of the children, because the law favors joint custody and the rights of parents to have relationships with their children.

Custody battles can be drawn-out and expensive. Not only will you pay court fees and ongoing attorney fees, but you will probably pay fees to experts for their evaluation and testimony, and perhaps fees to investigators. Custody battles also take an emotional toll on the entire family, especially if the children themselves have to testify. Pitting children against their parents in court can cause life-long emotional damage.


Wondering how to coparent when you absolutely “hate” your Ex? You’ll want to read our post about coparenting with an ex you hate.


How Can I Avoid a Custody Battle?

A parent having sole or joint custody of their children can try to avoid a custody battle by allowing their coparent the custody or parenting time ordered and by doing their best to cooperate and collaborate with their coparent.

Unfortunately, disputes arise. Your coparent may disagree with your parenting style or decisions you make and may make an allegation of abuse or unfitness, even if untrue. In this case, you will not be able to avoid a custody battle.

Consult with an attorney if your coparent files a custody dispute. Although your coparent must satisfy a high burden of proof of parental unfitness, you will need to assert your rights immediately. In cases where abuse of any kind is alleged, your children can be taken from you before it is proven in order to protect the children from possible harm.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Are Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

If you have a history of drug or alcohol use, this does not automatically make you unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have sought treatment and have been successfully treated for drug or alcohol dependency. This evidence can include proof of attending rehabilitation and negative drug or alcohol tests. Agreeing to continued drug or alcohol testing will help you retain custody of your children.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Suffer From Mental Illness

If you have a history of mental illness, this does not necessarily mean you are unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have recovered or are being successfully treated. This evidence can include the testimony or affidavits of psychologists or psychiatrists or the testimony or affidavit of the doctor who prescribes your medication.


How do you feel anchored when you are thinking about divorce and also spinning with all the information and unanswered unknowns? Check out “Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband.”


I Want Sole Custody of My Children, What Can I Do?

If you feel that the best interests of your children dictate that you have sole custody, you must file a custody dispute. Be advised that this will be expensive and may take months if your coparent defends.

Gather evidence that shows your coparent is unfit. If the reasons your coparent is unfit include any form of abuse, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of your children, contact your local police and file a report. This can expedite the removal of the children from the coparent’s care and keep them safe while the court decides whether or not to change the custody arrangement.

Although a custody battle can be expensive and ugly, sometimes you cannot avoid one. Put your feelings aside about your partner as a spouse and ask yourself, is s/he generally a good parent? If so, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that your children deserve equal time with him/her. On the other hand, do not hesitate to file a custody dispute if you suspect that your children are unsafe or unattended to while in the care of your coparent.

 

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted child custody lawyer in Philadelphia.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

“A healthy divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and what it means for you in a FREE 15-minute consultation.

Is Cheap Divorce worth it?

Is Exploring a Cheap Divorce in Your Best Interest?

With divorce fees averaging a whopping $13,000 in the U.S., many couples tend to postpone their divorce until they are ready to fork up the cash for a good lawyer, or they stay trapped in a marriage, believing there is no way out. The truth is that the perfect time may never come. However, remaining in a failing marriage because you cannot afford to end it will only ensure your misery forever.

Luckily, more affordable divorce assistance from an online divorce company or other cheaper, divorce services may work for you. When should you use an online divorce service, and how do you make sure its safe and trustworthy? Every divorce is different and deserves careful consideration. Let’s take a look at some legitimate options suitable for your unique situation.

Would an online divorce company work for me?

There are 4 questions to consider:

  • Can I reach an agreement with my spouse on the division of property and debt?
  • Can I reach common ground on custody, child support, and alimony arrangements?
  • Are we ready to resolve all potential disputes amicably?
  • Do I know what I am entitled to by law as a woman in this marriage before I start signing anything?

If the answer to ANY of the first three questions is ‘no,’ an online service isn’t for you and it would be in your best interest to hire a lawyer. With #4, it’s SAS for Women’s (strongly urged) suggestion that regardless of how you think you might divorce (DIY, mediation, collaborative approach, or a more traditional approach) that you always have at least one private consultation with a lawyer (without your spouse in the room) to understand what the law would say you are entitled to and what your rights are, FIRST. If after learning this important information, you think you can advocate for yourself in conversation with your husband while using an online divorce company, then keep reading.

