It is often said that “half of marriages end in divorce.” The truth is that divorce rates have declined since 2008. At first glance, this is good news, but when you peel back the onion, it is also said that marriage rates are declining. New generations are opting out of marriage in the first place.
Whether you choose to marry or divorce, the amount of couples getting divorced is still staggering and it can happen to any of us. Divorce is far reaching often affecting more than just the two people involved and their possessions. Family, friendships, children, business’, real estate, income, assets, and retirement are a few things on that very long list.
So how do you navigate the choppy waters of divorce? How do you make good, educated and unemotional decisions in an incredibly emotional environment? Here are 4 areas to consider when going through a divorce:
Division of Assets
Any assets you owned during the marriage will be split “equitably” between the spouses. “Equitably” is a discretionary term to be decided by the court based on the specific variables of the two involved. However, typically the courts look to make 50/50 splits of any marital assets. When it comes to “pre-tax investments, 401Ks and IRAs, you will need a separate document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or “QDRO” (pronounced “quad-row”), which is created to properly split these assets avoiding a taxable event.
Division of Debts
Like “Division of Assets”, debts created during the marriage will be split “equitably” among the two individuals involved.
If children are involved there are several areas the courts will decide on including custody and child support. With regards to custody, this is broken down into two categories: physical and legal. Physical is the decision on where and when the children will reside with each parent. Legal refers to who is making decisions for the children and when. Child support refers to the exchange of monies to cover the costs of the children. There is a software program that inputs data like custody time, income and other support obligations that will rate each person on a scale of 1-10, which will then provide a “recommendation” for the amount of support to be paid.
Spousal Support (Alimony)
Like child support, alimony is calculated on a software program that includes things like income, ability to earn income, education, age and duration of the marriage to name a few. This will produce a rating on a scale of 1-10 which will produce a “recommendation” for the amount of alimony, if any, to be paid.
It is crucial that you surround yourself with professionals that can educate and guide you through this process. When it comes to your assets, it is important to understand your options, even before you step foot in the courts. With the amount of discretion the courts have in making these decisions for you and your family, being empowered with the knowledge of what to expect and the options you have is paramount to the results.
Most people who have experienced divorce rarely receive advice outside of an attorney who is going to only advise on the things under the law and what the divorce decree stipulates. When it comes to after finances it is important to understand how these things will affect you prior to the decisions being made. The proper process of dividing those assets and its effect on your short-term and long-term plans are rarely ever discussed during the legal process of divorce.
The terms we come up with to describe divorce does not change the fact that it is messy and it will dramatically alter the trajectory of the lives of the people who are directly involved. If you decide to “consciously uncouple” make sure you are extremely conscious of your options, decisions and the people you have in your corner advising you. It will mean the difference between your expectations and reality.
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Written by Justin Meyer