Key Legal Mistakes People Make During Divorce

Divorce is a very stressful time for all the parties involved. Emotions are running high for both parties, and in many cases the need for revenge is prevalent. Sadly, many legal mistakes are made because decisions are being made with emotion instead of logic. In an effort to help you get through your divorce with ease, we recommend you avoid making the following mistakes:

Type Of Divorce Proceeding

Are you using the right type of divorce proceeding for your case? Talk over your options with your attorney. You can use mediation or other forms of negotiation to settle your divorce, and this could save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.

Divorce Attorney

Have you chosen the right attorney for the job? It is important that you select an attorney that can handle your type of case. For instance, if you know that your ex-spouse is going to be aggressive, you will want to have an attorney who is equally passionate about being on your side. Additionally, going through a divorce is not the time to use a friend of the family that is a corporate lawyer. While they have the authority to do this, they may not have the experience and knowledge of current divorce proceedings to accurately represent your case.

Financial Standing

It is important that you are fully aware of your financial standings both as an individual and as a couple. Make sure you know all of your debts and assets and are aware of what income and assets your spouse separate from yours (regardless of when they were acquired). Be sure you understand any debt held jointly in your names — not knowing where you stand, and where you stood financially as a couple, could cause you problems for many years after the divorce.

Social Media

Social media is not private or protected. If you are going through a divorce, avoid posting on social media. If you must post something, do not post anything about your divorce, your current separation, your spouse, your finances, or your plans for the future. Do not post anything that could make you look bad or be used against you.

Remember: everything you say can potentially be used against you.

If you are going through a divorce, correcting any of these mistakes will help you through the entire process, but the first line of defense is always a great attorney. Make sure you seek professional assistance so you have a strong advocate on your side.

What To Know About Changing & Challenging Child Custody

Specific laws and procedures govern child custody issues. When parents agree to modify an existing custody order, the process is fairly simple. Greater difficulty arises, however, when parents do not agree to proposed changes.

In all custody cases, the overlying concern is the best interest of the child. To have your request granted by the court, you must be able to demonstrate that the order you seek or the modifications you request will benefit the child and serve his/her best interests.

Timing

Depending on the state where the custody order originates, there may be a minimum period of time that must pass before a modification can be pursued. Even if your state does not have a specific waiting period, courts are often wary of requests to modify in cases where an order has been in effect for only a short amount of time.

Reason For Change

If your situation does meet the requirements for modification, you will need a good reason to justify the requested changes. In order for any modification request to be considered by the court, the change must meet the standard of a material change in circumstances and this standard must be shown.

The material change in circumstances standard allows consideration of a broad array of evidence. Examples of evidence that may be meet this standard would include a long-distance move, change in living conditions, issues with the child’s development, and many other situations.

Requested Change & Custody Order

If a material change in circumstances has been shown to the court, the parent requesting modification must also show that the requested change is in the best interest of the child and requires presentation of evidence to support that claim. Family law attorneys will be familiar with the types of evidence that can be used to demonstrate the best interest standard.

Receiving a custody order or modification of a custody order requires compliance with specific rules and procedures. Typically it includes filing papers that contain specific information and adhere to formatting rules. Compliance with these procedures and rules can be overwhelming for those who are unfamiliar with the process.

An experienced family law attorney will be able to advise you about the time restraints on custody modifications. Be sure to consult with an attorney and seek out representation to assist you with throughout process in order to achieve a successful change request.

What to Know About Unmarried Couples and Property

Unmarried couples might believe that splitting up is easier for them than it is for married couples. After all, there are no lawyers, judges or divorce courts necessary for a clean break. In a perfect split, the parties are in agreement on who gets what, the details are sorted, and the individuals go their own separate ways. If the parties are not in agreement, however, they might end up precisely where most married couples do – in court.

Here is what you should know about unmarried couples and property distribution:

Divorce Law Does Not Apply

You do not qualify for divorce court if you are not married — unless you live in a common law marriage state or a state that recognizes domestic partnership. In those states, there is still a chance that you might not qualify for divorce court.

