How To Choose The Best Divorce Attorney

how to choose the best divorce attorneyNo one expects a divorce to happen to them, but according to the statistics, the likelihood of getting a divorce is over 40 percent.

Going through a divorce can be a difficult situation, financially and emotionally. But with the best divorce attorney, you can be that much closer to a path of healing and restoring your life.

If you’re considering a divorce, the following guide will help you find the best divorce attorney for your situation.

Tips for Choosing the Best Divorce Attorney

Divorce Mediation

Before you look for a divorce attorney, consider opting for divorce mediation. Mediators are ideal in situations where the divorce is amicable and you want to avoid court proceedings.

In this case, a mediator can help with producing a division of assets agreement that’s suitable for both you and your spouse.

After everything has been divided and agreed upon, you can go ahead and file for divorce without representation by an attorney.

Consider Your Needs

When approaching divorce, everyone has different needs, so you want to find the best divorce attorney to handle your unique circumstances.

For example, there are some divorce attorneys who specialize in dealing with high-net-worth individuals, while there are others who only represent wives or husbands.

Depending on your situation, you might need someone who is well-versed in finance or property laws. Ultimately, the best divorce attorney for you will be someone who best understands the intricacies of your situation and needs.

Family and Friends

Chances are you have a friend or family member who’s been through a divorce. Sometimes, the easiest way to find the best divorce attorney is by a word-of-mouth referral.

Talk to your friends or family members about their experiences, and see if they have any personal recommendations.

This way, you don’t have to do the vetting yourself, and you can get an inside look at the divorce process, including the real costs and fees, what to expect, and what to avoid.

Local Bar Association

If you’re not having luck getting referrals from friends or family, your local bar association is always an excellent option. The American Bar Association has local chapters across the U.S.

You can either get in touch through their website or phone number, and they’ll provide you with qualified divorce attorneys in your area.

Likewise, some states require specific certification programs for family law attorneys, so you can search for the best divorce attorney in your area that has all of the necessary qualifications.

Consider Your Budget

Before searching for a divorce attorney, you’ll need to consider your budget. Depending on how complex your situation is, you might need to adjust your budget expectations, but it will definitely be worth it in the end.

Likewise, if your divorce cannot be resolved in mediation and will need to proceed to trial, keep in mind that litigation can be more costly.

That said, it’s best to have a frank discussion with your potential divorce attorney about a budget. This will give both of you a more realistic idea of what you can achieve during the divorce process, and whether or not it’s a good fit.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Once you have a few consultations lined up, be prepared with a list of questions. If you really want to find the best divorce attorney, be sure to ask how long they’ve been practicing, what type of clients they typically deal with, what the expected costs will be, etc.

This will help you make a better-informed decision when the time comes, and it will allow your attorney to have a better idea of what they’re working with.

Likewise, this can be an incredibly stressful time in your life, especially since the divorce process can seem so complex. But when you’re more informed, you’ll find it’s not so intimidating.

Late-Life Divorce

When you get divorced at a later age, the process can be much more complex. At this age, you and your spouse likely own property together.

You will need to consult with a divorce attorney who specializes in property laws since all of this can affect things like alimony payments.

Similarly, retirement benefits, estate planning, and health insurance are also at stake during late-life divorces.

These are serious issues that you’ll need to consider with your spouse, and the best divorce attorney for this kind of situation will be the one who is well-versed in these matters.

Children and Your Financial Future

When you get married, you’re taking a leap of faith that your spouse has your best interests at heart, even if it means sacrificing your career for raising children. And after a divorce, the last thing you’ll want to do is start over again financially. But for some people, this is a reality.

In order to maintain an acceptable standard of living for you and your children and secure your financial future, you’ll need to consult with an attorney who specializes in child support and alimony. This will ensure you’ll receive adequate support after the divorce, so you and your family don’t have to worry.

