At year-end, many people having trouble in their marriages start to think about divorce. January is an excellent time to begin the divorce process because it is after the holidays and the New Year. However, if you wait until after January 1 to file, there are many things you can do now to make the process easier when the new year comes.

1. Figure out what you owe.

Make a complete list of all the debts you and your partner have, whether they are separate or shared. Then, check your credit reports to see if they match the list you made. If there are differences, figure out if the debt is real and you just forgot about it or if there was a mistake or maybe even fraud. If you find out that your spouse got credit in your name without your permission, it’s better to find out now and deal with it in the divorce process than to find out months or even years later. By going to annualcreditreport.com, you can get your credit report from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) for free and right away.

Once you have a full list of all debts, you can decide which spouse should pay for each one.

2. Write Down What You Own

Take inventory of your property, both the things you own on your own and the things you own together. Florida requires people getting divorced to fill out financial affidavits that list their assets and debts. Whether you hire a lawyer or handle the divorce yourself, if you start working on this now, you’ll be ahead of the game when it’s time to file. First, make a list that is divided into groups. Here is a good place to start:

• Real estate
• Cars and other vehicles with titles
• Financial accounts (checking, savings, CDs, payable on death accounts, money market accounts)
• Pensions and retirement accounts (IRA, 401k, profit sharing)
• Mutual funds, stocks, and bonds
• Business interests
• Life Insurance
• Furniture
• Electronics and home appliances
• Jewelry
• Art and other items you can collect
• Safe deposit boxes

When making a list of your assets, include their value, how much you owe on them, and whether you think of the property as your separate property or property you own with your spouse. Typically, a person’s separate property is any property they owned before they got married, any property they acquired during the marriage through an inheritance or a gift to only one spouse, or any money from a personal injury lawsuit that wasn’t lost wages. On the other hand, “community” or “marital” property is usually made up of things purchased during the marriage. The difference between separate and community/marital property is generally not crucial in divorces, where the two people can agree on a fair way to split their assets.

Once you have a list of everything you own, write down which spouse you think should get each item.

3. Get Essential Papers Together And Put Them In Order.

Many of these papers will be needed later in the divorce process. Also, remember that an angry spouse may try to hold essential papers hostage or even destroy them. It’s much easier to put these papers together now and put them somewhere safe than to have to find them or replace them later. Make copies of everything so that your spouse can also have a copy. You can decide later who the best person is to have the original or a certified copy of any documents. You might want to start with the documents on the list below.

•Real estate documents (mortgages, home equity loans, deeds)
•Titles to cars and loan documents
•Estate planning documents include wills, powers of attorney for money and health care, and advance medical directives/living wills.
• Tax returns
• Insurance documents (medical, dental, vision, life, home, automobile)
• Birth and marriage records
• Social Security Card
• Passports
• Paycheck stubs and other evidence of income (SSI, SSD, public assistance, business records)
• Records of investments (stocks, bonds, CDs, account statements)
• Documents from other court cases, like child support orders, custody/parenting time, bankruptcy, and other lawsuits.

4. Be Honest About How Much Money You Can Spend.

Knowing what you can and can’t afford is always good advice. If you’re planning to get a divorce after the holidays, setting unrealistic goals for your budget could be disastrous. For example, you might want to make this last Christmas as a couple the best for your kids. However, doing so might only hurt them in the long run if you rack up credit card debt that you’ll have trouble paying off. Instead, think about making a shorter list of gifts for this year and spending more time together. One of the best things you can do for your kids is to keep things as calm as possible between you and your soon-to-be ex.

Make a detailed budget if you don’t already have one. Having an idea of what you spend money on every month is one thing but having it all written down is the best way to get a complete picture of your finances. Don’t forget to include expenses that only happen once or less often than once a month. Here’s where to start:

• Utilities (electricity, gas, water/sewer, phones, trash, cable, internet)
• Cleaning, upkeep, lawn care, and snow removal
• Food (groceries, dining out, lunches for children) (groceries, eating out, lunches for children)
• Transportation (vehicle maintenance, loans, gas, public transportation)
• Clothing
• Personal care (hair, nails, etc.)
• Care for kids
• School supplies and activities outside of school
• Insurance (auto, life, health, disability, home) (auto, life, health, disability, home)
• Costs of education (tuition, books, fees, student loans)
• Medical care (physicians, dentists, vision, prescriptions)
• Entertainment
• Pets (food, veterinary bills) (food, veterinary bills)
• Holiday expenses (gifts, decorating, food, transportation)

Calculate Child Support.