If the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes,’ your situation is more flexible:

  • Your marriage dissolution is uncontested, and hiring a lawyer is optional.
  • You can look into working with an online divorce company.

When you and your spouse are in full agreement on the details of the divorce, you can present your arrangement to a judge who will begin the process of the divorce judgement. The judge will likely approve your draft settlement as long as you are both satisfied with the agreement and it’s deemed fair. The judge will also ensure that it’s in compliance with divorce law in your state, and that you have considered the best interest of your children, if any.

When You Aren’t Able to Agree…

However, if you and your husband do not see eye to eye (you’re divorcing, after all), or you’re easily bullied because of the nature of your marital relationship, SAS for Women counsels you to schedule a consult with an attorney. Divorce lawyers do not just fill out the paperwork on your behalf: their job is to make sure you are protected and your rights and entitlements are ensured.

Another strategy is to consult with an attorney on the side as you attempt to do a DIY divorce. This could be an affordable and SMART way of doing a cheap divorce. See more about this below, or consider scheduling a free consultation with SAS for Women so we can hear more about your unique situation.

How to find the right divorce company for you

Before settling on a specific company, do the following:

  • Talk to people you know. If you feel comfortable asking your friends or colleagues who’ve been through a divorce if they have experience with online divorce services, see what insights they can offer. They might even be able to recommend a trusted company.
  • Read the reviews. Find a few companies by doing a simple search and see what their clients have to say. Be sure to check customer feedback on independent websites like Sitejabber, Trustpilot, or Yelp to find genuine reviews.
  • Prioritize the websites you trust. A good design and intuitive navigation mean that the company wants to make sure that customers will have a transparent process and ultimately a positive experience.
  • See what they offer. The services divorce companies offer vary, and some can help you if your case is contested. The key is to choose the one that has a good price-value ratio and will provide you with the required service package.
  • Review the guarantees. Knowing what deliverables to expect, how long the processes will take, and what the company’s plan of action is if they fail to meet your expectations will help you decide if the service is worth your time.

How to play it safe when using an online divorce company

Being skeptical about using online services to resolve legal issues, such as divorce, is natural. More so, questioning the reliability of any company you plan on using is a great way to protect yourself from potential losses. Here are a few things you can do to play it safe when ordering from a divorce company:

  • Talk to customer support. If there is none, that’s a bad sign. Ideally, someone should be able to assist you 24/7 and address any of your questions or concerns. Moreover, it is best when there are a few ways to contact the support team.
  • Check the privacy policy. In order to prepare your documents, a company will ask you to provide a lot of your personal information. Your SSN, driver’s license number, and other data are extremely sensitive and need to be treated as such. Therefore, make sure a company has decent protective measures in place to secure your private information.
  • Review the refund policy. It is crucial to understand when and how you can get your money back if something goes wrong. If a refund policy is vague, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which is code for “we try our hardest not to refund our customers.”
  • Look for hidden fees. While having extras to offer to the clients is absolutely fine, charging extra for services that were initially advertised as a part of a standard package is unacceptable.
  • Find out if they offer legal advice. If they do not have a legal license, that is a huge red flag. Make sure you verify their credentials first. Understand that divorce laws vary from state, and that again, best practice is for you to have a private consultation with a lawyer in your specific state before you start signing things.

Why use an online divorce service instead of other cheap alternatives?

If you want to save money, and you are the right candidate, a cheap divorce service is an option that trumps the alternatives. Other options include preparing your legal forms yourself or trying to find an inexpensive lawyer, or free or reduced fee legal services available in your town or state.

Searching for divorce forms on your own is obviously free. However, understanding how to find up-to-date and court-approved ones, picking those that suit your specific case, and filling them out correctly without having any legal knowledge takes a lot of time and patience.

Working with an online company, you are free to manage your time as you wish as you can access the website at any time. You will likely have to complete a simple questionnaire for the company to fill out your divorce paperwork and expect to pay a relatively minor flat fee. Depending on a service, you might get free filing instructions or request that a company representative files the forms for you for an extra charge.

Can I get help from a legal professional if I’m using an online service?