Divorce is a stressful time for everyone involved, not just the adults. In fact, medical research has found that one of the most common causes of depression and anxiety in adolescents is divorce. But with the best divorce attorney, you and your family can focus on healing instead of stressing about finances.

Personality

Besides adequate qualifications and experience, personality is an important part of finding the best divorce attorney. If your spouse is combative, then you might need an attorney who isn’t afraid to take on the challenge.

But if your attorney is so aggressive that you have trouble voicing your opinion, it might be good to look elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” when you’re looking for an attorney.

And during consultations, be mindful of how their personalities mesh with yours. Often, a good attorney-client relationship will yield the best outcome.

Divorce can be emotionally taxing, but with the right attorney, you’ll soon be able to focus on the future. If you’re going through a difficult divorce, feel free to check out some of the divorce resources available online.

How Divorce Can Negatively Affect Your Health

divorce can negatively affect your healthDivorce can oftentimes be very hard on your finances, but did you also know that it can take a toll on your health? Knowing these potential health-related problems can help you to stay healthier while getting your divorce.

Anxiety/Depression

If you are feeling more insecure and stressed, these could be signs of anxiety. Conversely, if you are feeling a bit down, having a difficult time getting out of bed, and feeling hopeless and alone, these could be signs of mild depression. Given the many unanswered questions that attend divorce discussions, and perhaps the worry about the future, anxiety or depression are real possible health risks.

Weight Changes

If you are anxious, or perhaps a bit blue, you could see drastic weight changes – either up or down. Weight fluctuations can be a problem when you are constantly upset or worried and paying less attention to eating complete meals or relying too much on take out.

Heart Disease

Middle-aged men and women are both at higher risk for heart disease when they are going through a divorce, for a variety of reasons. The usual culprit is the combination of high-stress levels that last for a very long time, especially for women.

For women, the inflammation caused be stress tends to last longer, even after the divorce, because they are more likely to suffer more financially, have less emotional support, and to live alone longer post-divorce. For women, the risks are significant: one study showed that for women who have experienced divorce are 24% more likely to experience a heart attack; women with more than one divorce, the increased risk is 77%.

Sleep Issues

Perhaps one of the most common health-related problems during a divorce is sleep issues, which can be difficulty falling asleep, or difficulty staying asleep, or both. Sleep difficulties can be a cause of sadness and other symptoms related to depression, so working on getting a good night’s sleep through stress reduction and exercise is critical to your health.

Chronic Conditions and Mobility

Studies show that people going through a divorce or more at risk for chronic conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, but mobility can become a problem, too. Even simple tasks like walking or climbing stairs can become a problem.

Stress and Immune System Fatigue

With stress comes a weakened immune system, which means that you can get more colds, the flu will stick around longer, and it can contribute to all the feelings that come with depression. When there is stress, your risk for autoimmune diseases, where your own immune system turns on itself, are much higher.

Problems with Digestion

Sometimes a stomach ache can be a symptom of a problem that is caused by high stress and anxiety. If you do not manage these mild symptoms, however, it can lead to further digestive tract systems, like heartburn and indigestion, or even irritable bowel syndrome.

If you are experiencing any of these health-related problems, studies show that devoting time each day solely to taking care of your physical and mental health can help, considerably. Even a quick daily walk and some deep breathing can help to improve your health during a divorce.

Top 10 Reasons People Divorce

reasons people divorceThere are many reasons people divorce. With as many as fifty percent of first marriages ending in divorce and sixty percent of second marriages succumbing to the same fate, it is important to understand exactly what issues couples feel can not be resolved. While nobody could effectively predict, let alone list, all the reasons that have been given for divorcing, here are the top ten reasons people divorce.

1. Lack of communication – Too often people keep little annoyances inside and allow them to build into large problems. The people in the marriage many times expect their partner to know what they need or want without being told.

2. Money – Lack of money creates stress in the best of situations. When one partner is a free spender and the other a saver, this can create additional stress and blame for financial problems.