Florida has child support guidelines based on a parent’s income and tells the other parent how much money they should pay to help support and care for their children. The Florida Legislature worked hard to ensure that all reasonable factors were considered when making these calculations. As a result, most judges strongly prefer to use the guideline amount. Still, judges can order a higher or lower amount of child support if it is in the children’s best interests to do so. When both partners agree to the change, judges are likelier to let it happen. Remember, your judge may look at your case more closely if you decide to pay a child support amount much lower than the guideline amount or choose not to pay any child support at all.

Spousal Support

Spousal support isn’t given in most uncontested divorces, especially when neither party hires a lawyer, some estimate that less than 10% of uncontested divorces include spousal support. If you aren’t sure if spousal support suits your situation, keep in mind that some states use income-based formulas to decide if and how much should be given. Most of the time, though, when people agree to spousal support, they don’t use a specific formula. Instead, they agree on the amount and length of support based on their circumstances. When spousal support is given, it is often in the form of monthly payments for a set amount of time. A lump sum payment is also an option if the spouse who is paying has a lot of cash.

Can You Both Pay For Separate Homes?

When a couple decides to split up, one of the first things they want to do is for one person to move out. This can be a problem because the cost of living in separate homes doesn’t usually go up in synch with either person’s income. Housing, utilities, and food costs may double depending on the situation. Some couples have no choice but to stay under the same roof. So if one of you can move out, neither of you should expect to live the same way, at least at first.

How much will it cost to get a divorce?

Even if your divorce is simple and you live in one of the areas with the cheapest divorce fees, you should expect to spend at least $2,000 on lawyers’ fees and filing fees. In bigger cities, uncontested divorces can easily cost more than $5,000 in lawyer fees.

You might want to think about representing yourself instead of hiring a lawyer. In uncontested divorces, where both parties agree on financial matters and the details of child support and custody when there are minor children, getting a divorce is mostly just a matter of filing the right paperwork at the right time.

Should we think about going bankrupt?

When a couple decides to split up, they may need to file for bankruptcy so that one or both can start over. If you are having trouble paying your bills, you should make an appointment with a bankruptcy lawyer. When you’re planning to get a divorce, when you file for bankruptcy is essential. For example, if both spouses need to file a joint bankruptcy so that some or all of their debts can be forgiven, the divorce will have to wait until the bankruptcy is over.

Also, settlement agreements don’t bind your creditors, so even if a joint debt is given to one spouse in a divorce, creditors can still go after either or both spouses for payment on joint debts unless you go bankrupt or pay off the debt in full.   Divorce agreements cannot be wiped out by bankruptcy. One of the worst things that can happen is for one spouse to agree to take on certain debts in the divorce agreement only to find out later that they can’t pay them. Since settlement agreements can’t be wiped out by filing for bankruptcy, this spouse will still have to pay these bills. Because of these things, filing for bankruptcy together before the divorce may be better for both people.

5. Discuss Whether Getting A Divorce Is The Best Way To Get What You Want.

Most people say they want a divorce because they are unhappy, and most think their marriage is the main problem. It’s easier to say that your spouse isn’t good enough to make you happy than to think about what you need to do to be satisfied and content. People don’t always take responsibility for their part in the end of their relationships until years have passed. Invest a little time in r counseling before you file for a divorce.

If you’re unhappy with your relationship because you disagree on how to raise your children, ask yourself: If we split up, will the things I don’t like about how my spouse raises our kids to get better or worse? If you think your spouse is too easy on your kids or too hard on them, you should know that these tendencies often worsen after a divorce. If your partner isn’t involved enough in raising the kids, will living apart makes them more involved or even further away? When a couple works on home issues intending to stay together, they have a lot more reason to meet in the middle on parenting and pretty much everything else.

 

Brandon Legal Group
1209 Lakeside Drive
Brandon FL, 33510
(813) 902-3576