Of course! If you want to get professional legal assistance or advice and can afford it, it is a good idea. Some online services offer their own lawyers, but you can always choose to hire one on the side to avoid potential bias.

Overall, the more divorce-related aspects you and your Ex need to settle on, specifically those concerning joint finances, the better idea it is to get an attorney involved, even if you are willing to come to an agreement. Getting a lawyer would benefit you the most if:

  • You and your Ex jointly own real estate and other valuable property.
  • You have a share in the same business(es).
  • There are joint accounts (savings, checking, retirement, etc.).
  • You have underage children.
  • You and your spouse share debt.

While getting an attorney in an amicable divorce is optional, when you and your Ex are not in full agreement, it is a must. You may try mediation first though, as a mediator might help you resolve your disputes and simplify the divorce process for you. Making your case uncontested will not only give you a chance to opt out of lawyer’s services if you cannot afford them but also allow you to choose from a wider variety of cheap divorce services to get professional assistance from.

How much will I save by exploring cheap divorce options?

Getting help online rather than from an attorney will make a difference between paying “a thousand” and “thousands” of dollars. Considering the industry average, you may expect to save anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000. If you aren’t sure that exploring cheap divorce options is worth your time, think about your priorities. Note that you are not choosing between “simple yet expensive” (lawyers) and “complicated but affordable” (online companies). While the latter obviously takes a bit more effort, it is by no means hard to find a trustworthy service that will help you get a divorce. Therefore, it all comes down to how much money you want to save and how savvy you are in protecting your interests.

Surely enough, when you and your Ex are not in agreement, hiring an attorney is the best course of action. If you can reach agreement through mediation, you have a huge pool of cheap divorce options to choose from. Marriage dissolution shouldn’t be a luxury. While finding an online divorce company that suits your needs might take a little searching, it is in your best interests if you want to start the next chapter of your life without a huge burden of divorce fees hanging over your head.

 

Notes

Greg Semmit is a legal writer with years of experience working on Family Law topics. After winning a 2020 Law Scholarship from OnlineDivorcer, he joined the company’s writing and editing team to help spread knowledge about the best ways to approach the divorce process. In his free time, Greg assists his father with pro bono cases and roams the streets of New York with his Olympus making photos of the best spots in the city.

Since 2012, SAS for Women helps women face the considerable challenges involved in considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

 

Divorce Judgement

What is a Divorce Judgement?

There are many legal documents you may face during the course of the divorce process. These may include those certified or sworn by the parties and the judge’s orders. This article will explain what a Divorce Judgement is as well as what other legal documents you may encounter.

Keep in mind that a Divorce Judgement can also be called a Divorce Decree, a Judgement of Divorce, or a Final Judgement of Divorce. This language depends upon the state in which you file your divorce proceeding. This information about Divorce Judgements is from the office of a busy Philadelphia divorce attorney.

How Does a Divorce Unfold in Court?

How a divorce judgement unfolds legally will depend upon whether you have a contested or uncontested divorce. This is the determining factor of whether or not you go to court. An uncontested divorce is when you and your spouse agree to:

Note: An uncontested divorce can also occur when one party files for divorce and the other party fails to file an Answer or officially acknowledge receipt of the papers.

Uncontested Divorce

Even in an uncontested divorce, it is not common for couples to agree on a solution to every single issue that must be resolved as part of the divorce. This is the work of the divorce attorneys. Their job is to negotiate on behalf of their clients until both parties agree upon terms. If the parties refuse to come to terms, the court may get involved in disputed matters. Regardless, you can expect that an uncontested divorce will finalize much more quickly than a contested divorce. 


To understand more about an uncontested and contested divorce, read How Much Will My Divorce Cost Me, Financially & Emotionally?”


The timeline of the divorce process will vary according to the procedure in each state. However, a couple filing an uncontested divorce can expect to divorce in as little as four or five weeks or as long as a year. This timeline depends upon the family court docket backlog–or how busy they are at your local courthouse

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is another matter entirely. The term “contested divorce” refers to a divorce proceeding in which the couple adamantly disagrees about any or all of the following: 

  • Whether to get divorced
  • Who was at fault (in an at-fault state)
  • The terms of the property settlement agreement in general
  • What assets are considered community property (in a community property state)
  • The terms of the parenting time arrangement
  • Whether child support should be paid
  • The terms of the child custody arrangement
  • The amount of child support that should be paid
  • Whether spousal support should be paid
  • The amount of spousal support should be paid

The length of time it takes to resolve all of the issues in a contested divorce will vary greatly from case to case. If the parties enter into mediation or arbitration, that may help speed up the process. If the parties cannot agree and must make their arguments to the family law judge and let him or her decide for them, those hearings will proceed as quickly (or as slowly) as the court’s docket allows.