The State of Tennessee does not recognize common law marriage, but Tennessee will recognize another state’s common law marriage. If the couple lived together long enough as common law man and wife in another state that did recognize common law and they moved to Tennessee, then it is recognized.

Sole And Separate Property

Unless you have opened joint banking or investment accounts, own a home that is titled in both of your names or otherwise title property jointly, the general rule is that each of you owns your own sole and separate property. A one-half ownership interest is presumed on jointly titled property, but that presumption might be overcome by a strong showing that one of the parties made a disproportionate contribution.

What About Children?

The family law division of your court system would address any issues of child custody, support and visitation. In Tennessee, the Juvenile Courts generally have jurisdiction over child custody, support and visitation in un-married couples. All other disputes would be addressed by a separate action or petition in the General Sessions Courts usually (depending on the amount of damages and type of property in dispute); therefore, instead of one court case that would dispose of all the issues, un-married couples potentially face multiple court cases to obtain relief, often increasing the time and expense of recovery.

Cohabitation Property Agreements

Much like a prenuptial agreement, courts will recognize a cohabitation property agreement between two individuals who are living together. The agreement would set out how various assets are owned, managed, and divided upon any future separation of the parties.

The agreement should have a dispute resolution provision on what process would be employed in case of a disagreement on division of property. Liability for debts must also be laid out, and if one partner wants the other to inherit, that should expressed through a will or living trust.

Note of importance: If you own a home together, pay particular attention to a buyout or sale provision.

A cohabitation property agreement will clear many issues in the event of the separation of two parties who are unmarried and living together. Those who cohabitate are best served by consultations with family law attorneys.

If you have further questions about being an unmarried couple and sharing assets, be sure to consult a professional for which steps you should next consider.

Documents to Gather When Considering Divorce

Divorce is stressful enough without having to scramble to find important legal documents that are necessary to finalize settlement. Gathering important financial, legal, and personal documents before meeting with an attorney can help you through the divorce process in several ways.

First and foremost, getting your hands on essential documents before divorce proceedings is crucial because these types of documents may suddenly disappear once your spouse begins his or her own divorce preparation. Obtaining documents also orients you to what divorce will entail and prepares you mentally for what lies ahead.

You can save money on legal fees by being ahead of the game when you and your lawyer sit down to plan out your divorce’s details. If you would like to finalize your divorce sooner rather than later, having appropriate documentation on hand will help expedite the process.

So, what documents do you need to collect before proceeding with your divorce?

Financial

  • Bank Statements for the past 24 months
  • Pay stubs for both you and your spouse
    • (YTD for previous two years and current year)
  • Tax Records for the last five years
  • Retirement information for you and your spouse
  • Mortgage information
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Current debt of you and your spouse
  • Household budget
  • Credit reports for you and your spouse
  • Household Bills (utilities, medical expenses, children’s tuition, etc.)
  • Life, Health, Automobile, Homeowner’s, and other insurance information
  • List of any personal property owned by you and your spouse before marriage and their approximate value
  • Inventory of joint assets and their approximate value
  • Documents supporting any inheritances or gifts

Legal

  • Marriage License
  • Birth Certificates for you, your spouse, and any children
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse, and any children
  • Driver’s licenses for you and your spouse
  • Separation, prenuptial or other legal agreements between you and your spouse
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Wills, Living Wills, and any Advanced Directives
  • Titles and Registrations for any vehicles owned by you and your spouse

Proof of Misconduct (If Applicable)

  • Emails
  • Photographs
  • Telephone Records
  • Police records, restraining orders, or proof of domestic violence
  • Private Investigator reports

Other Documentation

If you are unable to obtain certain documents, write down as much information as possible about each one. You should include in this list the types of documents needed, dates, parties involved, document contents, and any other relevant information. Recording your attempts to obtain documentation may also prove valuable if your spouse refuses to hand over vital information.