3. Sexual incompatibility – Two people who do not think of sex the same way in terms of what and how often soon find this a major roadblock.

4. Lack of trust – Before an infidelity even occurs, there is often a lack of trust in at least one partner. This can make the other partner feel trapped. A lack of trust always indicates a lack of love.

5. Unfulfilled needs – This goes back to a lack of communication. Too often we expect our partner to know and fulfill all our needs but that is too much to expect from one other person. The pressure can become too much.

6. Personal growth – This happens most often when the couple marries young. As we age, some people grow emotionally. Some people find they want a different direction in life. When one partner grows and the other doesn’t, or they grow in different directions, the marriage falls apart.

7. Family interference – Many couples spend too much time involving friends and family in their disagreements. Instead of working on things themselves, they allow family and friends to exert too much influence on their decisions.

8. Lifestyle differences – This often happens when there is an addiction involved. One partner may be a heavy drinker and the other doesn’t drink. One may become addicted to either prescription or illegal drugs and the other partner can no longer deal with the fallout.

9. Arguing – Some couples thrive on arguing constantly, but most get to a point where they don’t want the constant drama and upset. When every little thing sets off an argument, life becomes unhappy and divorce normally follows.

10. Abuse – This can be either psychological verbal or physical abuse. Either partner can be the abuser. As more people are becoming aware of what abuse can do even generations later, couples are splitting up and the abused partner getting to safety sooner.

Regardless of the reason given for divorcing, many boil down to not really knowing the person you are marrying. The ease of divorce makes it easier to jump into marriage. Taking the time to really know the person you are seeking to spend a lifetime with will help make that lifetime not only possible but also enjoyable.

Pets In Divorce Settlements

pets in divorce settlementsDivorce is a difficult time for everyone involved. When it comes to splitting up a household, it can be difficult to decide who keeps what. Even harder is the decision on who gets custody of the kids. Recently, family courts are getting more divorce cases where there’s a question of who gets the pets in divorce settlements. This is making it necessary to take a harder look at the role pets play in a family and how the pet’s best interest can be served during this difficult time.

Pets In Divorce Settlements: Pets As Property

Traditionally, the court system has looked at pets as property. When the question of who gets the family pet comes up, the court will put a dollar value on the pet. This often results in one person getting awarded the family pet and the other partner getting something of equal monetary value.

The “value” of the pet is determined by:

  • Who can prove they paid vet bills.
  • Which name is on the license.
  • Who takes care of the pet most often.

As the world becomes more aware of the importance of animals, some courts are starting to change their views somewhat, but there are some things that a couple can do to help make the process easier fro everyone.

Changing Views

As more courts start considering pets as family members, some of the same things that determine child custody are being used to determine pet custody. The judge may take into consideration such factors as who brought the pet into the family, who is able to give it more time and attention and who the pet is most attached to. In essence, he will try to determine the best interest of the pet, but this is also a situation that may not be easy to determine.

Legal Agreements

Couples who are considering a divorce often take the time to sit down with a lawyer and discuss things. If an agreement can be reached between the two people involved, custody issues may be resolved without the case having to go to court.

Let’s look at what can be included in a divorce agreement:

  • Basic custody of pets – Will it be best for your pet to have the consistency of staying in one home and having visitation from the non-custodial person? Would shared custody be better? Set forth who gets what time with the pet. Having it in writing will make it more enforceable if there ends up being conflict.
  • Finances – How will vet bills be paid? Will one partner have sole responsibility or will you share the cost? Is there a way you can arrange some kind of pet fund that will make it easier to pay vet bills if the other partner is unavailable?
  • Attachment – Did one partner bring the pet into the marriage, to begin with? Is there one partner who benefits psychologically from having the pet around? Does the pet prefer one partner over the other? All these answers can determine who has the greatest psychological investment and this is something that needs to be considered in who gets the pets in divorce settlements.

