A helpful tool when trying to settle your divorce
When thinking about your contested or uncontested divorce, it is important to have thought about the different issues that will arise. Below is a handy checklist of the important issues in a divorce. Note that this is not an exhaustive or comprehensive list, but a good place to start, and will help you if you are speaking with a divorce attorney about your case.
1. Divorce: does your spouse agree to the divorce?
2. Alimony: alimony (monthly amount/length of time/lump sum) or no alimony?
3. Child Custody:
A. Legal Custody: major decision-making for your child — sole or joint? What if parties with joint legal custody cannot reach an agreement about an issue?
B. Physical Custody: where will the child live? Sole/primary to one parent or joint?
4. Visitation/Timesharing: if one parent has sole/primary physical custody, what is the visitation schedule for the other parent? If the parents are sharing physical custody, what is the timesharing schedule? If one parent has visitation, what is the schedule? Or are the parents leaving it open for “mutual agreement”? What about holidays and special occasions? Will the parents split a particular holiday, or will they alternate if from year to year?
5. Child Support: what is the child support amount? Have you calculated the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (for sole or joint or extensive visitation)? If you are asking the Judge to deviate from the Worksheet, how much are you asking to deviate?
A. Life insurance as security for child support: often, parents require both parents to maintain a specific amount of life insurance on their own life, naming the child(ren) as the beneficiary. This replaces the lost child support in the event that a parent passes away.
B. Education/tuition for children: the handling of private school tuition is often an issue if a child is attending private school. Will the tuition costs be shared in some proportion or split equally or borne by one parent? Alternatively, if one or both parents seek to enroll a child in private school in the future, how will it be handled? Are there other educational expenses or extracurricular expenses to be handled?
C. Higher education: how will future post-high school education costs be handled? Parties with young children often wish to “reserve,” or defer the question to the future, when a child is closer to graduating from high school.
6. Medical/Dental Insurance for Child: who will be providing the child’s medical and dental insurance? How will the uncovered expenses and/or co-payments be handled?
A. Real Property: who will receive any real property? Is it being sold? How will the mortgage be handled? If one of the spouses receiving a buyout? If one of the spouses is being removed from the mortgage, is there a time limit?
B. Bank/Credit Union: what happens to the joint accounts? To the accounts held in each person’s individual name? What about the debts tied to an account?
C. Securities Accounts: this includes investment accounts, Certificates of Deposit, Money Market accounts, savings bonds, etc. What happens to the joint accounts? To the accounts held in each person’s individual name?
D. Vehicles: what happens to the jointly-titled vehicles? What happens to the joint loans? Do the joint auto loans need to be refinanced (to remove the other person’s name)? Is there a deadline for those refinances to happen? What happens to the individually-titled vehicles?
E. Life Insurance: what happens to each person’s life insurance policies? What about any cash value on a policy?
F. Retirement: what happens to each person’s retirement? Often times, if both spouses have retirement accounts, and each one has a claim to part of the spouse’s retirement, the parties will offset the two retirement accounts, rather than each side dividing and sharing their retirement. There is a formula for dividing pension-style retirement accounts, called the Linson formula.
G. Household Goods: what happens to the household goods? Will each spouse simply keep what they already have in their possession, or will they be specifically divided?
H. Personal Items: does either party have specific personal items that they want?
8. Debts: what happens to any jointly-titled debts? Can each party pay off their one-half share? What about individually-titled debts?
9. Equalization: is one party receiving a sum of money to equalize or balance out the division of assets and debts? If so, how will it be paid? What is the deadline for payment?
10. Taxes: how will you file for last year? How will you file for the current tax year? Who will get the child dependency exemptions? Who will get the childcare tax credits? Who will get the mortgage exemptions?
11. Name Change: will any of the spouses be changing back to a prior name or will keeping their married name?
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of items, but a useful aid in reasonably discussing divorce issues.