Once you have gathered the above documents and anything else that might be applicable to your particular situation, you are ready to speak to an attorney and move into the next phase of divorce proceedings.

The True Cost of Divorce

If you fear the financial burden of facing a divorce, you are not alone. Divorce is a daunting experience, one that can feel like an insult to injury when reconciling the end of your marriage. Fortunately, many of the costs that accrue during a divorce depend on the relationship that still exists between former couples. Divorce can prove costly in less-than-ideal situations, when couples have to work out custody arrangements and split up assets. For those couples that are still on good speaking terms, a compromise often arises without the stress of excessive of legal fees.

Assets and Debt

Some couples may have a more expensive divorce simply because they have more assets and debts to consider. Those who have retirement accounts, more than one home, or business assets, may need to spend ample time in the courtroom in order to come to a fair agreement. These cases are far more complex for lawyers to argue, and state laws regarding the treatment of the assets may further complicate the situation.

Attorneys

The attorney each member of the former couple chooses can make a big impact on how much is spent on the divorce. The expense of a great divorce attorney varies widely. Some are more expensive than others, but can offer the extra value to more than compensate for higher per hour fees. It is important to look into how much each attorney is going to charge per hour before making a choice. The key is to find a lawyer who makes you feel comfortable and charges a rate that is in line with the value that attorney can offer.

Avoid Court

Those who really want to save a lot of money should try to keep their divorce out of court entirely. Choosing a mediator or a collaborative lawyer can greatly reduce costs. This is the best option for a civil divorce where the former couple is still in good standing and will be able to agree on the terms of their divorce pretty easily. When this occurs, a divorce settlement can be drafted quickly with each party able to go on his or her separate way without having a long and expensive divorce.

Each situation is different, so be sure to talk to a lawyer about your options before deciding which choice is best for you. While most people try to avoid a long and hard divorce because of the stress it brings, it is also important to make sure that a settlement is reached that works for you.

How to Protect Your Finances in a Later-In-Life Divorce

There is no such thing as a good time to get a divorce. Divorce by its very nature signifies the end of something that was intended to last a lifetime. Getting divorced when over the age of 50 and after many years of marriage can be extremely difficult. Coming up with a settlement agreement that will protect your financial future will require advanced thought and planning, but it can be accomplished.

Here are a few tips for how:

Keep a Level Head

It can be challenging to keep a levelheaded approach to divorce, especially if the married couple has been together for decades, raised a family together, and owned a home or business together. However, the chief executive of International Capital Management Group recommends that divorcing individuals view the divorce as if it were a business arrangement. If a couple is able to look at dividing assets in an objective way, and not in an emotional way, the faster it will be for them to finish the divorce and move on with their lives.

Bring in a Mediator

Some couples are able to mediate their divorce on their own. However, the vast majority of couples will need an impartial third party to help them. The benefits of using a financial adviser in this role is they can objectively review all assets, create an accurate value of the assets, and then take steps to divide the assets between both parties in an equitable way. 

Openly Speak About Debt

It can be a big surprise for divorcing couples to find out that one of the two individuals has secret debt. In states that have community property laws, a spouse is responsible for half of their spouse’s debt, even if that debt is not in their name. For this reason it is a good idea to get a credit report prior to filing for divorce. This removes any surprises that might occur during the negotiations.

Review Your Estate Planning

Current wills and estate plans will need to be revisited after divorce proceedings. Both individuals should take steps to minimize the financial impact the divorce will have on inheritance. Adult children who receive financial assistance from divorcing parents should have realistic expectations about what they will receive after the divorce. It is more expensive for two individuals to maintain separate lifestyles than it is for a married couple to do so.

Review Healthcare Insurance

Older adults often have health issues. The stress of divorce may exacerbate these issues. After the divorce, one or both spouses may find that they no longer qualify for the health insurance they had while married. Any settlement agreement should take into consideration ensuring adequate long-term health care.

Getting divorced later in life is a challenge. However, with appropriate planning and forethought, the difficulties of a later-in-life divorce can be minimized.