Any custody arrangement works best when two partners can come to an agreement that is best for the children. This holds true for pets as well. Until such a time when the courts fully embrace the concept of pets as part of a family, sitting with a lawyer to discuss custody arrangements for your family pet is the next best thing.

Who Gets What After The Divorce?

who-gets-what-after-the-divorceDivorce is frequently, but not always, a fraught topic for many couples. The reason is that divorces bring into play a number of complicated issues like child custody and visitation rights, potential alimony payments, and often the division of assets and debts post-divorce.

So, how exactly does the court view property within the context of marriage and divorce? Just considering some of the things involved and how those, even theoretically, should be divvied up can be daunting. How does someone get half of a car, for instance, or how should pensions and stock options be handled and equitably divided?

Those are great questions, but first, let’s consider what assets are typically involved in divorce proceedings. One of the most common material assets brought up within the context of family law is physical property like homes as well as rental properties and vehicles. Financial assets like stock options, retirement plans and pensions, certain businesses and brokerage accounts might also come into play.

Equitable Distribution and Community Property 

The law in some states maintains that all property acquired after a marriage should be split 50-50 following a divorce (community property state) whereas other states say that the division doesn’t need to be a 50-50 split but merely equitable.

California – along with states like Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington -are community property states where any property that is acquired after your marriage date is divided equally following a divorce. Believe it or not, though, California is one of the exceptions and not the rule in America since most other states are equitable distribution (a.k.a., common law property) states in which judges have more latitude in how they divvy up property.

The interesting thing is that in community property states like California both spouses are said to have equal rights to all material and financial assets acquired after the marriage date. This means that if for instance, only one spouse had steady employment throughout the marriage or earned considerable more than the other spouse, assets are divided up equally between spouses in a divorce proceeding in states like California.

The flip side is that both spouses are considered liable for debts in the same 50-50 manner. In equitable distribution states family law judges would have the legal latitude to give the higher earning spouse more of the debt burden during divorce proceedings, but in a community property state like California, the judge should be applying the “equal ownership” concept to assets and debts alike. This includes credit card debt, interest, car loans and even home mortgages you might be struggling to pay down.

Are There Limits to Community Property? 

Simply put, yes. These limits are dictated by one overriding factor: time. Assets acquired before the marriage and/or after couples have separated with the intention of terminating the marriage are considered separate property owned by each individual spouse. The title to a home or title to a car, as well as other physical property, owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, should be owned by that same spouse post-divorce.

The interesting wrinkle to all this is that sometimes individual property and community property mix during the course of a marriage.

What happens then? If one spouse works at a high-income job throughout the marriage and uses that income to purchase a car or home, then in a community property state like California that car (or more likely, it’s blue book value) would be split post-divorce between spouses. Value appraisals for other material assets like homes, antiques or even retirement assets will typically be valued by relevant authorities like accountants, financial experts and judges themselves.

Tax Time and Your Divorce

tax-time-and-your-divorceDivorce is angst-ridden enough without the fiscal complications, but you’ll make it through the financial year more smoothly if you get to know the tax laws. The IRS generally thinks of you as married until the end of the tax year, so even if you divorce on New Year ’s Eve, your marital status won’t change when it comes to what you owe the government. Nothing is ever quite that simple, though. There are more tricks to filing that you need to consider.

Filing Status

The IRS doesn’t always use federal law to determine your marital status. You will have to check the laws of your state. Some let you separate under a decree of separate maintenance, which means you’re considered married until the last day of your divorce. The U.S. hasn’t caught up when it comes to registered domestic partners, who can’t file joint returns under any circumstances.

  • If you’re under a decree of divorce, you must file as the head of your household or as a single person.
  • If you’re still married, you can file your taxes as a couple or separately under ‘married filing separately.’ Filing jointly is usually easier on the pocket.
  • Federal taxes are usually lower if you file together.
  • Head of household status can be used if you have children. It comes with extra tax benefits and lower tax payments. If you have custody and will be unmarried by the end of the year, you qualify for this benefit as long as the children are your legal dependents. The IRS redefines custody frequently.