Typically, family law courts are busy. It is not unheard of for a contested divorce to take at least a year to conclude, and in some cases, to drag on for years.

So, a tip to the consumer: when you are asking questions and interviewing lawyers, and feel very strongly about a particular issue, make sure you ask the lawyer how winnable that issue will be for you and what the ballpark cost might be if you have to go to court to win it.

What Legal Documents Arise During a Divorce Proceeding?

The Plaintiff (and his or her attorneys) create the following legal documents:

  • Complaint (or Petition) for Divorce
  • Case Information Statement
  • Certification of Service of Process on Defendant/Respondent

Note: Some states refer to the Plaintiff as the Petitioner.

While you may be the one filing for divorce, it’s possible that you are instead on the receiving end of a divorce filing from your spouse. Don’t panic! Instead, educate yourself about what to do if you are served divorce papers.

These are considered legal documents, and those filing must certify or swear that the information contained within them is true and correct to the best of their knowledge.

What Happens After I File Divorce Papers?

Upon receipt of the filing, the family law judge will then issue a Joint Preliminary Injunction (JPI) preventing either party from selling or giving away marital assets, including the joint bank account. 

Assuming that you are the one filing for divorce, your spouse (the Defendant, or Respondent) will have a certain amount of time to file his or her Answer to the divorce papers (Divorce Judgement). Again, your spouse must certify or swear that the information in their Answer is true and correct.

After receiving the divorce papers, if your spouse agrees with your filing or otherwise fails to file an Answer within the allotted time, the Plaintiff receives a Judgement by Default and a Final Judgement of Divorce. This will include a Child Support Order if needed, a Spousal Support Order if needed, and a Property Settlement Agreement providing for the distribution of the marital assets.

If your spouse disputes your divorce claim or requests different agreement details, he or she must also file a Case Information Statement. This statement discloses their financial situation and must also accompany a Certification of Service of Process.

In a contested divorce where your spouse expressed issues with custody, support, or distribution of marital assets, the court will then issue orders while you negotiate. Once both parties resolve all issues, the court will memorialize them in the Final Judgement of Divorce.

Are There Legal Documents That Come After the Divorce Judgement?

Yes. Additional court orders may occur if disputes continue. Such orders include:

  • A modified Child Support Order
  • Modified Spousal Support Order
  • Modified Child Custody Agreement

If either party is not complying with the agreed terms, the judge might also issue an order for Contempt of Court or an Order to Pay Attorney’s Fees and Costs. Additionally, if a party fails to appear in court, the family law judge may even issue a Warrant for Arrest.

Lastly, if there are allegations of spousal or child abuse or harassment, the family law judge may issue a Temporary Restraining Order or a Final Restraining Order.

In conclusion, a divorce judgement finalizes your divorce but is not the only important legal document stemming from your divorce process. Your divorce judgement also may not be the last legal document governing you and your Ex. If there are disputes over child custody agreement, properties, or support amounts, more documents may follow. Also, if the financial circumstances of either spouse changes, this may affect the divorce agreement.  Lastly, if there are allegations of abuse or harassment, there may be additional court orders following the Final Judgement of Divorce.

 

Notes:

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted Philadelphia divorce lawyer.

Since 2012, SAS for Women has helped women face the unexpected challenges of considering divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

How to file for divorce during uncertain times

How to File for Divorce During Uncertainty

Divorce is an obstacle course of flaming hoops, even under the simplest and most amicable conditions. But knowing how to file for divorce when you’re still uncertain is its own form of uncertainty.

There’s so much to figure out. Do you stay and work it out when you’re unhappy and unmotivated? Should you start planning for divorce but stay quiet about it? Do you tell your spouse you want a divorce before doing anything?

