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.

DMK Disclaimer

The content in this article is not meant to be professional advice.  It is prepared by individuals who have had experience going through separation and divorce.  Divorce laws differ in each state.  The information provided is general and not meant to apply specifically to your state or circumstances.  Use of this content is at your own risk and not guaranteed.  Refer to our article and site disclaimers for more information.  

Prepare and negotiate wisely

It's important to prepare 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. Don't let them cost you money!

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 legal 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

If you still have an amicable relationship with your spouse, and understand your state's laws and/or have consulted an attorney who has not advised otherwise, it's helpful to discuss settlement details with your spouse that can be part of the final settlement agreement. All or part of your negotiations may be done directly between you and your spouse, leaving only legal paperwork to be done by a local attorney(s). 

Be cautious of a spouse who is quick to reach a settlement before you understand your rights and/or speak with a local legal expert.  It's always best to consult with an attorney before making decisions regarding your settlement.  If you feel your spouse may take advantage of direct negotiations, it may be helpful to hire a mediator.  Mediators assist couple's in negotiations, but do not provide legal counsel or determine the legal outcome of a case.  However, the cost to utilize a mediator to help you and your spouse come to an agreement on all or some terms is significantly less than that of a typical attorney.  Many couples utilize both a mediator and one or more attorneys when divorcing.

Before you meet with an attorney, if possible, request documents from your spouse, currently in his/her possession 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.   Provide all documents to your attorney upon hire.

Remember that approximately 95% of divorces never go to trial.  Couples who negotiate to reach a settlement have more control over the final outcome than those who go to trial.  Usually, the divorce is completed faster and each spouse incurs less legal fees.

Separation Agreement

The legal separation agreement is the establishment of terms between you and your spouse while separated that outline details like custody, child support, spousal support, who stays in the marital home, and other applicable details of the separation.  It can be negotiated directly between a husband and wife and when signed and witnessed (notarized), becomes a legally binding contract.  However, if one party fails to abide by the terms of the contract, a lawsuit would likely be required to try to enforce it. 

If the separation agreement is filed and approved through the courts, failure to abide by the terms of the agreement would result in contempt of court, exactly like the Divorce Decree.   Remember too, many states require a legal separation waiting period in order to proceed with divorce.  Some do not require spouses to file with the local family court to initiate the legal separation, but most do.  So, it's always best, even if you and your spouse want to establish your own terms without actually filing, to meet with a local attorney who can interpret the laws in your state as they apply to your circumstances.

The separation agreement is only enforceable while the couple is separated or until a court changes the agreement.  The separation agreement may be less advantageous for the primary income provider than the final terms negotiated in the final settlement agreement.  However, it is usually referred to as a starting point to establish the terms in the final settlement agreement.  A couple can remain separated indefinitely and can use their legal separation agreement for established terms of which they must both abide.  The primary legal difference between being separated and divorced is that neither spouse may remarry until their divorce is finalized.  

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 (2017) 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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