Exemptions

If you divorced last year and have custody of children, you might qualify for childcare and education tax credits. Child support payments aren’t deductible, but they’re not considered income either. Alimony is taxable income, and if you’re the one paying it, it’s fully deductible, too. However, if you receive it as a lump sum payment, it won’t be taxable or deductible.

Tax Returns During Your Marriage

Even if you file separately, you’re responsible for your prior tax returns from years when you filed together. Joint tax returns come with enough complications to make your head spin, so make sure you handle them well in advance and keep yourself safe with an indemnification agreement. This way, if your spouse has due taxes, you won’t be held responsible for them. Any overpayments should be allocated in the divorce proceedings. If your spouse added your name to their returns during your marriage, consent must be formally revoked.

Assets

If you have assets that will be transferred to you during your divorce, they will count as capital gains. When married, you’re not taxed on your home if it’s under $500 000, but when single, you’re only exempt up to $250,000. If you sell the house as a part of the divorce, you might qualify for a reduced exclusion, depending on whether you’ve lived in the home for at least two years of the last five. Retirement assets can be cashed out, but you will have to pay tax on them. The only way to avoid this particular payment is by transferring the funds to your ex-spouse under a Qualified Domestic Relations order.

If your spouse agreed to a joint return and refused later, you’re unlikely to get a court order to force them.

Divorce comes with its fair share of chaos and confusion, and tax law is constantly evolving, which could push you into a different tax bracket. It’s critical to check current state and federal law or, even better, hire a competent professional to advise you.

Late-Life Divorce

late-life divorceDivorce at any age is difficult, both emotionally and financially and a late-life divorce can be even more devastating. As the population in general ages, we are seeing more divorces occurring in couples who have been together for decades. These “gray divorces” pose additional issues that are often not present in a divorce between younger couples.

A Late-Life Divorce: Going From We To Me

Many couples over fifty may be on their second or third marriage. Others have been together for thirty years or more. They have bought a home, raised a family and prepared for retirement. Determining who gets what is more complicated than I’ll take the house and you can have the car. The longer the  couple has functioned as one unit, the more difficult the financial aspects, in particular, can be to sort out.

Your Home

Determining who gets your home isn’t simply a matter of handing over the deed. The person who keeps the house will need to take into account the taxes they need to pay every year, the cost of any repairs and if the home is to become rental property, the income that may be generated from it over the coming years. This can all have an impact on alimony payments, the division of other property and even how retirement benefits are divided. If you sell your home, living expenses change regarding needing to pay rent and utilities.

Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits are even more complicated to divide in a late-life divorce. You may have contributed equally to any retirement plans or one partner may have been the sole contributor. In either case, the benefits will need to be divided so that each person has something to live on during those years. Division of retirement benefits will depend greatly on other financial factors. How will the divorce affect social security payments if the original receiver dies?

Health And Life Insurance

Aging couples often have to deal with decreasing health in addition to other issues. Who is responsible for the health insurance, and how much, becomes a factor. Life insurance policies often have each half of the couple listed as the beneficiary. It will need to be determined whether this is to remain the same or if the beneficiary information will change. It is possible that if either party remarries, financial information will differ and you need to take this into account.

Estate Planning

Wills need to be re-examined in light of the changing relationship. As a couple, you may have written wills to reflect your partner as the sole recipient of your property and other assets. You may have left that partner in charge of carrying out your final wishes. Now, you will both have to determine if this arrangement is actually the best for both of you. Often, it will be better to revise each of your wills to reflect the changed status of your marriage.

Seeking Assistance

Later-life divorces have so many financial nuances that going it alone can make it confusing and make an already chaotic time overwhelming. Seeking the aid of an experienced divorce lawyer who has knowledge of all the special financial considerations unique to late-life divorce. Seeking assistance can make a major difference between being able to survive this split with enough to get through the remaining years of your life or being destitute and feeling like you are completely starting over financially. In the end, you have enough to deal with emotionally that you don’t need the stress of trying to untangle the financial aspects alone.