Or do you take matters into your own hands and start proceedings?

And what about all the chaos and uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic?

Sheltering in place can certainly foster much needed family and relationship time. But it can also confirm stirring doubts if a marriage is unhappy or unhealthy.

Even if you know that divorce is the way you have to go, the circumstances of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic fuel their own doubts.

And where do you even start? Divorce is complicated enough without having limited access to necessary resources and agencies.

There’s something about certainty that provides clarity. It’s as if the path ahead clears itself in anticipation of your next move. You’ve decided. You’re focused. You’re driven.

But permanent, life-changing decisions like divorce are rarely so clear-cut.

You may be overthinking whether to leave your husband. Perhaps you’re terrified of the loss of financial security, social approval, and custody of your children. Maybe you’re stuck remembering the good times, unsure of how to move on.

You may be determined to go through with a divorce, but the current circumstances brought on by COVID raise new questions and concerns.

For example, many courts and legal services were closed in the early months of the pandemic. Even those that have reopened may be playing catch-up for a long time. Then there’s the uncertainty of whether the courts and legal services will remain open as the number of COVID cases begin rising again. You will have to think about how that could affect the timing of your divorce and your access to needed services.

Additionally, you or your spouse may have lost your source of income. Your investments may have taken a big hit, especially if you have had to rely on them for survival. Any changes in employment and finances during this time could make your settlement more difficult to negotiate.

Even the pragmatic issue of physical separation could prove problematic. Most realtors and landlords have resorted to virtual property tours to avoid in-person contact, potentially making a home search more difficult.

How could your kids be affected by a divorce or physical move at this time?

If you have children, you know that schooling has become more complicated, even from school to school. Some have returned to in-person attendance, some are virtual, and some are a blend of the two.

There are countless reasons to feel overwhelmed with uncertainty at a time like this. And that overwhelming feeling can make it difficult to focus on learning how to file for divorce if and when you decide to do so.

The less confusion and fear you have about the process itself, the more clarity and security you will have about your decision.

Just as importantly, that clarity will keep you from making mistakes that could cost you heartache and money now and down the road.

As tempting as it is to be easily triggered and reactive, wisdom would advise you to convert that energy into making a plan.

Educate yourself on the various stages of divorce and what it takes to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. And know the consequences if you overlook something.

It’s important to know upfront that every state has different laws. From residency requirements within your county and state to waiting periods, every state has its own divorce process.

Here is an overview of the divorce process, regardless of what state you’re in. This can serve as an outline for guiding your questions and helping you get educated and prepared.

  1. Prepare a divorce petition. 

One spouse has to file for divorce, which starts with a divorce petition.

Every state provides couples the option of filing a no-fault divorce, which can make an uncontested divorce much simpler (and less expensive).

  1. File the divorce petition.

The petition for termination of marriage must be filed with the correct court within your district.

  1. Ask for temporary orders if necessary. 

Perhaps the required waiting period isn’t possible for you. You may need a court order to secure child custody, child support, and spousal support.

Other temporary orders include status quo orders, temporary property restraining orders, and restraining orders.

Depending on your situation, you should become educated on all of these orders and their possible necessity in your divorce.

  1. Serve your spouse with the appropriate documentation. 

There are laws governing the serving of divorce papers and reporting it to the court. There can also be consequences for not following the required procedures and deadlines.

  1. The recipient files a response. 

The recipient response, whether agreement or contest, must also be filed within a certain amount of time.

  1. Negotiate a settlement. 

Obviously, your divorce will go much more smoothly if you and your spouse can negotiate your own terms. Division of assets, child custody, and support, alimony (if applicable)—the list is long and should be thought out in detail.

Even if you and your spouse are able to be agreeable, you would still be wise to seek professional guidance for this stage.

  1. The hearing. 

Depending on your and your spouse’s ability to work agreeably, you could have either an uncontested hearing or a trial.

  1. The final judgment. 

Just what it sounds like, this final step is the first step to your new life. It’s also the point at which you will want to feel secure that you have done everything right leading up to it.

If all of this sounds daunting, know that your feelings are only natural. You’re considering the end of a marriage and a change in life for your entire family.

But now is the time to channel that consternation into preparedness. You’re seeking clarity so you know your options and can best prepare for and protect your future.

