Divorce is the dissolving of a marriage. It is the end of a relationship, the end of a partnership, the breakup of a family. Divorce can be extremely stressful. It can be difficult. It can be tough to handle in terms of mental and physical stress and you really need the guidance and the expertise of an experienced divorce attorney to help you navigate through the process.
Once you become aware that you either need a divorce or a divorce is being thrust upon you, you are going to have many questions that need to be answered. One of the main questions that people have is what is going to happen to our family if there are children involved. Child custody and all of the terms and provisions that go along with child custody which includes support, visitation and access to the children, is going to be a hotly contested issue in many cases.
For some cases, custody is going to be the most important issue in the case. This is because children are irreplaceable and the relationships that those children have with their parents cannot be duplicated. Property, division of assets, allocation of debts, those are things that can be handled and the parties can move on. However, child custody is one decision that cannot be moved on from in many cases.
For example, you might have a situation where one party is going to have the sole custody; meaning that one party is going to have the day to day operations of the child and that party is going to make all the decisions concerning the child which include health, education, religion and extracurricular activities. The party that does not have custody is going to have visitation, however, that limitation is often limited to alternating holidays, alternating weekends and maybe a day or two during the week.
If the parties can't agree on joint custody, meaning they both will have the same decision-making, they will both have an input and a say in the child's life, then the other issues can start to manifest itself and we can work towards a resolution of the divorce case. However, if custody is going to be a sticking point, then the parties are going to be in for a long, costly, difficult, emotionally taxing battle.
Let's say there are no children involved and we are only dividing assets and allocating debt. You still have very difficult cases when it comes to the division of property and the allocation of debt. For example, the parties might have accumulated property which makes it very difficult to split in certain situations. For example, there may be one piece of real estate that has equity and one party wants to keep it and the other party wants to sell it and divide the equity. This can be an issue that has to be litigated before the judge because often times the parties cannot reach an agreement on what to do with real estate and other property in terms of division.
Another issue that has to be decided is the allocation of debt. More and more couples today are divorcing due to financial reasons and they are burdened with debt whether it is mortgage debt, credit card debt, medical bills, personal loans or any other type of debt for some sort of service. The court is going to do its best job to allocate the debt in some form of equitable manner. By equitable manner, I mean if the husband is making twice as much as the wife, then the court might see that the husband pay twice as much of the marital debt. In certain situations, a bankruptcy might have to follow a divorce because the parties simply cannot maintain their living style, their automobiles and their credit card debt when they are living in two separate households.
Another key issue in a divorce case is maintenance, formally known as alimony. Maintenance is spousal support from one spouse to the other. There are over 16 different factors that the court can look to in terms of awarding maintenance or not. The most common term is the lifestyle that the parties have grown accustomed to during the length of the marriage. In addition to that, the court is going to look at the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each party, the educational background of each party and a number of other factors to determine whether or not spousal support, formerly known as alimony but now called maintenance, should be awarded.
If the court decides to award maintenance, there are several different types. There is maintenance that is permanent which will last until either party dies or either party remarries or either party starts living with someone on a resident conjugal basis. There is also maintenance for a specific number of months and then terminating thereafter. There is also maintenance that will run for a particular number of months and then be reviewable thereafter, meaning the court can award maintenance beyond the initial term if one of the parties can show that they still need support.
There is also the division of assets including retirement benefits. Pensions, profit-sharing, 401(k)s incurred during the marriage are all marital property that are subject to division by the court.
As you can see from this brief narrative, there is a myriad of issues involved in a divorce case. Divorce is stressful, divorce is difficult, divorce is one of the toughest things that someone has to undergo in their life should it fall upon them. Make sure that you have an experienced, seasoned divorce attorney working on your side to help you every step of the way.