How Conflict can Build a Stronger Marriage

It is nearly impossible to avoid conflict in marriages. Oftentimes, it is even necessary for couples to move their relationship forward and define a new level of trust, commitment, and communication. Conflict, while not a true measure of a marriage’s success or how strong a marriage is, can make a marriage stronger by allowing couples to engage in collaboration, broaden their methods of resolving issues, and expand their understanding of one another’s needs and preferences. Even when there are a limited number of conflicts that arise in your marriage, you can benefit from resolving them quickly.

Opposites Attract

The old adage that opposites attract might be true, but the dynamics of such a relationship are bound to lead to differences that result in conflicts and heated debates. In reality, there is no substantial difference between couples that have opposing personalities and preferences and couples who share likes and have similar personalities. In fact, it really isn’t a matter of the individual but rather the two people together as a couple. There are different types of couples and each type will have different methods of resolving a conflict. However, you and your marital partner might find that this characteristic actually benefits the relationship and makes it stronger. For couples that have a more hostile relationship, it just means it will take more work to resolve conflicts.

It Takes Two

Obviously, a relationship will not work if one person exhibits respect for her or his partner and there is no reciprocation. When you are in the midst of a conflict, this is the perfect time to exercise mutuality. Each of you should be listening, trying to understand one another, and offering viable solutions that will be implemented immediately once agreed upon. Each conflict should end with both of you having stronger trust for one another and truly believing that the marriage can survive. This will make your marriage stronger and prove that you can get through anything, as long as you’re both working together to make sure every conflict is resolved within a timely manner and with no loose ends to return to or reignite the conflict.

Playing For Keeps

The fact that you’re even willing to resolve each and every conflict, no matter what it takes, is enough to make your marriage stronger. Unfortunately, some conflicts aren’t as easy to resolve as others. When you come across the more difficult ones, you might need to rely on a temporary moment of separation so that you can each think without actually having to bounce ideas and feelings off of one another. Of course, it is always a great idea to confront conflicts head on, but if you know you are going to say something hurtful or that you will regret later, it might be better to give yourself time to think of a better way and calmer words to express your feelings, wants, and needs. You are playing for keeps, so to speak, and you want the end result to be a permanent resolution so that you and your spouse continue to build trust, respect, communication, and the marriage grows stronger.

Couples don’t always have to agree on everything and there are going to be times when these disagreements will result in bigger conflicts. This is the time when each person needs to exercise a fair amount of respect, understanding, communication, and forgiveness. These are the types of elements of a marriage that make a marriage stronger and allow couples to deepen their trust in one another, renew their commitment to the relationship, and develop new and improved ways of resolving issues that arise.

Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

co-parenting after divorceNo matter the situation, divorces that involve children are always the toughest waters to navigate. Many couples that are ending their marriage in an amicable way make the decision to co-parent, cognizant of the effect divorce can have on kids.

Co-parenting after divorce is not easy, but when done correctly it is beneficial for everyone involved. Here’s how to do it right. Of course, the most important thing is keeping your eyes on the prize — the continued healthy development of your children. Moving forward with respect for all parties involved is imperative.

First and foremost, there needs to be a realization by both you and your ex that the kids are largely innocent victims. Common sense would tell you that dragging them into the situation that is occurring between the two of you is wrong. However, it is also important to silence the other third parties, most notably in-laws and friends. To successfully co-parent, they are going to need to be part of the team as well. Grandmas and grandpas need to be just as impartial, keeping their opinions to themselves.

There also needs to be a spirit of cooperation that runs through your support system. All the adults involved don’t need to be friends, but they do need to show the kids that adults can comport themselves with respect. Sometimes that will mean bending over backwards to accommodate what’s best for the kids, just like you would if you and your ex were still together.