Learning how to file for divorce when there is so much uncertainty will be easier if you surround yourself with experts knowledgeable about the process.

Clarity comes from knowledge. And there are plenty of resources with the knowledge you will need to navigate this life-changing process.

You may not have a clue how to get started, but you can build a trustworthy team to guide you.

A divorce coach, for example, can serve as the hub of your wheel, directing you through both pragmatic and emotional decisions.

A financial expert can help make sense of your marital finances and lay the groundwork for an equitable settlement and a plan for your future.

And a good family law attorney that specializes in divorce will provide sound legal guidance and walk you through the legal process.

Here are some tips for how to file for divorce when you’re feeling uncertain.

  • Grab a journal.

Give it a hope-filled title if that will inspire you to make it your constant companion. The important thing is that you get used to documenting… everything.

You don’t have to be on the verge of the War of the Roses to justify documenting everything that is or could be relevant to a divorce.

This journal is your private, dedicated space for logging questions to ask a divorce attorney, answers, research, resources, events, conversations, and concerns.

When you have this vital information safely written where you can easily access it, you can let go of some anxiety. You will also be prepared for discussions with lawyers and other consultants.

  • Get organized.

Now is the time to start collecting and organizing copies of all information that could affect your settlement and therefore your future.

This is also one of the first vital steps if you’re asking, What should I do to leave my husband? 

In the context of fear and uncertainty, organization is incredibly clarifying and empowering.

Buy an accordion folder and organize all your documents. Make copies of any documents that pertain to both of you.

If you have been in the dark regarding your marital finances, be sure to get access to all relevant information. Investments, accounts, retirement (401(k), IRA), life insurance, social security, past taxes, children’s records (medical, education), mortgage and home expenses, etc.—it all matters.

  • Consider hiring a divorce coach.  

According to the American Bar Association, “Divorce coaching is a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate, and guide people going through a divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs, and concerns.”

The more upheaval and uncertainty you feel as you look to the possibility of divorce, the more essential a divorce coach becomes.

An experienced divorce coach will be able to advise you as to whether a traditional, pro se, mediated, or collaborative divorce is best for you. And she can also help with aspects of the process that an attorney can’t or won’t.

From pre-divorce to post-divorce, a divorce coach can be your link to sanity and hope. Some coaches offer not only private coaching, but educational, divorce support groups, which can lessen the expense of working with a coach and give you a much-needed community so you feel less weird, less alone.

  • Talk to an accountant or financial advisor.

Find someone who can do a thorough analysis of your financial situation and help you prepare for the future.

Women commonly enter into a life of lowered income post-divorce, so they need prudent guidance in forecasting their situation and future needs.

The longer you have been married and the more complex your marital finances, the more important it is to have expertise on your side.

  • Find the right lawyer. 

Whether or not you want to do your divorce on your own, at least consult with a family law attorney. Have your questions and concerns listed in your journal and bring your portfolio of documents.


If you are wondering what else you can do BEFORE you file, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce”


Being organized and prepared will not only help with legal expenses but will help you to hear the answers more effectively.

  • Update your resume and start researching employment. 

Whether you have been actively employed or have been out of the workforce raising kids, this is the time to look ahead.

Update your resume, polish up your relevant skills, and do some research on the job market, even if you currently work.

If you have lost work during the pandemic, you may find that your options are limited. Or you may be forced to change the way you work.

Working from home, for example, may not be as simple as it sounds if you’re starting divorce proceedings.

Entering the job market during the cultural uncertainty of COVID could be challenging. It’s therefore important that you have a firm grasp on your gifts and skills and are prepared to be creative in their use.

You may not have had to worry about things like health insurance and retirement funds in the past. But now you could be on your own without those safety nets.

  • Get your credit in good shape. 

Know where your credit stands. Get a copy of your credit report and review it before sharing concerns with your accountant.

You may have credit issues tied to your spouse. And you may have debts accrued by your spouse but reflecting on you.

It’s imperative that you know where you stand and how to protect your credit going forward. You will need good credit to secure essentials like housing and credit cards in your name.

Now is the time to work on rebuilding credit in your name, even if you simply start with a secured credit card.

