2021 Divorce Settlement Page

LEGAL Know-It-All  “You can't provide your financial information because your spouse handled all the finances.  Now you don’t have what the court needs to allocate assets.  Ok. No problem, we'll just make our best guess.”, said no judge, ever.

Did you know?

Money is still one of the leading causes for divorce in the United States.  In a recent study,  the majority of those who reported money as a reason for divorce,  noted they went into debt following divorce.  One reason may be the cost's associated with divorce are quite high for the average legal consumer.  According to Thervo, the average American divorce costs approximately $15,000 per spouse.  Understanding state divorce laws, direct negotiations, knowing your mediation options and good legal representation can help you end your marriage with the lowest legal fees possible.

Prepare and negotiate wisely

It's important to be prepared for your case by gathering relevant information on your own and obtaining good representation by a legal professional.  Refer to the 2020 DMK Article, Documents to Assemble When Divorcing

Emotions.  We all have them. 

While it's never easy, you should try to find healthy ways to express your emotions so that they don't get in the way of the best settlement outcome.  While this seems obvious, it's still one of the most difficult things to achieve for most individuals going through divorce.  If you can do this at every stage throughout your divorce, please write in and tell us your secret. 

If you're like the rest of us, do your best to keep your emotions out of your attorney's office, off the phone with your ex and out of ear shot of your kids.  Then focus on taking the most efficient route to the best settlement possible for the least amount of legal fees.  

Need legal advice?  Ask an attorney.  But, prepare first.

One way to keep your legal fees down is to take the time to research general information relevant to divorce so that when you speak with your attorney you don't spend extra money for your attorney to explain basic facts.  Instead use your time obtaining legal advice regarding issues like how the laws specifically affect your case and unique circumstances.  

Where to get divorce information

Get informed with divorce resources like DMK and other reputable sites and books.   Never use the internet as a substitute for advice from a state licensed professional in a relevant field (legal, tax, financial, real estate, etc.).  Use our DMK Directory to locate professionals who can help you with your divorce and emotional recovery. The directory has counselors, attorneys, movers, real estate agents and more!

Steps to take before hiring your attorney

Before you hire an attorney, get informed about the available types of divorce options in your state in order to initiate an informed conversation with an attorney.

Assemble all relevant financial documents pertaining to your assets, taxes, insurance, earnings and debts before hiring an attorney.  Check out the DMK His and Hers Divorce Planners.

Take the time to review all financial documents, debts, property, insurance,  taxes, earnings and anticipated future financial needs or earnings in order to determine a fair settlement that will be right for you and your spouse now and in future years.

Research attorneys and arrange to interview several who have proven experience with the type of divorce process you think would be best for you.  Make sure the type of divorce, for which you have an interest, is offered in your state.  

Hire with your settlement in mind

Prior to hiring your attorney, ask about his/her history of success with out of court settlements and cases with similar circumstances, grounds for divorce and divorce process.

Make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney you hire.  Do not just hire the most expensive, toughest, most popular attorney.  Hire someone who will represent your legal interests exactly as you would if you were qualified to do so.  He/she should have excellent communication skills, experience and demonstrate the ability to process your divorce efficiently. 

Communicate and settle with your spouse

Be cautious of a spouse who is quick to reach a settlement before you speak with a local legal expert.  However, if you have an amicable relationship with your spouse, it's helpful to discuss settlement details that can be part of the final settlement agreement without the need of expensive third party negotiators.

Ask your spouse for any documents related to the marital estate and share the documents that you have assembled with him/her at the same time to avoid attorney fees to do the same.

Remember that approximately 95% of divorces never go to trial. 

Many couples negotiate outside of court in order to achieve a settlement without large legal fees.  Spouses who negotiate directly often reach a settlement faster and incur less legal fees.

This may be done without or prior to hiring an attorney or with the assistance of a mutual attorney, mediator, individual attorneys and/or arbitrator.  However, it's still a good idea to refer to an attorney first for guidance.  

Taxes

Understand your filing options and how your previous filings can affect your settlement. 

If you file your taxes while in the process of a divorce, your return, if applicable, will likely be part of the division of your marital property.  Consult your attorney regarding a petition for the court to release these funds early, if needed.  Otherwise, the refund may be held until the settlement has been achieved.

Find out how certain tax liability can indirectly (sometimes unfairly) affect your settlement (specific to the division of marital assets where one spouse gets one asset (investment) and the other a separate, seemingly equal valued asset, instead of equal portions of each going to each spouse.

Tax laws have recently changed (2019) regarding who can claim support and who must pay taxes on it.  Ask an expert to explain before you decide support as part of the settlement.

Most tax liability will be considered marital debt and will be distributed accordingly.  While the tax debt may be shared equally, sometimes one party chooses to assume more debt in order to receive a higher percentage of the property.

Always, always, always have a tax/accounting professional advise you before you agree to your settlement (preferably before you negotiate).

Do's and don'ts during divorce

Do not conduct any unusual financial business while in the process of divorcing.  You could be held in contempt for violation of Standing Order of the Court.

Do not hide assets as it may have serious legal consequence that may include criminal prosecution.

Do not lie or hide income.  If you seek secondary employment during the separation, the additional income could be considered in developing a plan for support.  Do not keep the job a secret and make sure that you can keep working that many hours for future years since the amount of support will be affected and could be reduced with anticipation of your higher earnings (inclusive of your secondary income).

Do not have a physical relationship outside the marriage while in the process of divorcing; it may be considered adultery and could have a negative impact on your settlement/judgement.

Do not have a physical relationship with your spouse as it may reset the time period to your legal separation required prior to divorcing in some states.  This can delay the finality of the divorce and increase legal expenses due to prolonged separation and divorce time period.  Check with your attorney for your state's requirements and any other legal ramifications.

Do make a plan that works with the legal schedule as indicated by your attorney. The plan should include hiring legal representation, locating and presenting documents, depositions, interrogatories, planning custody and support, residency changes of one or both spouses, locating support groups and counseling, etc.  Try one of our his or her plans to get you started.

Do not make too many changes in your divorce plan based on emotional pain or feelings.  It will only cost you more money, delay the process and make the situation more complicated.  The longer the process goes on - the more likely your emotional trauma will increase.  This becomes a cyclical experience that further damages you, your spouse and your family on all levels to include finances, emotional well being and health.

Do consider making changes to your life, household and employment that will provide a more secure lifestyle following your divorce.  The idea of making such changes may be overwhelming, but failing to do what is necessary may cause a severe break down in finances and increase credit problems that could have been avoided if proper decisions were made initially.  It's never easy to make these decisions and they should be done with the help of the proper advisors and with great consideration.  

Do not gossip or talk to mutual friends or family members that may compromise your settlement.  When a marriage is divided much loyalty is lost on both sides.   It's best to keep the details private while going through the legal process.  Never air your grievances by way of social media.  Social media posts, texts and other communication may affect your case.  Consult your attorney.

-OurDMK.com



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