You may not always agree with how your ex chooses to raise your children when they are not with you. Maybe they let them stay up later at their house, or spend more time on the iPad than you are comfortable with. It’s important to remember that they are their kids too, and though they may make different choices, they love your kids together just as much as you do. If you feel your children are engaging in dangerous behaviors with your ex, address your concerns, but do so in a way that doesn’t put the other parent on the defensive.

When your ex does introduce a new love interest into your children’s lives, welcome them to the co-parenting fold with open arms. Instead of dwelling on jealousy, get past yourself. Ask to meet them, and open a door of communication by sharing your concerns free of prejudice.

If the situation that is best for the children doesn’t result in you getting to spend the same amount of time with your children as your ex, don’t lose sleep over it. Instead, concentrate on quality over quantity. When you do get time with your kids, hit the ground running on spending time with them, clearing out your calendar so your focus can be on them as much as possible.

Finally, make sure all the cards are on the table so that you and your ex can keep things as open as possible. While you might think you and your ex are on good enough terms that you don’t need to put your plan in writing, it never hurts. Take time to communicate about any changes in your life as well. That helps everyone feel like they are an equal partner in the co-parenting of your children.

No matter what challenges your marriage or family are facing, the we are here to help. We’ll help you deal with the painful and emotional issues you are facing in the San Francisco Bay area, so you can move your life forward.

What is Legal Separation?

what-is-legal-separationLegal separation is either a precursor or alternative to divorce which involves the removal of one spouse from a shared household. Although they are considered still legally married, this separation has both economic and personal consequences as regards child support spousal support payments, and any income earned during the term of the legal separation.

The Judicial Process of Separation

A formal legal separation involves a judicial process presided over by a court judge; for example, in California the state Supreme Court is mandated that couples must live in different houses in order to qualify as legally separated.

It is important to understand that during this separation, the spouses remain husband and wife; however any income earned after cohabitation and its is considered their sole private property, and does not factor into any post divorce settlements – should the legal separation morph into a full-blown divorce. Indeed; eventual spousal support payments in the event of a divorce are affected by the date of legal separation.

Consequences of Legal Separation

Although separated couples are allowed to date and see other people during the period of the legal separation, they cannot marry third parties. Primarily, the court judgment is necessary to ratify the terms of the regulatory agreement presented by the parties by mutual agreement; or, by the presiding judge as regards parent child relations. Some of these considerations include the extent of parental authority, child care and support, visitation, and any associated maintenance costs of the afore-mentioned.

How Do You Start the Process?

The process of legal separation is started after the couple reaches a mutual agreement and presents the appropriate application – which is the petition for divorce/separation – and jointly presents this application to a magistrate. Alternatively one spouse can present the application, as long as he/she has the consent of the other spouse to do so on his/her behalf. Additionally, this application – the Settlement Agreement – also includes the terms of the regulatory agreement, which concerns matters of visitation childcare subject to custody decisions concerning matrimonial property, pension payments, family contribution, housing allocation, and any other considerations that arose as a result of the marital agreement.

Contentious Legal Separations

Generally speaking, legal separations – as well as divorces – proceed in a much more economical fashion when there are no children involved. If, however, the proceedings are contentious and one spouse files the complaints, he or she must have various documents that purport to support his/her economic or situational grievances. Of course, the other spouse and file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. After the court receives these, the legal procedures will be set at a later date, at which time the spouses will have to appear in court with their lawyers.

In the worst-case scenario of either a legal separation, or outright divorce, if the spouses have not reached a mutual agreement, then the judge, having heard both sides, will render judgment. As such, you should always consult with a family attorney even before you begin the process of a legal separation, because the ramifications will have a life-changing effect on your family – especially if there are minor children involved. In the event that there are no objections from your spouse as to the terms, the most likely scenario is that the presiding court will grant the separation.

As the laws vary from state to state, it is imperative that you consult with a local attorney, was well-versed in Family Court law, before you begin the process.