  • Don’t jeopardize the outcome.

Simply put, mind your p’s and q’s. Don’t do anything that could give your spouse ammunition to use against you in your divorce.

Don’t start dating. Avoid making large or unnecessary purchases. Don’t start pitting your kids against their father. And don’t unilaterally change your parenting practices.

Knowing how to file for divorce during uncertainty starts with a focus on achieving clarity.

Just because you research the divorce process and prepare yourself for the possibility doesn’t mean you’ve signed off on a divorce.

It simply means you will step confidently and wisely into your future if you do decide to end your marriage.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusion afterward. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or “he.”

 

How is Property Divided in a Divorce Settlement?

How is Property Divided in a Divorce Settlement?

During a divorce settlement, there needs to be a clear agreement on everything, including kids, assets, liabilities, and properties. Because of this, arguments may arise from property settlements. This usually involves property that the couple bought before or during their marriage. But there are still a lot of intricacies to consider when it comes to settling properties, which are important to understand if you’re beginning the settlement process. Learning how property is divided in a divorce settlement can help you prepare for your new future.

What Are The Types of Property? 

Typically, there are two types of property that a judge will distribute during a divorce settlement. These are separate property and community or marital property. 

• Community or Marital Property

Community property refers to the properties acquired by using earnings during the marriage. 

As much as it includes all the acquisitions during the marriage, it also takes into account the debt and mortgages incurred. In effect, all debt and property incurred during the marriage are classified as community property. 

• Separate Property

On the other hand, separate property will include inheritance and gifts bequeathed to that certain spouse. This also includes personal injury awards and pension proceeds. 

In addition, a property your spouse purchased using his or her separate funds will be considered as separate property. All kinds of property purchased or acquired before the marriage is also considered as separate property. 

What Properties Can You Keep?

By understanding the two types of property, you can determine how property is divided in your divorce settlement. This helps you work with a lawyer to identify which properties you can keep. Determining which properties you can keep depends on your specific scenario. However, classifying your assets as separate or community property can help the judge and lawyers guide you through the divorce settlement. 

• Offshore Asset Protection Trust

Assets, including property, that you put into an offshore asset protection trust cannot be taken away during a divorce settlement. This trust is usually established under the laws of a different country and managed by a trustee. Given that it’s under the law of a foreign country, your home country won’t have any jurisdiction.

So, if you’re facing a divorce settlement, it’ll be very beneficial if you can put up an offshore asset protection trust so that you can keep your properties. If you still need more information on this, you can check out www.milehighestateplanning.com/offshore-asset-protection

• Property Bought Before The Marriage

Any kind of property that either party bought before the marriage is separate property. This, in itself, is proof that the intent of the property is just for one spouse. 

So, if you have any property from before the marriage, the law does not require you to include that in the settlement. As a result, it will remain under your ownership.


If you’ve been out of the workforce raising your children, you’ll appreciate this article: How to Prepare for Divorce If You are a Stay-at-Home Mom.


• Commingling and Transmutation

Properties that involve commingling and transmutation may be harder to provide evidence for, but you may still be able to keep them. 

To start, the law defines commingled properties as assets that you bought together using a joint bank account. When this happens, it may be more difficult to prove ownership. So, you need to keep separate accounts to have good records of property ownership. If you have separate accounts and can trace back who bought it, then this may be one of the properties that you can keep.

On the other hand, transmutation is a type of separate property that the law treats as marital property. To illustrate, this usually occurs when both spouses use the property. However, in reality, just one of the spouses bought and paid for the property. 

If you have records that you bought it, even if you use this property with your spouse, you can build a case to keep this property. So, when it comes to a divorce settlement, keep a good record of your purchases so you can prove this more easily. 

• Property You Contributed In

Lastly, if you have a property where you and your spouse made different contributions, this can also be a property that you can keep. With records on how much each spouse has invested, you can either split the property or buy out the other spouse.  

Conclusion

In a divorce settlement, you need to be knowledgeable about these kinds of properties to get what you feel you deserve. 

Now that you know the types of properties during a settlement and what kind of property you can keep, you’ll be able to strategize more efficiently with your lawyer. Remember to consult your divorce coach about the process of divorce and your recovery and your lawyer about the legal matters. 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.